Artwork for podcast Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song)
Carmelo Cantorán (English)
Episode 2128th January 2022 • Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song) • Elisabeth Le Guin
00:00:00 00:37:44

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Head of a family, street vendor, and amateur philosopher, Carmelo shares inspirational songs that have sustained him in his life voyage, as well as his strategies for realizing one’s dreams and leaving a good legacy in this world.



The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz (1959)

Simon & Schuster website:

  • remember not to order through Amazon! Their labor practices are terrible ☺

Studies of motivational literature and migrant identity:

  • Woodstock, Louise. "Vying constructions of reality: religion, science, and ‘positive thinking’ in self-help literature." Journal of Media and Religion 4.3 (2005): 155-178.
  • McLean, Scott. "The cultural logic of precariousness and the marginalization of the sociological imagination: Signs from Mexican self‐help books." Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie (2022).
  • Effing, Mercè Mur. "The Origin and Development of Self-help Literature in the United States: The Concept of Success and Happiness, an Overview/El Origen y Desarrollo de la Literatura de Auto-Ayuda en los Estados Unidos: El Concepto de Éxito y Felicidad. Vision General." Atlantis (2009): 125-141. (artículo bilingüe)


The Script (band) 


Greetings and welcome to the latest episode of “Si yo fuera una canción” -- “If I Were a Song.” We are a community-based podcast and radio show, in which people of Santa Ana, California, tell us in their own words about the music that means the most to them.

ELG: I am Elisabeth Le Guin, your program host, and Director of this project.

This project is based on my conviction that we people in the modern world need to learn to listen to one another; and that music, and all it brings us, is the perfect place to begin.

DAVID: My name is David Castañeda, music researcher here for the SYF podcast. I am so happy to be a part of this project, using my scholarly training and my performance experience to bring you the stories, music, and lived experiences of those living right here in Santa Ana.

Carmelo Cantorán knocks on the door of my house almost every Sunday afternoon. He brings bags of snack food for sale, and in the hot months, he also has a cooler full of paletas – fruit popsicles. He always arrives immaculately dressed, and during the pandemic he has always worn a face mask. He has a friendly and dignified professional manner, and, as I point out in the interview, his products are of the highest quality.

The relation of professional salesperson and regular client has been one of the pillars of society in villages and small communities for centuries; but urban life imposes another model on us, in which the sale of goods is often reduced to a hurried transaction between strangers, and where salespeople typically draw minimal salaries and minimal respect.

Carmelo’s arrival on my doorstep every Sunday permits me to imagine a more connected, more integrated urban life, in which the movement of goods brings not only human respect, but the possibility of friendship.

This re-enactment in English of the original Spanish interview was recorded with the voice actor Wesley McClintock.

ELG: All right, welcome Carmelo. For me, this interview is very special. It’s the first one we’ve done in-person since the start of this project. All the others have been conducted remotely, and that’s an artefact of the pandemic we’ve all been living through. To start, why don’t you introduce yourself to our listeners?

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course. My name is Carmelo Cantorán. I’m from Mexico, originally from the state of Puebla, near Mexico City. It borders Puebla, where I’m from. But I’m not from the city of Puebla, I’m from the countryside. Very, very far away from the city itself.

ELG: And how long have you been here in the Santa Ana area?

Carmelo Cantorán: I’ve been in the Santa Ana area for around… [long pause] Twenty years? Twenty years.

ELG: So, from around the time of the millennium. Why Santa Ana?

Carmelo Cantorán: In Santa Ana I feel as if I’m in my own country. The majority here in Santa Ana is Hispanic, and we speak mostly in our language. Well, in my case, I pretty much only speak Spanish. I understand a little English, but I haven’t spoken it much. I feel like we’re in Mexico because life in Santa Ana is very similar to life in Mexico.

ELG: Yeah, yeah, and of course it’s interesting because this land actually was Mexico at one time.

Carmelo Cantorán: That’s correct.

ELG: Southern California was in fact, a Mexican territory up until very recently, historically speaking.

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course, of course.

