Artwork for podcast Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song)
Masiel Corona-Santos (English)
Episode 2422nd April 2022 • Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song) • Elisabeth Le Guin
00:00:00 00:49:30

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An award-winning poet since childhood, now also an organizer of readings, forums and community poetry classes, Masiel gives us a glimpse into how the power of the word channels and reinforces positive energies, and just might save the world!

Animus Zaman - translating Gabriel García Márquez into Bengali

Los Ángeles Poet Society

Revista Raíces – Masiel’s poetry journal de poesía editada por Masiel

Vicente Huidobro

Oral poetry in past times

Finnegan, Ruth. Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance and Social Context

Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2018

The Spanish Civil War (including García Lorca, Buero Vallejo)

Casanova, Julián (2010). The Spanish Republic and Civil War. Cambridge, England; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Graham, Helen (2005). The Spanish Civil War: A very short introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.



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.


Masiel and I found one another seated around the eternal bonfire of Poetry, where words and music ignite one another, and the flames of their mutual passion dance in fantastic forms, always changing, always illuminating…Who can say where words end and music begins?

A well-spoken phrase in its moment can become a music that makes the soul resonate as if it were a cello; a well-played melody in its moment can transmit a more apt wisdom than the keenest philosophical discourse.

This is what we’re all about, in the end. Our whole project, all the interviews we’ve done,

have moved in and out between the flickering light of the poetic fire and the shadows that surround it; together we’ve tried to distinguish how it is that a song, a voice, a lyric can grab us, move us, transport us, uproot us, overwhelm us—and finally, connect us all over again.

Masiel has dedicated her life to this mysterious, marvellous process, and today she helps move us a little closer to the warmth that it lends us.


The text of this interview was translated from the Spanish by Jen Orenstein. The interviewee’s part was re-enacted by the voice actress, Terri Richter.

ELG: Well, all right, Masiel, welcome to our show. It’s a special honor for me to have you here, because I’ve been hunting you down for at least six months, trying to schedule an interview with you. [laughs]

You’re working on some very interesting projects here in Santa Ana. And on a personal note, it gives me the chance to get to know you better. So, I’d like to ask you to introduce yourself to our listeners. Can you tell us your full name, your age and pronouns if you like, and a little bit about how it is that you find yourself living and working in the Santa Ana area at this time?

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yes. Thanks a lot, Elisabeth, for inviting me to be on your show. It’s an honor and a privilege for me to be here, to share a bit about what we’ve been doing for around two and a half years now, or perhaps three, at the Centro Cultural de México, as you well know. And all right, we have various projects going on there, we started with a reading circle and literature classes, and it was a large project. There were around 25, up to 30 participants and we had various guests who would connect with us at the Centro through Zoom. And this was before the pandemic. So, we’d already begun using Zoom before COVID, we would use it to make video calls with writers and poets, primarily in Mexico, where I was focused at the time. And everything started from there. And during the pandemic, that framework guided us, and gave us the space to, well, to keep creating, and we could get together through our discussions of literature. And later we expanded to include other projects. For example, our poetry project, as you already know. I began to connect with poets from all over the world, from as far away as Bangladesh – I just met a poet from Bangladesh who is the first to translate Gabriel García Márquez into Bengali.

ELG: Ha! You’re kidding me.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yes, the first translator. In fact, he lives in San Diego. And, well, we’ve had the opportunity to make connections. Last year we announced our first call for poetry submissions written by women. It was a complete success. That was in August of last year, if I’m not mistaken, and we had 80 poets from around the world, including local poets as well. It was a 3-day festival of poetry written by women, with poetry readings in the mornings and evenings. It was co-organized by Josefina Maravilla, another Centro volunteer, who also attended our poetry circle. And we’ve been following the work of all these poets, or the ones I’ve have the opportunity to follow and we’ve been publishing their work, and inviting them to talks, interviewing them, because I also work with the Los Angeles Poets Society, another not-for profit Chicano activist group in Los Angeles, founded by Juan Cárdenas and Jessica Wilson, who are also Chicano poets.

