Song – El Salvador

“El Carbonero”

Soy carbonero que vengo de las cumbres del volcán

Con mi carboncito negro

Si mi señor, es buen carbón

Compre usted de Nacazcol y de Chaperno y de Copinol

Compre usted, es buen carbón

“The Coal Man”

I am coal man that comes from the ashes of the volcano

With my little coal black

Yes my man, it is good coal

Buy you of Nacazcol and of Chaperno and of Copinol

Buy you, it is good coal

“The Coal Seller”

I sell coal, and I come from the ashes of the volcano

With my black coal

Yes sir, it is good coal

Please by sir, buy coal from Nacazcol and Cahaperno and Copinol

Buy sir, it is good coal

Boris told me that “El Carbonero” is a folk song from El Salvador that he used to sing at school when he was younger. It was always sung during Independence Days or El Día de la Raza when it would be sung and danced to. Girls would wear their traditional dresses and men would wear their traditional peasant costume with a white hat and white shirt and pants made of manta. He first learned it in kindergarten with the rest of his peers. He was unsure whether or not it was printed in their books, but it may or may not have been. Either way, this song was considered by most Salvadorians to be the Second National Anthem of El Salvador. He also added that it might have been originally written by a Mexican writer, but he was also unsure whether or not that was true.

This unique song is tellingly considered by Salvadorians as their second national anthem. As their adopted second national anthem, the song most likely had a special relevance to the people, their loves, and their sense of being Salvadorian. It is interesting to note that El Carbonero is not a typically patriotic song that glorifies the country, the government, or anything else that you might usually associate with the theme of a national anthem. On the contrary, it is a very simple song about a man who sells coal from different regions of El Salvador. He is a working man trying to earn a living. The original language of the song is also significant. Told by the man himself, he addresses prospective buyers with the formal term of respect “usted”.  This choice of language further emphasizes his humble position within society and also reveals important information regarding the social customs of the culture. In this choice of a second national anthem, the “common people” and majority of the population must have also been asserting their presence and value within Salvadorian society. Perhaps the original national anthem was not inclusive enough or this part of the population needed to feel empowered. And what better way to achieve these ends and newly establish themselves as a very real presence within the country’s culture than by adopting a song that reflected the life of a hardworking man simply trying to live? It was obviously well received because as Boris said, it was a song that was taught very early on and proudly sung during important feast days and celebrations. This may also reflect the pride of the people who identified with the song and to whom it felt relevant as it increasingly became a part of their cultural identity and consciousness.

Interestingly enough, Pancho Lora a Salvadorian credited with being one of the most influential and enduring folk singers of El Salvador is credited with writing “El Carbonero”, however the lyrics of the song that he publishes are different from the ones Boris performed for me. Broaden the search a bit and you will soon see diverse renditions of this song with variations in lyrics that nevertheless maintain the essence of the song Boris sang.

Annotation: Pancho Lara CD titled “The Pipil Indians of El Salvador” on which the song “El Carbonero” appears. This CD was released by Folkways Records in 1983.