ELG: So, what do you do for work, here in Santa Ana? Will you please tell us a bit about it?

Carmelo Cantorán: I currently… as you know, I’m a vendor. I sell paletas – popsicles -- I sell snacks, peanuts, chickpeas, fava beans, pistachios, almonds. Apart from that, I’m doing some other investments. I go around selling from my car, I already have my clientele here in Santa Ana, and I can get around quickly in my car.

ELG: Yes.

Carmelo Cantorán: Because Santa Ana is quite large. Here, what we’ve got more than enough of is people.

ELG: Yes, certainly enough.

Carmelo Cantorán: Enough to—

ELG: Uh huh, and well, I have to let listeners know that the quality of Carmelo’s products is very high, very high. For example, I’ve noticed that the peanuts, which for me are the ultimate experience of the treats you sell—they arrive at my door while they’re still a little warm, and very, very fresh.

Carmelo Cantorán: Yes, that’s right. Because I bring them directly from the supplier. All the products are recently prepared, and so I deliver them while they’re fresh.

ELG: Yeah, yeah, and it definitely shows. And so -- how did you get into this line of work?

Carmelo Cantorán: I got into this work because I used to work at a restaurant over in Laguna Beach. There was very little work, very little to do. I worked there for three, four hours, tops. The pay was low, very low pay.

And at that time, I knew someone, I’d had a friend for a little while, who lived over in Baldwin Park. He was already doing this, doing what I do. He was selling paletas, and he sold all kinds of nuts, all kinds of snacks. And he got me in touch with the place where he bought his paletas first. And that’s how I got started. I started out selling paletas, and I started to build my clientele. And little by little I started getting to know the people here in Santa Ana, my clients, gaining more clients all the time. And that’s how I started. So then came the moment when I told my boss there at the restaurant, that I was going to stop working there. And from then on, I focused on my own work, on my own terms. And then, little by little, I started adding more product, you could say. Adding the peanuts, the mangoes, the pistachios, all the dried grains and beans I sell now too, along with the paletas.

ELG: I really admire the personal initiative that I think is required to develop and then maintain a business. You have a lot of clients, you have to travel to each one, and keep in mind—or perhaps in a notebook, I don’t know [laughs]—you have to maintain like a list of who they are, and the things—for example, when you come to my house, you already know that we buy certain things and not others.

Carmelo Cantorán: Correct, exactly.

ELG: It’s a lot of details, right? And it’s quite a complex job. But it’s clear you do it very well, and with a lot of… how would I put it… with a lot of personality. And that’s why after a while I got the idea to invite you on the show and interview you.

Carmelo Cantorán: Going back a bit: you asked me a question before, about how I started.

ELG: Yes, yes.

Carmelo Cantorán: -- or, how I got the motivation to do what I do – to go knocking on doors. Basically, when you are in need and you want to do something, the amount of people isn’t going to stop you. For example, all of these [houses], I’ve knocked on every door in this whole neighborhood. So, here I am, a person from a rancho where there are only nine houses, where you grow up with that shyness since you’re not so used to being around a lot of people.

ELG: Of course.

Carmelo Cantorán: And well… that was the main challenge… that was tough in the beginning! I had to read a lot of books. I read a lot of books to get the courage to come, to knock on doors. Anytime I see a book tossed to the side, I say to myself “No, I’ve got to grab that book” because books are-- they hold great wisdom and give us courage in our hearts.

ELG: It makes me so happy to hear you say that! I’m a book person, and I completely agree with you. Books hold culture, they hold wisdom. Somewhere out there, there’s a book that holds everything you need. That’s what I believe.

Carmelo Cantorán: Exactly. Like, in the beginning I read a book called “The Magic of Thinking Big.” I don’t know if you’ve read it or heard of—

ELG: It rings a bell, but, no…

Carmelo Cantorán: That book is the one that basically gave me courage, made me believe in myself and raised my self-esteem a little bit because at that time it was practically on the floor, it was so low. I couldn’t look people in the eye. But that book lifted me up, it helped me.

