Cairaguas (cairaguas) wrote in songlations,

"El Hormiguero" by Calle 13, English translation of lyrics

"The Anthill"
Album: Entren Los Que Quieran (Enter Whoever Wants To), 2010
Style: Anthem, pro-immigrant, anti-war; urban/rock
Country: Puerto Rico


This is an anthem for disenfranchised immigrants and minorities and the poor. It was released before the start of the Occupy Movement, but it has similar sentiments. It also reminds me of the movie Fight Club (1999) with its emphasis on underground movements by people dissatisfied with the current system. Calle 13’s song is fervently against armed conflict and war, but it is also very confrontational and in your face. The end of the song quotes famous speeches from 20th century Latin America. The research that went into pinning down the sources for all the quotes at the end was a bit ridiculous, but I learned more Latin American history on the way. You can hear the song at YouTube here. The album won "Album of the Year" in the 2011 Latin Grammy Awards.

[Expand embedded video]

November is Native American Heritage Month, declared in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush.


Aquí llegaron las hormigas,
Vamos conquistando tierras enemigas,
Invisible silenciosa y simultanea,
Toda la invasión es subterránea.

The ants have arrived here,
We are conquering enemy territories,
Invisible, silent, and simultaneous,
The entire invasion is subterraneous.

Sin disparar al aire, sin tirar misiles,
Sin tener que matar gente usando proyectiles,
La guerra la peleamos sin usar fusiles,
De bloque en bloque como los albañiles.

Without shooting into the air, without launching missiles,
Without having to kill people using projectiles,
We fight this war without using firearms,
From block to block like the bricklayers. [*albañil, m. noun = bricklayer; mason]

Han tratado de pararnos un par de vaqueros,
Pero ya esta construido el hormiguero.
Somos muchos hermanos con muchos primos.
La familia es grande porque nos reproducimos.

They have tried to stop us, a pair of cowboys, [*reference to USA]
But the anthill is already built.
We are many brothers with many cousins.
The family is large because we reproduce ourselves.

Desplazamos al vaquero de sus oficinas
Porque trabajamos a tiempo completo sin propina.
No somos bienvenidos, comoquiera entramos,
Te picamos y te castigamos.

We displace the cowboys from their offices
Because we work full-time without tips.
We are not welcome, yet we enter anyway,
We sting you and we punish you.

Cuando más te confías las hormigas te engañan,
Atacan en equipo como las pirañas
Aunque sean pequeñas gracias a la unión,
Todas juntas se convierten en camión.

When you most feel most safe, the ants fool you,
They attack in packs like the piranhas,
Even though they are small, thanks to unity, [*alt. thanks to their union]
All together they become a bus.

Pobre del vaquero que nos subestima;
Cuando se duerme se le viene la colonia encima.
Por eso los vaqueros en todas las esquinas
Los tenemos comiendo comida latina.

Poor cowboy who underestimates us;
When he sleeps, the colony overcomes him.
That’s why the cowboys at all corners...
We have them eating Latin food.

¿Tú quieres guerra?

You want war?

[Repeated and answered in different languages.]

Las hormigas pueden contra cualquier gigante.
Entran por la trompa de cualquier elefante,
Los derrumban sin que la sangre les salpique
Ácido fórmico pa’ que les pique.

The ants can go up against any giant.
They enter through the trunk of any elephant,
They crumble them without shedding a drop of blood.
Formic acid so it stings ‘em.

No te confíes si la picada no te arde,
La quemazón de la picada la sientes mas tarde.
Aunque tengas botas vaqueras y sombrero,
Hay muchas hormigas y pocos vaqueros.

Don’t feel safe if the sting does not hurt you, [*arde = burn; sting]
The burning of the bite, you will feel much later. [*quemazón = burning; itch]
Even though you have cowboy boots and a cowboy hat,
There are many ants and few cowboys.