And then I’m also working right now with Indira Isel Torres Cruz, a poet from Colima, Mexico. She also has a project, another collective that promotes poetry, not just written by women, but by anyone, anybody that approaches her. She also conducts interviews. And with her came the idea for Revista Raíces, or Roots magazine. Revista Raíces is through the Centro as well, and is a distribution platform, primarily for poetry, but we’ve also published stories, essays… and to celebrate Women’s Day on March 8, we had another meet-up, but this time we utilized the Centro in a hybrid format. It was a gathering of 43 women, including local Chicana poets, an El Salvadorian-Guatemalan poet from Los Angeles. Also, a local poet who is currently living in Los Angeles, but was born in Guatemala, and women from all over the world, Chile, Colombia, Brazil… Also work written in Indigenous languages: Mayahuel Xuany, and the master Ethel Xochitiotzin, who are Nauhatl language poets.

So, as you can see, Elisabeth, it’s a project that attempts to be diverse, that aims to embrace all voices. In fact, this morning I was speaking with Indira about when we distributed Revista Raíces in another space, called Metáfora, about how many times, as a writer, as writers, you go looking for spaces that want to open a window for you, right?

And when they don’t publish your work, I think the world loses something, right? It loses a window into, a way to hear your voice, to find out who you are.

And, well, it was with that intention or with that objective, that we created Revista Raíces. And also, to continue to promote reading in the community, hoping to reach people’s eyes. Yeah.

ELG: So, it’s more like a… a chain, or network of interconnected projects, right?

I mean, you’ve mentioned, well, several… so at this point I have a really simple question for you. Perhaps, it’s a silly question, but sometimes silly questions get interesting answers. [laughs] So here goes: Why poetry? What is its importance? You dedicate the better part of your days, your energy to poetry. Why is that?

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yes… well, the technical part of my answer would be that it’s a short text most of the time. It’s more… hmm, writing poetry is complex, however, because if its length. [A poem is like] a capsule, containing emotions, metaphors that have to be deciphered. it is much deeper than a short story, or narrative piece. A narrative could be three, four, 15 pages long; and the style is quite different. And what speaks to me the loudest is the metaphorical part, the symbolic, emotive part. It’s like, [in poetry] the word itself makes its meaning manifest, right? Poetry is the act of materializing that which vibrates, the sound, materializing that in words, and in that way creating consciousness, through emotions. So, in fact it’s because of this, because it’s a short text, because it’s deep, because… Because it needs to be disentangled, because it’s symbolic. I feel that poetry has many complex layers to it, and that’s why I focus on poetry. Because it has the strongest impact on me. It has a strong emotional charge.

ELG: Mmm. Yeah.

Masiel Corona-Santos: You can connect more strongly with the people who listen to you. There’s also an oral aspect to poetry, because when you read it aloud, it’s a collective exercise. I mean, you can gather ten poets, people come to listen, and if just one word has an impact on someone, then the poetry has achieved its goal. So, that’s why my work is centered on poetry, Elisabeth.

ELG: Yeah, yeah, how interesting. That oral element of poetry stands out to me. I mean, 500 years ago, listening to literature was the norm. Literature was a performance art, played out in real time, it was an art form you listened to. And that’s changed a lot over the last 400 years. And now, generally, when we talk about literature, we think of a text, right? Something written on a page, something silent. But it wasn’t like that before. And poetry is precisely the oral part of literature that has survived, and as a musician and historian, that is very interesting to me.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Exactly, Elisabeth. You are absolutely right. The aspect of sound, of orality. For example, the bards, right? They’d go from town to town, singing out the news, or simply singing, no? To entertain. So that performative aspect is an important part of poetry too. And you know, it’s fascinating how that plays out in Latin American poetry. I mean, in Mexico, in Chile, poetry in Latin America, in South America, and the poetry that I can use here as a reference is Chicanx poetry. I feel that Chicanx poetry has an even more performative touch. We see it with Matt Cedillo, Iris de Anda, there’s a really different quality to it. It’s also got a bit of the popular culture mixed in, such as Slam Poetry, right? And I feel that Latin American poetry is usually distinct from that in its style.