ELG: How interesting. But, yeah, it’s really admirable because it’s one thing to read a book and absorb the advice it offers, but it’s another thing to turn that advice into action--

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course.

ELG: -- out in the world, right? That requires, I don’t know, a very strong impulse from within. You arrive at my door with confidence, but not arrogance, not invasiveness, nothing like that. The way you do it is perfect. And it’s an art, right? You have to work at that kind of presence.

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course.

ELG: One has to develop this… it’s a persona, right? Almost like a mask. I imagine that, yeah, it would be a big challenge.

Carmelo Cantorán: Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty much like you say. I don’t know which book it is that says, “beyond fear lies success.” So, the more you do what you’re afraid of, eventually you conquer that fear. And, well, it’s true: [From] what I’ve read, what I’ve lived, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done, yeah. The more I do what I fear, little by little the fear fades away.

ELG: Yeah, yeah.



d Schwartz, was published in:

The literature of “positive thinking,” as well as the works of motivational speakers like Alex Dey – whose phrase, “Detrás del miedo está el dinero,” which we have translated as “beyond fear lies success,” is quoted by Carmelo – has a fairly long history here in the United States, stretching back a century and more. The concept seems to have penetrated with a particular force into the consciousness of many immigrants: “Your destiny depends on you, and you control it.”

Such a doctrine can produce inspiring life-stories of the “rags-to-riches” variety; and it’s clear that it is the moral spinal column of many honorable people, like my interviewee.

But in terms of the body politic, surely interdependence is as important as self-reliance, and the two must braid together in some way; the greatest success being the success of all of us, together.


Carmelo Cantorán: I remember that when I started out the first few times, well I knocked on every door in the neighborhood. Every single one! And at first, you know, I get it, the people don’t know you, they look at you suspiciously, and, well, you could say that out of twenty doors you knock on, maybe only at two or three of them will someone buy something and start getting to know you. And, well, that’s part of sales. Not everyone, not everyone is going to say yes. Only a certain number are going to say yes.

ELG: Yes, of course. And the others, well you’ve got to leave them alone. It’s not very helpful to worry a lot over lost sales and things like that, right? You always have to be, like, “onward.”

Carmelo Cantorán: Onward. The sun rises for all of us, but we don’t all have the same day. Because, imagine if all the people who go out to sell something, if everyone they tried to sell to bought something, well, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge! Right? You’d have to—

ELG: Right. [both laugh]

Carmelo Cantorán: The work wouldn’t be as meaningful.

ELG: And something occurs to me. This work of going from door to door, making these connections with clients, it’s a form of community work. Because, okay, there’s fear on both sides, right? The thing is, many people feel afraid when they open their doors, about what could be on the other side, out there. And finding a familiar face, someone you have a relationship with, that helps to foster a little more trust in the community. With all the pressure we are under in this country, to separate from each other… I mean yes, yes, independence is valuable. But I believe community is even more fundamental. And with this work that you do, it’s like you’re weaving a communal cloth from door to door.

Carmelo Cantorán: Exactly, of course.

ELG: I admire that a lot. I really admire that.

Carmelo Cantorán: There is a bit of separation between families, because, as you know, there are a lot of bills to pay here: rent, bills, the car... it’s a lot. A lot of expenses, that means that most of the time, people are out of their homes working. Sometimes they work two jobs. I’ve seen parents who leave early before the sun rises, while their kids are still sleeping. They work two jobs. They go from one job to the other, and by the time they get home, it’s nighttime. Their children are asleep again. So, they barely see them.

ELG: Yeah.

Carmelo Cantorán: And that makes for some separation within the family and sometimes, you know, the children don’t get to grow up with that bond with their mother or father. If we don’t focus 100 percent on our children while they are small, it will be more difficult when they’re grown, because at that point, they have their own obligations, they’re more independent, and… I think building those ties between parents and children from an early age is the most valuable thing, because you know that if you build up your children from the time they’re little with principles, values, and humility, when they grow up they will value that and they’ll be people who do good for their country.