Los humildes se comieron a los nobles.
Para el 2020 vamos a ser el doble.
Aquí no hay racismo, no se trata de raza,
Si trabajo aquí, pues aquí tengo mi casa.

The humble devoured the nobles.
By 2020, we will have doubled. [*Census Bureau and Pew Research projections.]
Here there is no racism, it isn’t about race,
If I mobilize* here, well, I have my home here. [*lit. If I work here...]

Ser imparcial de eso es que se trata;
Hay que compartir los dulces de la piñata.
Ahora si el vaquero nos maltrata
Puede ser que a las hormigas les salga lo de Zapata.

Being impartial, that’s what it’s about;
One must share the candy in the piñata.
Now if the cowboy mistreats us,
It may be that the ants pull out their inner Zapata. [*Mexican revolutionary whose army reappropriated land for the poor masses]

En equipo se resuelve cualquier contratiempo.
Cuando te picamos picamos al mismo tiempo.
Sobre nuestra unidad no debe haber preguntas;
Frente al peligro las hormigas mueren juntas.

In a team, one can resolve any setback.
When we bite you, we bite at the same time.
Regarding our unity, there should be no questions;
Facing danger, ants die together.

¿Tú quieres guerra?

You want war?

[Repeated and answered in different languages.]

Un país durmiendo es un país desierto.
Mi gobierno se asusta cuando me despierto.
Pueden tirarse hasta los federales.
Somos 600 millones sin contar los ilegales.

A sleeping country is a desert country.
My government gets scared when I wake up. [*reference to censorship of Calle 13]
They can take on even the federals.
We are 600 million without counting the illegals.

Entre las patas nunca escondo el rabo.
Prefiero morir como rebelde que vivir como esclavo.
Apuesto que los tuyos se rinden primero,
Porque los soldados míos no pelean por dinero.

I never hide my tail between my legs.
I prefer dying like a rebel than living like a slave.
I bet you that yours will give up first,
Because my soldiers do not fight for money.

No le tengo miedo a las confrontaciones
Porque yo me crié con invasiones,
Y como las hormigas, si tengo mala suerte,
Defiendo mi hormiguero hasta la muerte.

I am not afraid of confrontations
Because I grew up with invasions,
And like the ants, if I have bad luck,
I will defend my anthill until death.

{De llamar al pueblo mexicano todo a luchar...}

For calling the entire Mexican people to fight…

{...Hasta conquistar la verdadera independencia...}

Until conquering a true independence.

{...Aquí, amigos míos, está planteada una lucha...}

...Here, my friends, a struggle arises...

{...Patria o muerte...}

Homeland or death!

{...Declaración sobre el derecho y el deber...}

...Declaration regarding rights and duties...

{...Viva Latinoamérica unida...}

...Long live a united Latin America…

¿Tú quieres guerra?

You want war?
[Repeated and answered in different languages.]

Vamos a medirnos a ver quien es más bravo!

Let’s measure ourselves to see who is bravest!

Translation Notes:

The introduction before the main song has lines in different languages. If you know any of them, please comment to tell us what is said, in what language, and (if you know) what is referenced.


Vamos conquistando tierras enemigas
We are conquering enemy territories
We go conquering enemy territories [*lit.]

The verb vamos (from ir) suggests movement such as a march.


Desplazamos al vaquero de sus oficinas / Porque trabajamos a tiempo completo sin propina.
We displace the cowboys from their offices / Because we work full-time without tips.

This is a response to the view that immigrants and Latinos "take American jobs," an idea that resurfaces whenever the American economy worsens and which has led to such human rights abuses as the 1930s Mexican Repatriation during which Mexican-Americans were coerced to leave the United States for Mexico. The term "repatriation" is a misnomer since a significant portion (60%) of the displaced people were United States citizens [Johnson 2006, pdf, citing Balderrama & Rodriguez 1995].

This idea of American jobs being "stolen" leads to hostility towards immigrants and perceived foreigners in general, even Puerto Ricans who are United States citizens by birth. Calle 13 answers confrontationally by saying that yes, we’re taking jobs! The background lines ask, "¿Tú quieres guerra?" (You want war?)

