Gritaram-Me Negra! [They Shouted, Black Girl!]

**Tinha sete anos apenas, [I was only seven years old]
apenas sete anos, [only seven years old]
Que sete anos! [what seven years?!]
Não chegava nem a cinco! [I wasn’t even five!]
De repente umas vozes na rua [when suddenly some voices in the street]
me gritaram Negra! [shouted, “black girl!”]
Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! [Black! Black!…]

“Por acaso sou negra?” – me disse (SIM!) [“Am I really black?” — I said, (YES!)]
“Que coisa é ser negra?” (NEGRA!) [“What’s it mean to be black?” (BLACK!)]
E eu não sabia a triste verdade que aquilo escondia. (NEGRA!) [And I didn’t know the sad truth that it hid (BLACK!).]
E me senti negra, (NEGRA!) [And I felt black, (BLACK!)]
Como eles diziam (NEGRA!) [Like they said (BLACK!)]
E retrocedi (NEGRA!) [And I retreated (BLACK!)]
Como eles queriam (NEGRA!) [Like they wanted (BLACK!)]
E odiei meus cabelos e meus lábios grossos [And I hated my hair and my thick lips]
e olhei vergonha da minha pele torrado [and I was ashamed of my toasted skin]
E retrocedi (NEGRA!) [I retreated (BLACK!)]
E retrocedi . . . [I retreated…]

Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra!Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra!Negra!

E passava o tempo, [And time passed]
e sempre amargurada [and always bitter]
Continuava levando nas minhas costas [I continued carrying on my back]
minha pesada carga [my heavy burden]
E como pesava!…[and how it weighed!…]
Alisei o cabelo, [I straightened my hair]
Passei pó na cara, [I powdered my face]
e entre minhas entranhas sempre ressoava a mesma palavra [and deep down inside always resounded the same word]

Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra! NEGRA!

Até que um dia que retrocedia, retrocedia e que ia cair [Until one day I retreated, retreated and I was going to fall]

Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra!Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra!Negra! Negra! Negra! Negra!

E o qué? E o qué? [And what? And what?]
Negra! Sim! [(Black!) Yes!]
Negra! Sou! [(Black!) I am!]
Negra!Negra Negra! [Black! Black! Black!]
Negra sou! Negra! Sim [I am Black! (Black!) Yes!]
Negra!Sou [(Black!) I am]
Negra!Negra!Negra! [Black! Black! Black!]
Negra sou [I am Black]

De hoje em diante não quero alisar meu cabelo [From now on I don’t want to straighten my hair]
Não quero [I don’t want to]
E vou rir daquelas, [And I’ll laugh at those]
que para evitar – segundo eles – [who prevent- they say -]
que para evitar-nos algum dissabor [who prevent us from (feeling) the disappointment]
Chamam aos negros de gente de cor [by calling black people people of color]
E de que cor! [And what color?!]
E como soa lindo! [And how beautiful it sounds!]
E que ritmo tem! [And what rhythm it has!]


Afinal [Finally]
Afinal compreendi (AFINAL) [Finally I understood (FINALLY)]
Já não retrocedo (AFINAL) [I no longer retreat (FINALLY)]
E avanço segura (AFINAL) [I securely move forward(FINALLY)]
Avanço e espero (AFINAL) [move forward and hope (FINALLY)]
E bendigo aos céus porque quis Deus [and thank the heavens because God wanted]
que negro azeviche fosse minha cor [my color to be jet black]
E já entendi (AFINAL) [And now I understand (FINALLY)]
Já tenho a chave! [I have the key!]

Negra sou!” [I am black!]**

About this poem: In an interview, Santa Cruz said,

I had a little group of friends, and I was the only black one. One day there was a little girl among them with blond hair. And she immediately said, “If the little black girl wants to play with us, I’ll leave.” And I thought, “Who is she?” She had just arrived and was already dictating the law. What a surprise it was when my friends told me, “You can leave, Victoria.” I said, “What?” It was to suffer something very important. I have written a small book in Spanish and English in which I say that suffering hides the door. The secret is not to leave, but to go through it. I was little, and when I saw that my friends rejected me, I left. But I never forgot. I never forgot the importance of suffering. The point is not to be a victim. I asked myself, “Who suffers? And why?” And other feelings began to emerge. I never told my father or my mother. It was something that I had to taste and discover for myself. That girl stimulated something in me without knowing so. And I came to discover what it means to stand on your feet without looking for someone to blame, suffering but discovering things. I began to discover life. The enemy lives at home. And nowadays it’s difficult for someone to insult me, because of the things life has taught me.

Victoria Eugenia Santa Cruz Gamarra (born 27 October 1922; died August 30, 2014[1]) was an Afro-Peruvian folklorist, activist and music person. She would go on to be called “the mother of Afro Peruvian dance and theatre. Her father was Nicomedes Santa Cruz Aparicio and her mother was Victoria Gamarra. She started working on stage with the group Cumanana (1958) where she worked with her younger brother Nicomedes Santa Cruz Gamarra famous poet and decimist. Alongside her brother, she is credited as significant in a revival of Afro-Peruvian culture in the 1960s and 1970s. For her part she is said to have had “Afrocentrism” influences in her view of dance trying to discover “ancestral memory” of African forms. (from Wikipedia)

**Most of the Portuguese translation was taken from the video subtitles and other online sources, but some of the words were either mis-transcribed (in the video) or written in Spanish instead of Portuguese, so I changed those. Or, there were multiple adjectives that could’ve been used and I chose a different one than was suggested. The English translation was also found from online sources, and again, between reading the original Spanish version and google translate, I felt that some of the translations were too literal and didn’t capture some of the meaning, so I chose different words that I thought fit better. Much of the difficulty with translating this into English (and translating in general) is that there are many expressions that have no direct and concise translation. The title is the perfect example: gritar means to shout or scream, and so a direct translation would be “they shouted me black.” A better translation would be “the called me black,” but call isn’t as strong as shout, and the implication is that they are yelling this as a taunt; that they are harassing her with those words, and that Negra is not just being “black” but the way someone may shout “darkie” or “tar baby.”  I could translate it as “they shouted ‘black’ at me” but I think the magnitude of what she’s saying would be more aptly translated as “they shouted ‘nigger’ at me,” but there’s not much nuance in that word either. More likely she meant “black” with a certain tone–that tone when someone says ‘black,’ but they really mean ‘black and ugly’ or ‘black monkey’ where one only has to say ‘black’ with just the right amount of disgust to imply the rest of the negative adjectives that are associated with being a black person. **