ELG: It’s fundamental.

Carmelo Cantorán: It’s fundamental.

ELG: And you have children, right?

Carmelo Cantorán: Yes, yes.

ELG: How many?

Carmelo Cantorán: Five.

ELG: Five! Ahhh! And, what are their ages?

Carmelo Cantorán: The oldest is 12. His name is Carlos José. Then after him is a girl, Brisa Janet, who’s 10 now. Then we have an 8-year-old girl, Lluvia Citlalli.

ELG: Lluvia, like the rain?

Carmelo Cantorán: Mmm hmm. Lluvia Citlalli.

ELG: Wow, what a lovely name!

Carmelo Cantorán: Then there are the last two boys. The 5-year-old, who’s almost 6 is named Isaí Carmelo. “Junior.”

ELG: Yeah! [both laugh]

Carmelo Cantorán: And then we have our 3-year-old, who’s turning four in January. His name is Yaël Iván. But I always change the order, I call him Iván Yaël. And, yeah. Growing up with a family like this, with children like this, well, it’s wonderful.

ELG: Of course. They all teach each other, right? I mean, the role of the parents is one thing, and as you say, it’s fundamental, but then, with—I mean it’s like you have a small village under one roof. [both laugh] They relate to each other, they teach each other, they raise each other…

Carmelo Cantorán: School also provides a very good education. But I think that the main education is the one you get at home. When those values are instilled in the children from a young age.

ELG: Yeah, I agree. I totally agree. It’s like the trunk of a tree.

Carmelo Cantorán: The walls that hold up a building—

ELG: Yes.

Carmelo Cantorán: With a solid foundation to withstand any storm headed their way in the future.

ELG: Yeah… we’ve lived through various storms in the past year and a half of the pandemic, I think. And, okay -- speaking of foundations, with your permission let’s move on now to the song. The first song you chose is “México lindo y querido.” That is, “Beautiful, beloved Mexico.” A classic. And, being a classic there are a ton of different versions… Personally, the Javier Sólis version is the one that most moves my heart. Is it all right if we start with that one?

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course, of course.


MUSIC CLIP #1, "México lindo y querido." JAVIER SOLÍS


Carmelo Cantorán: It’s a timeless classic. Brings back memories.

ELG: Yes! And that version, among the many that exist, is a classic too, right? Oh, what a voice that Javier Solís had! He died quite young, right?

Carmelo Cantorán: Yes. He was very young.

ELG: What a loss for everyone.


INSERT #2: Javier Solís/México lindo y querido

He was born in Mexico City in:


ELG: Something about this song that stands out to me in the lyrics is part that talks about “If I die far from Mexico, bring me back again to my native land to bury me.” That’s not the exact line, but that’s the feeling of it, right? In this song there’s a sense of… being far away.

Carmelo Cantorán: Mm-hmm. That’s right.

ELG: And of wanting or hoping to return to “México lindo y querido”, “beautiful, beloved Mexico” And I imagine that’s why it has turned into a sort of anthem for migrants, right? For that feeling it has. And, all right --at what point in your life did you come across this song? How did it come into your life?

Carmelo Cantorán: Well, since I was little, I remember my father, when-- the few times he was there, because he was here [in the States] a lot of the time—he would play it. Since I was little, I’ve listened to it, and I know that maybe it stayed in my mind. And, well, when we talked about looking for, choosing two songs, this song came to mind and I said to myself, “this is the appropriate song, now that I’m here, I’m not in the place where I was born, well I think this is the appropriate choice.” And for the song’s message.

ELG: Yes, yes. And it’s interesting that for the Mexicans in Mexico, like your father many years ago, they also listen to and appreciate this song that talks about being far away from a beloved place. You feel nostalgic even in Mexico itself, right?

Carmelo Cantorán: That’s right. It’s true. Yes, it’s a song that really goes straight to your heart. Because of its message.

ELG. Yes.

Carmelo Cantorán: …If when you’re there, you were far from your family...