So, making connections in these projects that we’ve already mentioned has allowed us to get to know both sides, right? That mix. It’s a mixture, getting to know Chicano poetry on this side, and Latin American poetry as well, no? Because there’s an exchange of styles, even in how one might go about writing a book…So, it’s seeing that difference, right? Difference of geographic location, of people, of accents, of sound, of feel, it’s, it’s… it’s quite marvelous. It’s marvelous. Because you realize, like you said, the way it changes, depending on the geographical location, the reader, that person’s context, the poet’s, right? And there are many factors.

ELG: Yes, well, the whole relationship between mediums, as you said, the way of speaking, the accent, the rhythm, the meter, the different languages you mention: all of this forms part of the message. And on top of that, I also find the fact that it happens in real time quite fascinating. Because poetry recited aloud has a lot in common, of course, with music. What I mean by that is, that poetry essentially exists in a space between narrative, reading, and music. And it participates a bit with each one. Or at least -- would you agree with that?

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yes, absolutely I would. In fact, there is poetry in prose. But something I think distinguishes poetry is the sound, right? The sound. Sound is really important; sound and rhythm matter a lot in poetry. Whereas with prose, I don’t think that is an important factor, but with poetry it certainly is. That’s why there’s, for example in Son Jarocho, right? The décima – or then in music you also have these factors of rhythm, sound, cadence. And in narrative writing you don’t necessarily have to have that rhythm.

ELG: But, well, it manifests itself in a different way, right? The rhythm is buried beneath the words, might be one way to put it. And, well, this would be an ideal moment to transition into your first song, but – I want to ask you a couple more quick questions before we talk about the music you’ve brought to this interview. A little bit about your personal history, if you don’t mind. How did you arrive at this study of poetry? What has been your personal journey?

Masiel Corona-Santos: Sure, of course. I came to California when I was eight years old. I’m the daughter of migrant parents, who brought me to the United States as a little girl. So, I went to primary school at Pío Pico Elementary in Santa Ana, and then to Carr, and then to high school. So, I’ve been in California since primary school. I was always interested in literature, language, words, and especially in both languages, in English and Spanish. And I believe I had excellent teachers- language teachers, from primary school all the way up to university--

ELG: Oh, that’s great

Masiel Corona-Santos: In some way I feel that words have served as a refuge for me, you know? When I was a child… Well there’s a term for it now, right? “bullying,” but I feel that I was always excluded for being different from the other girls. I was always different, and I found a refuge in reading, in literature. And, ever since then, I… there were various contests, at school for example, and I’d win them. Poetry contests. I recall that the Bowers Museum had a Frida Kalho contest and I… I think I was 13 years old, and I won it. So, literature has always called me, since I was a girl. And well, I was anxious to learn the language, you know? Because at eight years old in English too, achieving bilingualism in English and Spanish led me to poetry. I remember reading Ezra Pound. And I liked the poem Howl [by Allen Ginsberg], there was a poem I liked from “Howl.” …so, when I started out, I had notebooks full of writing. When I was an adolescent, I always published in the school magazines at Saddleback High School. I liked publishing my poems, my writing. So, yeah, that’s how it went as I was growing up. in fact, my first books—at Pío Pico, it was also a poem I wrote that won the contest. Those were my first books in elementary school, where I had those little contests that left their mark on me and led me to the language arts. And… that’s… that’s how it all began. And I stopped writing for a long time. I only took it back up again three years ago at the Centro. I took up writing again, completed my master’s degree and then I had a little more time, a little more freedom to do projects like these, community projects like I’m working on now. And, well, that’s how it all began again, three years ago.

ELG: What a lovely story. Thank you. Yeah. I’m very moved by this idea of words as a refuge. And also, the idea of words as a bridge. Without words, well-chosen, and resonant words, what do we really have? So, I really agree with your point of view. Wow. Well, thank you, Masiel.



500 years ago, the idea of poetry as something silent, read in solitude from a mute page, would have seemed an absurdity, for poetry existed to be heard, recited—often sung—shared in common; it was a supremely social art. The ancient bards that Masiel mentions, the troubadors and professional readers, made the news known from street corners and recited the epic verse romances that are the direct ancestors of todays corridos; or they delivered instalments of novels and stories to passersby. Cervantes’ Quijote was written to be SHARED in this way, and so were the novels of Charles Dickens.

