It’s the 9th of July! Well, it’s actually the 8th, but it’s still a holiday and here at The Bubble we’re doing the 9th’s coverage, so let’s pretend like it is, OK? It’s been 200 years since Argentina officially declared its independence from Spain and President Mauricio Macri’s administration has organized several events all over the country throughout the weekend to celebrate. You can check them out in this handy guide.
It’s going to be a very patriotic weekend, so you’ll probably find yourself in several conversations about the May revolution, the war for independence that followed or even the history of the national anthem. Hey, it could happen, who knows. Anyhow, just to help you cover all the bases, we did some research and found some fun facts — or just facts; fine, you decide — about the Argentine national anthem so you don’t feel left out when all your friends brag about their anthem knowledge.
The lyrics were written by writer, lawyer and politician Vicente López y Planes and the music composed by musician Blas Parera. It was approved via decree on May 11, 1813, by the Assembly of the year XIII (1813) — a provisional governing body formed to figure out an institutional governing system for the republic following 1810’s May revolution. The decree also determined it would be sung in all public acts and schools.
Composing the anthem got López y Planes a special spot in Argentine history, but according to a recap of the events narrated by his grandson Lucio Vicente López, (who got the information from López y Planes’s autobiography) he had a rough time writing the anthem and almost didn’t meet his deadline. Story time.
After several failed attempts to find a satisfactory anthem, the Assembly of the year XIII (we’ll call it “the Assembly” from now on) determined on March 6, 1813 that it needed to create a new national anthem that could transmit the May revolution’s ideals and symbolize the people’s patriotic enthusiasm.
The Assembly tasked two of its members: Fray Cayetano Rodríguez and Vicente López y Planes. Each one of them had to write his own lyrics and then present them in a new session to be held in early May. A sort of anthem-off, if you will.
In an article published by Infobae, historian Juan Pablo Bustos Thames recalls that, according to the aforementioned narration, López y Planes struggled to find inspiration. Lucio López explains his grandfather was so blocked that at one point, he was even praying for divine inspiration. Regardless of what he did, he would keep on hitting wall after wall: “Heartbroken, the poet would throw his writing feather away. His mood low, he would avoid his friends (…) still looking for that lost star that was the Argentine triumph,” Lucio López wrote.
However, Lucio López goes on to say that finally, everything changed one day. He narrates how on May 8th (three days before having to present the anthem) his grandfather, still struggling with writer’s block, put on his finest clothes and went to the theater to watch a play called “May 25th.” It was about the May Revolution.
That was all he needed. After the second act, López y Planes stood up, standing tall, chest out, and practically ran home where he pounded out the lyrics in a single night.
“He doesn’t sleep. The next day he looks for his friends and reads them his draft, getting out the first tears of joy the patriotic song was meant conjure in all Argentines. On May 11 he presented it before the Assembly and was unanimously acclaimed. The attendees left the premises singing the anthem’s first verse: hear, mortals, the sacred scream — freedom, freedom, freedom, that was still stuck in their ears,” he recalls.
As for Fray Cayetano Rodríguez? According to an article published by El Historiador (“The Historian”), he decided to drop out of the competition, too amazed by the lyrics’ quality: “He argued that the one that had just been read had to be sanctioned due to the acclamation it got,” the article reads. Any coincidence with 8 Mile‘s final rap battle is a mere coincidence. However, López y Planes dropping his writing feather on the Assembly’s stage after saying, “I shall leave this establishment, fellow colleagues,” is too good of an image to not put out there.
The next day, the Assembly requested Blas Parera compose the music for the anthem, but his story is slightly less interesting than López y Planes’. According to La Nación, it took him four years to finish the score.
However, that first version of the anthem — known then as the “national march” — is quite different from the one we sing today. López y Planes sought to make it crystal clear that the territory they intended on calling Argentina didn’t have anything to do with the former Spanish motherland. Let’s take a look at some of the most cringe-worthy verses.
- “Off the face of the Earth it rises, a new glorious nation, crowned its head with laurels, at its feet surrendered a lion” (Spain’s blazon has a lion).
- “And these brave people who united swore, their joyful freedom sustain, to these bloodthirsty tigers, strong chests they will know how to oppose.”
- “Buenos Aires leads, the towns that form this unbreakable union, and with robust arms they tear apart, the arrogant Iberian lion.”
And these are only three of the 19 verses that composed it, so you can see how this wouldn’t go down well among the Spaniards. For that reason, once hard feelings concerning the whole colonization issue were left behind, the anthem was modified in the year 1900 in an attempt to not look like we were challenging Spain to a duel every time it was played. And also, to a lesser extent, because it literally took 20 minutes to sing it and nobody has time for that.
Through a decree, then President Julio Argentino Roca — the guy on the AR $100 bill — decided that only the first verse, the chorus and the second half of the last verse would be sung. That’s the version we sing now and it goes like this:
Hear, mortals, the sacred scream
“Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”
Hear the noise of broken chains
Behold enthroned the noble equality
The most worthy throne they opened
The united provinces of the south
And the free people of the world answer:
“Cheers to the great Argentine people!”
“Cheers to the great Argentine people!” (three times)
May the laurels we obtained be eternal (twice)
Crowned with glory we shall live
Or we swear to die gloriously (three times)
Now you can be the heart of the party your friends are throwing to specifically talk about the national anthem tonight. Yay!