ELG: Of course, I mean it occurs to me that there’s also been a bunch of internal migration in Mexico. So, for many families, even without crossing the border, there’s separation. Because of the economy, the search for work. All those things.

Carmelo Cantorán: That’s correct.

ELG: It’s affected a lot of people…

Carmelo Cantorán: Unfortunately, it’s happened to a lot of Mexicans. Pretty much like the song says. Sadly, many have passed away in this country, and are brought back to their land, over there in Mexico. And, well, I think that the majority of us, we immigrants who’ve come from other countries, well, we’ve… if it’s not an acquaintance or family member, or a friend, well, most of us have seen something like that happen, unfortunately. Unexpected things, like the song says.

It’s a feeling not only of other Mexicans, but of the majority of those who come from other countries, that this song reaches us with.

ELG: Exactly, exactly. There are a lot of people who are now very far away from their birthplace.

Carmelo Cantorán: That’s right.

ELG: There’s a constant yearning. Even with a full, happy life here, there’s that, that cord, like an umbilical cord, that connects you to your place of birth. And it’s something you can see here in Santa Ana.

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course, of course.

ELG: Well, all right, this would be an interesting moment to shift to the second song, which is of another nature [laughs], with a very different affect. Can you tell us a bit about how you found it?

Carmelo Cantorán: I’d heard it someplace, I don’t know where. I’m not sure if one of my kids played it, or if I heard it somewhere else. It’s in English. I thought it was really nice. I didn’t understand it 100 percent. So, I was looking for the second song and thinking about—like you told me—songs that inspire me for the future, what I want to achieve or where I want to go. So, I started looking and I found this and, wow! I thought the message was really great, because it motivates you, it inspires you to be better, to do what you want, what you have in your mind and your heart. If you put in the work, the dedication, the persistence, you can do it. Because our brains are like magnets. You attract everything you think about, and the results depend on your actions.

Because practically everyone who came here from another country, came here to improve, to have a better life. And this country offers us that, it offers us many opportunities that our own countries don’t offer. And we have to be thankful for what we have and where we are, for this marvelous land, because it opens doors for us.

The doors here will open for anybody searching for opportunities.

Your status doesn’t matter, or if you do or don’t speak English, as long as the person is searching, there will be opportunities.

ELG: Yes. Although I will say there are some very particular challenges, right?

Carmelo Cantorán: Oh, yes, of course.

ELG: Because, yes, “the land of opportunity” is the classic phrase that’s applied to the United States, and in many ways it’s true. But contempt towards immigrants is also very real.

Carmelo Cantorán: That it is.

ELG: I mean, I’m not an immigrant, so it isn’t my place to really speak to these things; but many of my friends are. And the path is different in every case, but there’s got to be a way to overcome or defeat the hatred and contempt that also exists. And I think a song like this second choice is ideal to inspire that feeling of confidence.

All right, let’s listen to it.


MUSIC CLIP #2: “Hall of Fame,” The Script


Carmelo Cantorán: An inspirational song that—

ELG: Yes, it’s a really inspiring song. It’s an excellent song. And… dreams. What are – if you don’t mind my asking, what are some unrealized dreams of yours, that this song inspires you to reach for?

Carmelo Cantorán: Well there are many. A lot of them… But family comes first: leaving a legacy, a memory. To be remembered by your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Not only that they’re like “He was alive and then he died, and didn’t leave anything behind, not a single memory, a single, a single, a single… how do you say it…

ELG: Testament, or…?

Carmelo Cantorán: Testament… A legacy! A legacy. A legacy that you did something for humanity, you did something that they’ll always remember you for.

ELG: Yes. And what would it be? Do you—

Carmelo Cantorán: Well, doing something extraordinary, like…

ELG: Like the song says!

Carmelo Cantorán: Like the song says. It’s like… so your kids can have a better future. That you can offer them something better, that you didn’t have in your own childhood. A house of their own. Paid off.