Advances in general literacy in the last 200 years have resulted in a gradual visualization and textualization in the modern age. The inventions of things like television, mobile telephones, the Internet and cellular networks, all of them in the hands of cpaitalist privatization, have accelerated this process to bring us to the bizarre point of walking around in public, each person plugged into their mini-screen, reading or looking at administered data in silence and scarely looking at one another, much less listening to one another…

However, the many historical traditions of public, oral poetry survive and flourish notably in the traditional and alternative arts of many Latin American and Spanish-speaking countries. To the poetic compilations of Mexican son, the schools for improvising décimas in Cuba, the payadas of Argentina and Uruguay, let’s add the tremendous foment of conferences, journals, workshops and readings being organized by Chircanx activist poets in Southern California, among them the initiatives of today’s interviewee.

We’re still a ways from becoming robots.


ELG: Why don’t we now start to talk about what is, in effect, poetry, but set to music: your first song, which expresses or represents where you’re from. So, could you present your song to our listeners and perhaps speak a bit about why it is that you chose it to reflect this question of “where are you from”?

Masiel Corona-Santos: Well, my first song is by Mercedes Sosa, “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón”, or “I come to offer my heart.” Sung by her, of course. And, well, to say where I’m from, right? My geographical or symbolic location is that, it’s… I come from this place in which words exist as a refuge for me. We talked about how words [create] this symbolic place where I can exist freely. When I focus on writing something, I feel that the whole world around me doesn’t exist, it all vanishes. I’m in a pure and personal place of my creation, because any time you write about something, you write from within, going outward. In poetry you’re externalizing your feelings, externalizing your stories, or the stories of others, right? "Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón”, so, when you write, when you do that, you offer something from within you, you offer your center to the audience, right? You… also give hope, because, all is not lost. It’s the first line of that song. All is not lost, there is hope. I come to offer my center, my heart, my emotions, despite the fact that there is so much violence in the world, right? She says "Tanta sangre que se llevó el río,” “the river swept away so much blood.” In spite of all this violence and all the chaos we’ve been through in these last two years, there is still refuge in things like poetry, words, art, plastic art, ceramics… yoga, why not? There are so many spaces you can inhabit. So, I inhabit poetry from this center, from the heart. And it’s not easy, the song goes: “No será tan fácil, ya sé que pasa, no será tan simple.", “It won’t be so easy, I know what’s happening, it won’t be so simple.” It’s not simple. I know many people who don’t make art their life, that have other things they’re working on. Nevertheless, they do what fulfills their souls, right? And that’s very important, to do what fulfills your soul, what makes you happy, what you would do without being paid for it, right? It’s a very idealistic thought, but I still believe in those idealistic thoughts and feelings.

ELG: Long live idealism, I say.

Masiel Corona-Santos: [laughs] That’s right. And, well, I’ll continue with the song: she says "Cómo abrir el pecho y sacar el alma," right? "Una cuchillada de amor." “How to open the chest and remove the soul”, “a loving gash.” So, when you… when you share what you do, well, you open your chest and take out your soul, in spite of the fact that sometimes the world leaves a gash and hurts you. No, you keep doing what you love, in spite of the fact that sometimes the world doesn’t understand the importance of a well-spoken word, of a well-written word. Sometimes that hurts too. But that doesn’t make you give up the hope to continue creating spaces for people to come, right? For example, to listen, to learn as a collective… And, yes. That’s it.

ELG: Well, great, let’s listen to it.


MUSIC CLIP #1: “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón.”


ELG: Okay… it has a super slow rhythm. And I notice that, physically, for example, the rhythm of my heart, of my breathing, my whole body relaxes. How does this effect, which I imagine is an intended effect on the part of the composer, on the part of Mercedes Sosa, all the musicians—how does this relaxing effect help the sense of the poetry?

