Ode to the “Guachiman”: Ahora Quien Podra Defendernos

by Andre Veloz

“Men shout cat calls at me. They insult me just because I am a single woman partying … Is quite hard for a lady to  have some fun nowadays. I better leave before the sunrise.” This is my lose translation of the phrases “Hombres me insultan me llaman, pues soy mujer y ando sola, está muy fuerte andar sola hoy, me voy antes de que salga el sol”. The phrases above are a portion of the Bachata “Mi Guachimán” (“Mi Wachiman”) also known as “Mi Guachimán me Salvó” (My Watchman Saved Me).

“Guachimán”, is a Dominicanismo for the english word Watchman. The tune that bears this name is a magnificent composition by Luis “Terror” Días interpreted by Sonia Silvestre. Yet my reasons to love the song run even deeper. El “Terror”, a connoisseur in All-Plantain Folklore and an irreverent wild genius, subtly made us aware about the classism, elitism and socio-economical inequalities in third world countries.

“Mi Wachmán” is the powerful story on how the most dispossessed elements in Dominican culture women,  the poor, the blue collar workers and Bachata collide to help each other.  Is a protest on the rampant violence against the weakest, how their morale is eroded… how these weak links in societies are undervalued and dehumanised.

Now, a lo que vinimos. The story goes like this. The narrator, a woman who kind depicts herself as a bit a party animal, goes out to dance some harmless-body-rubbing sexy as hell Bachata and have some fun con una “Vellonera a Millón”! Please, don’t dare to be swift at judging party girl, at the end, a) Who hasn’t gone out to party like there is no tomorrow? b) Isn’t sexy dancing the very nature of Bachata?

Now, the role of the watchman. Particularly in my beloved Dominican Republic, vigilantes, or guardians, en fin “Guachimanes” have the dangerous tasks of defending the properties of those who can “afford” to pay someone to watch over their goods and lives. Disregard, this is quite a marginalized position. “Guachis” are far from being respected or acknowledged men. After all, they are only loyal watchdogs, protectors, sad paradox…

Anyways… Back to the story, after she leaves the party she almost gets raped by two dudes but Party girl is defended by the unlikely hero, of course the Watchman.

Breaks my heart when later in the song party girl, melancholically reflects and sings “Mi guachimán me salvó.” She also complaints on how and how it is so hard for a woman to have some fun without being disrespected, harassed, objectified and judged as sleazy or as an object. “Esta muy fuerte andar sola hoy.”

Last but not least, the song is also a clever welcome-back-embrace to the figure of “el guardia” or vigilante to La Bachata. In pejorative terms, during its beginnings Bachata used to be referred to as music for guardians and hookers. It was literally called “música de guardia cobráo” which translates into music for paid guardians. This because when poor peasants (including “guachis”) got their suelditos, they would blow some of their hard earned cash having fun in brothels where música de amargue was the preferred soundtrack.

For a more in depth analysis of the role of the marginalized sections of Dominican society and on the rising of Bachata I highly recommend the book “Bachata: A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music” by Deborah Pacini Hernandez. I also highly recommend for you to enjoy the fun videos of both “Mi Wachimán” and “Yo Quiero Andar” another song composed by Luis also sang by Sonia. Make sure to check them out.

I will conclude this entry thanking to “El Terror” for writing this original anthem for the single ladies, for the girls who just wanna have fun without being raped, for the independent women and for those who think all human lives have the right to be respected, and for all of those who defend those rights.

Abrazo de Oso poderoso y hugs

Andre Veloz

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