ELG: [laughs] That’s a big dream, because the banks are the true owners of almost all the houses! But what I mean is, the legacy of simply giving a better life to your children, is an enormous legacy, because the amount of work, and thought, and care, and passion that goes into building that future is very great. And it’s very noble work. The song talks about being “a preacher and a teacher and a leader,” and I don’t know what else, like a list of social leadership roles, right?. But not only leaders are heroes.

Carmelo Cantorán: No, of course.

ELG: Heroism in family life is very personal, it’s in the daily interactions, right? between parent and child.

Carmelo Cantorán: Yes, practically everything begins in the family.

ELG: That’s right.

Carmelo Cantorán: It’s the first thing. If we want to be leaders outside, first we have to be leaders with those inside, with our families.

ELG: Yeah.

Carmelo Cantorán: Work on ourselves. Work on yourself first. Be all right inside, and then you can work with your family. Because when we’re all right, we transmit all that. We can better transmit the message, [and our] wisdom.

ELG: Yes, exactly.

Carmelo Cantorán: Correct.

ELG: We dump a lot of not very realistic expectations onto today’s youth, without offering the support they need as well. I see this repeatedly in my work, and it gives me a lot of anxiety, because we are teaching these young people that they have to work very, very, very hard, all the time, without rest, simply to be ‘enough’ in the world.

Carmelo Cantorán: Right.

ELG: And I think instead the message should be, “You already are enough. What can you contribute, as you already are?” But no. It’s all on a scaled system, of… Okay, I’m talking too much, but it’s just that, your oldest child, he’s twelve?

Carmelo Cantorán: Twelve.

ELG: So, he’s about to enter adolescence. That’s a formidable stage!

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course. [It’s important] to be prepared for what’s coming. Because I think it’s essential to instill values and principles, give them some responsibilities.

I think it’s good because they value things, and that way they take them a bit more seriously. Because if we, the parents, don’t set rules, some restrictions, that’s what will hurt them.

ELG: Yes, very seriously.

Carmelo Cantorán: Yes, and that’s what, unfortunately, like I told you before, sometimes parents are very busy working at their jobs, and they neglect their children. And that’s when the misunderstandings start between parents and their kids, and there’s not that unity, that family union.

ELG: Yeah, yeah.

Carmelo Cantorán: We parents have to really prepare ourselves in that sense, to be able to lead, no matter what comes. With adolescence, which is a very difficult stage, because I remember when I was an adolescent too. I was a bit rebellious, sometimes, I didn’t really listen.

ELG: It’s natural.

Carmelo Cantorán: It’s normal.

ELG: It’ll happen.

Carmelo Cantorán: Yes, that’s right, yes. And, well, like you were saying, I think that the world, or parents, or people [in general], we don’t know, or we haven’t known, a system of working on our being, on who we are on the inside. And nowadays technology is very advanced. There are many, many ways to work on ourselves. There are books, audiobooks that…

ELG: Yes, bit by bit.

Carmelo Cantorán: Bit by bit.

ELG: We’re sort of creating a system of self-care, and of – well, of more love in society.


MUSIC CLIP #3, “Hall of Fame” versión española

ELG: [talking over the music] This version’s not bad, right?

Carmelo Cantorán: [talking over the music] It’s pretty good!


INSERT: “Hall of Fame”

yed Peas. It comes from their:

band, “Superheroes,” from:

MUSIC CLIP #3: “Superheroes”

It would seem that The Script has found an effective recipe, yoking inspirational messages to the power of a broad rock beat and a resonant acoustic environment.


Carmelo Cantorán: And, well, I think that, like the song says, in order to achieve your dreams, your goals in life, you have to focus, to make your big dreams come true, you have to put in the work, the persistence, and well, be constant, constant in what you do.

ELG: Yes, being constant with perhaps a bit of encouragement that comes – well, it comes from music in many cases. And it comes from the air, the sunlight, anything. A little bit of help.

Carmelo Cantorán: And a word of encouragement.

ELG: Just like the Beatles song, “With a Little Help from My Friends” [laughs]

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course.

ELG: A little help from my friends. And, well, I’m very happy to be able to have you as a kind of friend.

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course, me too.