Masiel Corona-Santos: Well, I think that there are moments where one has flashes of peace. There are other moments of rage, where you boil. But in my case, I feel closer to the peaceful vibrational part, I think. There are moments where that takes me to other, I’d say to other dimensions, it makes me more intuitive, opens a greater perception. And now I feel that this opens a portal, you know? It opens a portal in people, in the stomach, and also in our eye, right? Which is also part of our intellect, our heart and our body. So, when you are in a state of relaxation, you can think better, stay focused on what you are saying, on what you’re doing, in this state of peace, you can find—not light, because it’s part light and part darkness—but a higher consciousness, let’s say, and you have and radiate light with your words, with your poetry. So, I believe that in this way it helps to be relaxed, although we might be vibrating on different frequencies…

ELG: Yeah, of course, of course. Well, what an interesting and… and beautiful answer. Yeah. It’s about being open, right? The openness that comes through a song, a piece of music. And through the sounds themselves, the sounds of the keyboard, of the synthesizer, they are sounds from a space beyond this planet. And that’s how openness comes, little by little… I like your answer a lot. I believe that a song like this one could act as a form of… of assistance to make quite deep internal changes. And with the words, even more so.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yes, that’s right. I feel that words, the world is always—well, it all vibrates, everything is in motion. The Earth is always in motion. So, our words, our actions are in a constant vibrational state. And when your vibrations are…

Let’s say, you’re angry and your words are full of rage. That resonates outward in some form, into our environment, right? For example, the war happening now, right? The war in Ukraine. That has the power to affect us on an energetic level. So, when you use words to cleanse -- when I write a poem about war, or against war, I’m combatting those chaotic vibrations and finding a balance.

Now, if I can do it, imagine if four or five hundred poets are writing the same way, trying to balance out or equalize the chaotic vibrations with harmonic words.

So, I think it’s… it equalizes the darkness. Words have light. And if you combat darkness with light, you can balance out the harm.

ELG: In effect, words have concrete strength, in the real world.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yes. That’s right.

ELG: Yeah, yeah. Okay, this conversation brings something up with me. I must confess. I haven’t thought about these things in a long time. Because, well, because of the strong pull of the daily, of what we call daily life. [There’s] this very, very common idea that in the end, words aren’t real, they’re just representations, and that reality is only confirmed through actions. And the more violent those actions are, the more real they are. It’s… it’s a very common view of life. Too common. For example, listening to the radio, reading the news, bit by bit I start to see the way we are living in this moment through a very destructive lens. bit by bit this very destructive way of seeing how we live right now penetrates me thinking. And well, your words, your perspective remind me of the importance, the real power of words, of thought, and like you say, of a thoughtful and positive vibration. So, thank you. I’m grateful to you!

Masiel Corona-Santos: And thank you, for asking these questions. For thinking about them and for sharing, no? For sharing this interview that soon we’ll be able to listen to. And, well, yeah: sharing.

ELG: Well, it’s great, it’s great.



One of the most well known songs of the Nueva Cancion movement is “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón.” This song exemplifies the movement in many ways, but especially so in the poetic lyrics first written by Fito Páez.

This moment started in the:

The Nueva Cancion movement would see its highest popularity during the 1960s, and the compositions that came from this movement becoming popular across Latin America. Some of the most important artists of this movement were Mercedes Sosa, Armando Tejada Gómez, Manuel Oscar Matus, and Fito Páez.

o a ofrecer mi corazón” in:

____________________________________ELG: And just to wrap up our conversation about your first song: explain a bit more to me, if you can or want to, how is it that you come from this place, this place expressed in the song, of holding your heart in your hands to offer, and offer, and offer. She says it several times in the song, no? And that repetition has its own strength. I come to offer my heart, I come to offer my heart. How does that connect with your origins? With where you’re from?

Masiel Corona-Santos: Well, I feel that the heart, the symbol, as we said at the beginning, it’s well, the center, right? It’s the energetic center that I share. And I think that it’s through this repetition, because, well, in any place, in any country in the world, I believe it happens. Like you say, life happens, this chaos happens, and often we close ourselves off, and close ourselves off, right? You go looking for personal gain. It doesn’t matter if somebody else died. “As long as nobody in my family died, it’s fine. A woman was beaten. It doesn’t matter to me because I wasn’t the one beaten.”

So: this indifference. I find indifference to be painful, everything that is happening in the world hurts me. And to offer your heart is to open it. It’s to say: “Look at what’s happening”, I mean, “Are you going to form this sort of protective shell around us that keeps us from caring, from feeling what happens to our brothers and sisters around us…?”