The next line says:

No somos bienvenidos, comoquiera entramos.
We are not welcome, yet we enter anyway.

comoquiera = however


Cuando más te confías, las hormigas te engañan
When you most feel most safe, the ants fool you

confiar, verb = to trust
confiarse (de), verb = to be over-confident; to be sure (of); to feel secure

A common warning given to others is no te confíes (don’t get cocky; don’t get over-confident; don’t be too sure about yourself; don’t be too trusting).


Cuando se duerme se le viene la colonia encima.
When he sleeps, the colony overcomes him.

venir por encima = to overcome; *lit. to come from above, to climb over


¿Tú quieres guerra?
You want war?

This is repeated and answered in different languages. I don’t know them all, but I caught the French:

Tu veux la guerre.
You want war.

and later,

Je veux la guerre.
I want war.


I tracked down the sources for the quotes at the end of the song:

{De llamar al pueblo mexicano todo a luchar...}
For calling the entire Mexican people to fight… [*Zapatista Army of National Liberation quote]

Emiliano Zapata was a leader of the Mexican revolution in the early 20th century. The revolution had many goals, but Zapata and his forces in southern Mexico were largely interested in the goals of land reform and indigenous autonomy. Before the revolution, land in Mexico was increasingly owned by the rich upper classes, and land was being coercively bought or taken from the mostly mestizo and indigenous lower classes. Zapata died in 1919, but he is still a figure in the public consciousness of Mexico. His followers call themselves Zapatistas.

The quote in the song is from a letter dated January 18, 1994, by Marcos of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) of Mexico. The entire letter is available online on the EZLN website here and also available from Google Books here. I quoted and translated the relevant passage below (bold mine):

Hasta el día de hoy, 18 de enero de 1994, sólo hemos tenido conocimiento de la formalización del "perdón" que ofrece el gobierno federal a nuestras fuerzas. ¿De qué tenemos que pedir perdón? ¿De qué nos van a perdonar? ¿De no morirnos de hambre? ¿De no callarnos en nuestra miseria? ¿De no haber aceptado humildemente la gigantesca carga histórica de desprecio y abandono? ¿De habernos levantado en armas cuando encontramos todos los otros caminos cerrados? ¿De no habernos atenido al Código Penal de Chiapas, el más absurdo y represivo del que se tenga memoria? ¿De haber demostrado al resto del país y al mundo entero que la dignidad humana vive aún y está en sus habitantes más empobrecidos? ¿De habernos preparado bien y a conciencia antes de iniciar? ¿De haber llevado fusiles al combate, en lugar de arcos y flechas? ¿De haber aprendido a pelear antes de hacerlo? ¿De ser mexicanos todos? ¿De ser mayoritariamente indígenas? ¿De llamar al pueblo mexicano todo a luchar de todas las formas posibles, por lo que les pertenece? ¿De luchar por libertad, democracia y justicia? ¿De no seguir los patrones de las guerrillas anteriores? ¿De no rendirnos? ¿De no vendernos? ¿De no traicionarnos?

¿Quién tiene que pedir perdón y quién puede otorgarlo?

Translation (mine):

Until today, January 18 of 1994, we have only known the official "forgiveness" that the federal government offers our forces. What need do we have to ask for forgiveness? What are they forgiving us? Of not dying of hunger? Of not silencing ourselves in our misery? Of not humbly accepting the gigantus historical burden of scorn and abandonment? Of rising in arms when we found all other paths closed to us? Of not abiding by the Chiapas1 Penal Code, the most absurd and repressive in recent memory? Of having demonstrated to the rest of the country and the whole world that human dignity yet lives and that it resides in its poorest inhabitants? Of having prepared well and consciously before initiating (the revolt)? Of having taken guns to combat, instead of bows and arrows? Of having learned to fight before doing so? Of being all of us Mexicans? Of being the most part indigenous people? Of calling the entire Mexican people to fight in all possible forms, for what is rightfully theirs? Of fighting for liberty, democracy, and justice? Of not following the patterns of previous guerrillas? Of not giving up? Of not selling out? Of not betraying ourselves?

