Tengo [I Have]

by Nicolás Guillén [1964]

Translated by J.A. Sierra

[Nicolar Guillén was born in Camagüey on July 10 1902, less than 2 months after the Cuban flag was finally flying over Havana. He was a life-long revolutionary activist, jailed in 1936 for publishing material deemed "subversive," and released a year later. Guillén's work, termed the "negrista" poetry of the Caribbean , blamed imperialist white hypocrisy for the sad state of life for blacks in the region

Exiled in 1957 by the Batista dictatorship, he lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, until 1959. He returned to Cuba after the triumph of the Revolution, and in 1961 he was officially proclaimed “Cuba's Poeta Nacional" and later elected president of the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba. He died on July 16, 1969 at age 67.]

When I see and touch myself,
I, Juan with Nothing only yesterday,
and Juan with Everything today,
and today with everything,
I turn my eyes and look,
I see and touch myself,
and ask myself, how this could have been.

I have, let's see,
I have the pleasure of going about my country,
owner of all there is in it,
looking closely at what
I did not or could not have before.
I can say cane,
I can say mountain,
I can say city,
say army,
now forever mine and yours, ours,
and the vast splendor of
the sunbeam, star, flower.

I have, let's see,
I have the pleasure of going,
me, a farmer, a worker, a simple man,
I have the pleasure of going
(just an example)
to a bank and speak to the manager,
not in English,
not in "Sir,"but in compañero as we say in Spanish.

I have, let's see,
that being Black
no one can stop me at the door of a dance hall or bar.
Or even on the rug of a hotel
scream at me that there are no rooms,
a small room and not a colossal one,
a tiny room where I can rest.

I have, let's see,
that there are no rural police
to seize me and lock me in a precinct jail,
or tear me from my land and cast me
in the middle of the highway.
I have that having the land I have the sea,
no country clubs,
no high life,
no tennis and no yachts,
but, from beach to beach and wave on wave,
gigantic blue open democratic:
in short, the sea.

I have, let's see,
that I have learned to read,
to count,
I have that I have learned to write,
and to think,
and to laugh.
I have… that now I have
a place to work
and earn
what I have to eat.
I have, let's see,
I have what I had to have.