And I think that’s part of the system. This system wants us to be robotic, unfeeling. With the news, like you said, through sensationalism, through lack of education, in any way possible, it wants us to be indifferent.

So, the repetition of “I come to offer my heart”, I feel that it’s an anthem to combat indifference. To say “You know that your poem matters to me, that your work matters to me, your artistic creation matters to me.” And to open minds, open hearts, open people’s very centers! And for people to see the importance of the arts, of literature, of poetry, of narrative, of whatever is an artistic form of expression, it’s important.

Why? Well, I’ll say it again, because it opens us up and equalizes the darkness around us. Or at least that’s my perspective. That’s the space I’m coming from. Right?

ELG: I get it, I get it.

Masiel Corona-Santos: -- So, combatting indifference by saying “I love you.” Saying “Love can conquer,” the love of another, right? “What you do matters to me.” And I carry it in my heart, right? Not just to say it out loud, but also to really feel it and transmit it.

That any little thing someone does, even a handicraft, it matters. It’s important. And it should be valued. So that’s where I’m coming from.

ELG: All right, with those beautiful and resonant words, let’s leave this wonderful song now. Thank you for sharing it. Let’s move on to the second song you chose, the one that represents your hopes for the future. Will you give us a quick introduction to the song? And then we’ll have a listen.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Of course. The second song is “Barro, tal vez”, or “Clay, perhaps”, composed by Luis Alberto Spinetta. It came out in ’82, and it’s originally a rock song in Spanish, but there are many—much like my other song that Mercedes Sosa sings—there are several versions. And one of the ones that I like, I don’t have a copy of it, but it’s performed by a woman with a cello, I believe, and she’s playing it, and she’s dressed in red and is magnificent. I mean, she plays it wonderfully. The lyrics themselves are wonderful, but this woman’s performance really has an impact on me, the colors she uses. She, I mean, the sound is magnificent. So, well, it’s one of my favorites too.


MUSIC CLIP #2: “Barro tal vez,” versión Cande Buasso




r first, self-titled album in:

Luis Alberto Spinetta, prolific songwriter and dynamic performer known as “El flaco” – “the skinny guy”—was one of the great icons of Argentinean rock; he died in 2012. The title “Barro tal vez” more or less translates to “Maybe clay,” a snippet of the mysterious poetry and haunting affect of this, one of his best-known songs.


MUSIC CLIP #3: “Barro tal vez,” versión L.A. Spinetta


ELG: It’s a fascinating song. One question, about the title, which is a line in the poem: it goes “Clay, perhaps,” After saying “ya me estoy volviendo canción,” or, “I’m already turning into song”, then she sings, “Clay, perhaps.” And… What do you think? What does it mean? In your opinion, because I’m not too sure about my own theory.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Well, we were talking about sound and song, right? The sound of poetry, of song… And clay, the origin, right? Sound as the origin. And when I speak, when we talk about clay, we’re talking about that, right? That we are dust. And how from dust and from sound, and this mixture of movement and rhythm, you can create, right? So, the origin of creation is us, humanity. We are, as Vicente Huidobro said: “We are little gods and goddesses,” who can create because we are – I want to use the word “origin”, right? We are made in the image and likeness of an origin, right? So we are little creators. And I think that — well, that’s my interpretation –

ELG: Ahhh....

Masiel Corona-Santos: Because we’re part—for example, in the Kabballah, there are the different levels of the tree of life, [called] the sefirot, which are different energetic levels, and they are all part of the same tree, right? And the fact that this song talks about a tree, the bark of a tree, that is opened by the blow of an axe, right? The tree opens.



The tree of the Sephirot, that is, of the Spheres, also called the Tree of Life, is a central symbol in the great, ancient Jewish mystical system known as the Kabala. The Tree bears ten spheres, each one of them corresponding to a mode of knowing God.


Masiel Corona-Santos: And so, it returns. In my interpretation it is a cyclical song. Circular and cyclical, talking about the origin of consciousness, and of a greater consciousness that we humans have not yet achieved because of rage, anger, things that happen to us in our lives that embitter us. Well, there’s that other part of us, which is energy, right?