Who must ask for forgiveness and who can grant it?

1 Chiapas is a state far down in southern Mexico. It contains the largest indigenous population in Mexico and was a site of frequent rebellion. It is the location of the January 1994 Zapatista uprising.


{Hasta conquistar la verdadera independencia.}
Until conquering true independence.

This is a quote from Che Guevara’s speech to the United Nations (ONU in Spanish: Organización de las Naciones Unidas) on December 11, 1964. You can see a video of the speech archived here and read the speech on WikiSource here.

According to WikiQuotes, elements of this speech come from Fidel Castro’s February 4, 1962 speech.

Longer quote:

"Porque esta gran humanidad ha dicho «¡Basta!» y ha echado a andar. Y su marcha, de gigantes, ya no se detendrá hasta conquistar la verdadera independencia, por la que ya han muerto más de una vez inútilmente."

Translation (mine):

"Because this great humanity has said ‘enough!’ and it has risen to its feet. And its march of giants will not stop until conquering true independence, for which many have already died in vain more than once."


{...Aquí, amigos míos, está planteada una lucha...}
...Here, my friends, a struggle arises...

A comment on a discussion about the quotes at the end of the song suggests that this line is quoting Pedro Albizu Campos, but I cannot find another online source confirming that. I also cannot find the quote source online at all. If you have information about this line, please leave a comment.

Update 4/29/14:

A reader found a YouTube video of Pedro Albizu Campos' speech. The video description says, "Discurso del revolucionario nacionalista Don Pedro Albizu Campos" (Address from the nationalist revolutionary Don Pedro Albizu Campos).

[Expand to see speech video]

Campos was a leading figure in the Puerto Rico independence movement.


{...Patria o muerte...}
Homeland or death! [*The phrase has been used by several people]

I found useful commentary on it on Yahoo! Answers:

"Homeland or death!" is a call to fight for one's country.

This article suggests it started in the Mexican war of 1847.

"Esta frase de Vicente Guerrero dio origen a otra frase ¡Patria o Muerte! cuando los mexicanos combatieron contra los Estados Unidos en la guerra de 1847, según el autor Eulalio Ferrer."

Fidel Castro used it in Cuba in the early 1960s.

It is possibly related to the latin "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" which comes from one of Horace's Odes -

I think Calle 13 is specifically quoting Che Guevara in his 1964 address to the United Nations. You can hear Che say "patria o muerte" in the video of the speech at 5:40.


{Declaración sobre el derecho y el deber...}
Declaration regarding rights and duties...

This is the beginning of the title of the human rights declaration approved by the United Nations General Assembly (53/144). The full title is:

Declaración sobre el derecho y el deber de los individuos, los grupos y las instituciones de promover y proteger los derechos humanos y las libertades fundamentales universalmente reconocidos.

Declaration regarding the rights and duties of individuals, groups, and institutions to promote and protect human rights and fundamental liberties universally recognized.


{...Viva Latinoamérica unida...}
...Long live a united Latin America...

This is a quote from Salvador Allende, from his 1972 discourse in Guadalajara. Allende was elected president of Chile in 1970. He nationalized industries in Chile that had previously been controlled by foreign powers, including the copper industry which had been operated by United States companies. He was a socialist who promoted higher wages for the working class, improved sanitation and housing conditions for the lower classes, expansion of healthcare and establishment of neighborhood health centers, and the cheap publication and mass distribution of classic literature and books that had previously been inaccessible to the poor. He was overthrown by a coup d’état in 1973.


Thanks to comments on the blog "Puente cubano al mundo" (Cuban bridge to the world) for helping me finish transcribing and finding specific sources for some of the speech quotes at the end of the song.
Tags: calle 13

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