National anthem in other languages? Heard this beforeBreaking News
That translation of "The Star-Spangled Banner," prepared by the Bureau of Education in 1919, has been available on the Library of Congress Web site for two years without so much as a sniff of disapproval.
Besides Spanish, the library has vintage translations in Polish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Armenian, among others. A little Googling will turn up versions in Samoan and Yiddish, too.
"What's sort of surprising for us here who've lived with 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is that everyone has their shorts in a bunch about it," said Loras Schissel, a musicologist at the Library of Congress. "It's old news."
Until last week, that is, when some Latino pop stars released a Spanish version with somewhat different lyrics ("The time has come to break the chains") called "Nuestro Himno," or "Our Anthem."
It landed in the middle of a heated debate over immigration. The song's producer and singers hoped to fire up the immigrant community. To critics, they might as well have torched a flag on the Capitol steps.
Musically speaking, the reaction was fortissimo. Once Spanish-language radio aired the song, talk radio, blogs and cable, along with members of Congress, reacted with outrage.
In contrast, the 1919 government-sponsored Spanish translation evoked a collective yawn, if anyone was paying attention.
"National airs and anthems were popular music at the time," Schissel said. "You bought them on 78 [rpm] records, and people sang them around the piano."