ELG: And for me, it’s an honor, and I’m very grateful to you for this interview, and for the hour of conversation we’ve shared.

Carmelo Cantorán: It’s a pleasure for me as well. A pleasure to have been here, having this talk with you, and getting to know each other a bit more. When you have a lot of friendships, I think that the best part is sharing yourself, so other people get to know you, and your dreams, where you want to go, your goals, your roots.

ELG: And that, surely, is a big part of the legacy you were talking about. The legacy is no more or less than the lives you’ve touched and the friendships you’ve fostered. —Yes, well, many thanks, Carmelo, it was a lovely interview and, we’ll see each other soon.

Carmelo Cantorán: Of course. Thanks a lot, Elisabeth, for this opportunity you’re giving me to share part of my path, my life, my roots, and, well, the dreams coming up in the future. There are many. I may not have shared them all, but I have a lot. [both laugh]

To be able to reach a big goal in life, it's bit by bit. You have to divide it into short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. That’s how you put together a life goal, I think.

ELG: yes, of course. Like a strategy.

Carmelo Cantorán: The strategy for getting there.

ELG: Yes, and the song doesn’t mention that! It’s more focussed on how to fix your sights on something farther away, right? Like being, I don’t know, President of the United States or something like that, but [laughs] there are many steps between now and then. And, well, we have to strategize every day, right? The choices we make every day, that’s our strategy.

Carmelo Cantorán: What we think, sooner or later, is what we will develop [into]. The environment around us impacts who we become in the future. And that’s what happens. I think that in our lives, depending on our family circle, our surroundings, have a lot to do with where we’ll end up in the future. The people we surround ourselves with. It counts for a lot in life.

ELG: Yeah. I remember a saying I’ve heard several times. “Wherever you go, there you are.” Meaning, you bring everything from your present into the future. It’s like a backpack that we can’t take off! [both laugh].

– Okay, let’s close the interview with that message, so our listeners can think for a bit about their own trajectories. [laughs]

Carmelo Cantorán: Yes, I think the best thing is to shape ourselves, and have a goal for the future.

ELG: Yes, because there’s no point thinking about alternatives! Okay --Very good. Thank you, Carmelo.

Carmelo Cantorán: Thank you, Elisabeth, it’s been a pleasure.

After our interview, I felt—and still feel—that there was a lot more to say. Well, OK, I always feel this after every interview; they’re like the tips of icebergs!

But in Carmelo’s case this was a particular feeling, perhaps because of some comments he made; he says, “I may have not shared all [my dreams],” and he talks about leaving “a legacy that you did something for humanity, you did something that they'll always remember you for.”

I want to know what these dreams are! But it wasn’t yet time for us to talk about them in this interview. When the time comes, I know he will realize them in the world with care and human decency.

Would you like to know more?

On our website at, you can find complete transcripts in both languages of every interview, our Blog about the issues of history, culture, and politics that come up around every song, links for listeners who might want to pursue a theme further, and some very cool imagery. You’ll find playlists of all the songs from all the interviews to date, and our special Staff-curated playlist as well.

We invite your comments or questions! Contact us at our website, or participate in the Si Yo Fuera conversation on social media. We’re out there on FaceBook and Instagram. And then there’s just plain old word of mouth. If you like our show, do please tell your friends to give it a listen. And do please subscribe, on any of the major podcast platforms. We’ll bring a new interview for you, every two weeks on Friday mornings.

Julia Alanis, Cynthia Marcel De La Torre, and Wesley McClintock are our sound engineers; Zoë Broussard and Laura Díaz hold down the marketing; David Castañeda is Music Researcher; Jen Orenstein translates interviews to and from Spanish; Deyaneira García and Alex Dolven make production possible. We are a not-for-profit venture, currently and gratefully funded by the John Paul Simon Guggenheim Foundation, UCLA’s Faculty Grants Program, and the Herb Alpert School of Music.

For now, and until the next interview—keep listening to one another!

I’m Elisabeth Le Guin, and this is, “Si yo fuera una canción -- If I were a song…”