Since his comment, I have not stopped thinking about why this song also seems to reach into my deepest self; unsettling me, sometimes with joy, sometimes with tears. This is a song about a Puerto Rican peasant, a jíbaro (hee′ bah roh), who sets out joyfully for the market with his products, only to find the market desolated, with no buyers because of harsh economic conditions. He wonders what will happen now to his family and to his country.
When I was a child, one of the worse things others could call you was a jíbaro, meaning a country bumpkin. If they then found out your family was also from the rural mountain town Lares, which mine was, you were really in trouble. Never mind that Lares holds an exalted place in Puerto Rican history for being the cradle of its independence movement. The terms jíbaro and Lares somehow conjoined in the image of the Puerto Rican version of the rube; this time, wearing a straw pava hat.
Ironically, the term jíbaro has become iconic as a positive sentimental symbol of "the roots of the modern Puerto Rican people, and symbolizes the strength of traditional values of living simply and properly caring for homeland and family."
This evolution in the public’s perceived worth of the jíbaro is in some ways representative of my own. In the heady days of my business career, it was tempting to be swayed by the trappings of privilege and power. I hope I have since learned the difference between gloss and gold and that, in my novel about Angélica Miranda, I succeeded in portraying her and her humble family with both realism and respect.
Check out The Bronx Latin Jazz All Stars and other artists performing the song Lamento Borincano. If anyone has a good rendition by a female vocalist, please let me know. I prefer one in the música típica tradition rather than in the operatic vein, if you know what I mean.