ELG: Yeah, yeah. Well, you have gone way, way deeper than my theory, which was just that ancient biblical idea of the body itself as clay, how a thing is, as it is said, made of dust, of clay. A thing without life, without soul... But it’s interesting, because this moment of “Barro, tal vez” comes twice, and each time the song pauses. The rhythm’s flow stops, right? It’s like a small, suspenseful moment, right? Within the song. It stands out.

Masiel Corona-Santos: That’s right. And I think there’s a part where, like you said, there’s that pause, that pause where she says: “I’m turning into song”, right? Like, there’s an axe that cuts this tree’s bark, and then it ends with "donde el río secará para callar," Or, “where the river will dry up to fall silent.” So, the poet, or the one talking, the lyrical speaker, the lyrical “I”, finishes. They finish, but then they resurface in a way that merges with the whole, right? So that’s what I meant when I spoke about the greater consciousness. So that’s where there’s that pause, which I’m also intrigued by.

ELG: And from there, hope. The reason why you chose this song. It’s a type of rebirth, right?

s released. It was written in:

Masiel Corona-Santos: No, I think you’re right. Sometimes it really helps to contextualize songs or any other work of literature. And I think so. You’re absolutely right that there is conflicting imagery. The song is violent at times, and could be connected to the violence experienced by the Argentinean people, right? Of the repression, the lack of freedom of expression. Like he says: “I’m going to express myself, I’m going to sing freely to the wind”, even though that will lead to my death, right? It makes me think also of Lorca, right? During the Spanish Civil War, the censorship…

ELG: Oh, yes.

Masiel Corona-Santos: And all of that, I don’t know, now we can speak of performance and theatre as well, no? [Writers like] Buero Vallejo, who wrote during the Spanish Civil War and were censored and in some way were persecuted as well, right? So, I think that you are right. And, yes, of course, no work of literature can be completely free of its historical context. Yeah.

ELG: Of course not.



derico García Lorca, born in:

From the perspective of the struggles for liberty and autonomy in the Américas, it can be easy to forget the fact that Spain, the one-time great colonial power, passed through this terrible period. Decades of disturbances and repressions led to civil war between 1936 and 1939, with 36 more years of fascist dictatorship afterwards. Spain only achieved democracy in 1975, much later than many of its former colonies.

What does it mean to be a poet under a fascist regime, in which any open expression of resistance, of intellectual independence, even of doubt, can become a death sentence? It’s worth thinking about this here and now, for oppression and censorship are never that far away.

violence; he was murdered in:


ELG: And, well, it’s a lesson, once again, in that it’s always important to not only listen to the music, to not only listen to the words, but to listen to the combination of the two, which holds a significance deeper than the sum of its parts. I’d say that’s a sign of a wonderful song.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yes, yes. It’s one of my favorites.

ELG: Yeah.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Both of these songs that I’ve shared are songs I listen to all the time, I have to listen to them every day. They speak to me. They speak to my soul. So…

ELG: “Touchstone” as they say, right?. Like something you have to connect with regularly to maintain your health. The health of your spirit.

Masiel Corona-Santos: Yeah.

ELG: That’s awesome. And, well, thank you, Masiel, for sharing such thoughtful, deep songs. And for sharing your thoughts about poetry and music. You’ve got me thinking about things in a way that I’d almost forgotten, over time. So, I appreciate that a lot.

Masiel Corona-Santos: And I appreciate the space. I appreciate you for being a wonderful guide. And for also sharing your thoughts and having a dialogue and building knowledge between us. I really value [such] spaces… and for me as well this evening has brought me a lot of light and learning. I’ll carry it with me… I’ll remember today for the rest of my life, because we spoke about wonderful things, internal things, and I value that a lot, I’ll always treasure that, Elisabeth. I embrace you.

ELG: Well, many thanks. From [the bottom of] my heart. Wow.

Masiel Corona-Santos: I’m always here. And, well, we’ll keep in constant contact.

ELG: I hope so. I hope so. I hope this is the start of a, well, a poetic friendship. [laughs tenderly]

Masiel Corona-Santos: Of course.

ELG: Right? I really appreciate your time. And your lovely energy. Yeah.


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.

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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…”