Candombe for José (Candombe para José)

Author:
Roberto Ternán
Testimony by:
Alejandro Olate

The youngest among us, aged 17 or even 16 years, did the heaviest work on Dawson Island. We had to fell trees, cut them, split them in two, cut them into wedges, and walk the several hundred meters back to the barracks carrying the logs on our shoulders. Our older comrades sawed them and cut them into small logs to fill the woodsheds that fed three large heaters in the barracks.

At some specific moment we were able to approach the commanders and the guards in a different way. I was one of several comrades who proposed the idea of putting on a show on the weekends, in order to entertain, to unwind, and to relax from the constant psychological pressure and torture. That was the birth of artistic expression. Each of the sections in the camp would contribute an number. We would sing, do impressions, put on costumes, put on impressive plays, all performed with much affection. The song 'Candombe para José' was a hit on Dawson Island.


Published on: 03 October 2015


In a God-forsaken town, I don't know why
His black dance makes him move
People in the town call him Negro José
My friend Negro José.

With much love Negro José dances candombe
The color of the night on his skin
He is very happy dancing candombe, lucky him
My friend Negro José.

Forgive me if I tell you, Negro José
You are a devil but also a friend, Negro José
Your future goes with mine, Negro José
I tell you because I know it.

All eyes are upon him when he dances
And the drumbeat of his eyes seems to speak
And his devilish shirt wants to leap out
My friend Negro José.

You don’t appear to have sorrows
But sorrows are plenty, Negro José
That you leave them behind when you dance, I surely know
My friend Negro José.

Forgive me if I tell you, Negro José
You are a devil but also a friend, Negro José
Your future goes with mine, Negro José
I tell you because I know it
My friend Negro José
I tell you because I know it
My friend Negro José.