CARLOS MEJÍA GODOY Y LOS DE PALACAGÜINA - LAS MUNICIONES (NICARAGUA, 1979]
"I am the armor piercer, I am the guide,
I’m forever an expert of the night
The happy firefly of the guerrilla,
I am the compass of a tough bullet.”
Carlos & Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy's 1979 album Guitarra Armada may not have been a musical perfection; the rhymes were often simplistic, the singing sometimes subpar. Still, this remains one of my favorite albums if only for its incredible historical significance.
Recorded shortly after the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s (FSLN) overthrow of Anastasio Somoza Debayle and its arrival in Managua on July 19, 1979, the album features a collection of songs which had dispersed among the revolutionary forces during the course of the popular insurrection, which had begun on a national scale in the final months of 1978 as a result of both the assassination of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, editor of La Prensa, that January and the FSLN’s assault of the Presidential Palace in August.
Despite this bold action, in 1978 the FSLN was a small, weak, and divided organization. Its leader, Carlos Fonseca, had been killed in action two years earlier, it was split into three factions, and by the beginning of that year had a membership of likely less than 200 militants, including its rural guerrilla army of 11 people.
But as the insurrection took hold in previously inactive sections of the population, the FSLN took note that, despite the courage and audacity of the people, most had little to no military training, either in tactical maneuvering or in in the use of arms. Weapons manuals were not widely available, and would not do much good anyway: around half of the Nicaraguan population was functionally illiterate.
The Mejía Godoy brothers Carlos and Luis Enrique, both members of the FSLN, took it upon themselves to try something creative. Given the small size of the Frente, it did not have the capacity to teach everyone street fighting or weapons use. So the brothers began writing and recording songs with the intention of creating easily dispersible and memorizable tracks with full instructions in military training. This song, called The Munitions, was written to instruct participants of the insurrection on the purpose and use of different kinds of ammunition—standard ammunition, incendiary bullets, tracers, and the fragmentation grenade. Four singers each take on the perspective of a particular ammunition and sing about their qualities in different battle scenarios. [Unfortunately I do not have the album booklet and can’t recognize any of the women singers except that of Mexican folk musician Amparo Ochoa, who takes on the perspective of the standard bullet.]
This creativity and ability to respond to the moment was immensely helpful in allowing the FSLN (reunited into a single organization in January of 1979) and the Nicaraguan people to defeat Anastasio Somoza’s National Guard, one of the most disciplined and best armed military forces in Latin America, and to begin a revolutionary process based in new institutions of popular power.
You’ll find an English translation below, done to the best of my abilities. Enjoy!
Compañero, estas balas fueron recuperadas en la caida de Matagalpa. O sea, son balas que sirvieron al enemigo. Pero ahora que las tenemos nosotros, ya no son las mismas. Sabes por que, compita? Porque estas balas nos estan sirviendo ahora para conquistar la libertad.
Echele borona compita Venancio, de las municiones écheme un sermón
yo prefiero hermano, que por separado, haga cada bala su presentación.
Yo por ser la común y ordinaria, me siento en un nivel muy inferior
Soy la bala certera endemoniada, henchida de eficacia y de rigor
Cobriza como un indio americano, por ser de furia voy a lo que voy
desde que salgo al viento, voy buscando el mero corazón del opresor
Yo soy la munición por excelencia, sin despreciar a nadie en esta lid
mis posibilidades en la guerra explican el porque yo estoy aquí
Como incendiaria grito “siempre lista!” y como perforante rauda voy
Yo soy la rojinegra sandinista, yo soy por vocación la munición
Yo soy la trazadora combativa, anaranjado vivo mi color
No tengo propiedades expansivas, pero hago lo que puedo en mi fulgor
Yo soy la quiebra placa, soy la guía, baqueana de la noche siempre fui
Luciérnaga feliz de la guerrilla, soy brújula del recio proyectil.
Yo que puedo decir de mis valores, si ni siquiera tengo proyectil?,
Es como sin tener mecha ni llama, quisiera ser antorcha o ser candil
En mi viudez de cápsula vacia, va el alma del hermano que cayó,
lanzando en el umbral de su partida una granada de fragmentación.
Compañero, these bullets were recovered during the fall of Matagalpa. In other words, they are bullets that served the enemy. But now that we have them, they are no longer the same. Do you know why, comrade? Because these bullets are now serving us in the quest for freedom.
Sing it, comrade Venancio, give me a sermon about our munitions
and I’d prefer, brother, that they each give me a separate presentation
I, being the common and ordinary one, feel like I’m on an inferior level
I am a damn accurate bullet, bursting with efficiency and rigor
Copper like an indigenous American, in my fury I go where I wish
from the time I enter the wind, I search for the heart of the oppressor
I am the most excellent bullet without belittling anyone in this contest
my potential in war explains the reason that I am here
As an incendiary I shout “always ready!”, and as an piercer I am swift
I am the Sandinista red-and-black, I am a munition by profession
I am the combative tracer, bright orange is my color
I don’t have expansive properties, but I do what I can with my glow
I am the armor piercer, I am the guide, I’m forever an expert of the night
The happy firefly of the guerrilla, I am the compass of a tough bullet
What can I say of my value if I don’t even have a projectile?
It’s like not having a wick or flame, I’d love to be a torch or candle
In my empty-capsule widowhood goes the soul of a fallen comrade,
launching a fragmentation grenade on the eve of his departure