“Plastico” by Ruben Blades translated by Paul Ramirez Jonas
When I was 13 or 14 years old in Honduras, a friend played for me the album Siembra; it had just been released by Rubén Blades and Willie Colón in 1978. It was the first time that a cultural text spoke to me in very specific and meaningful ways: 1- it was in my own language, at a time when I was exclusively consuming culture from the United States -even as I barely understood English. 2- It was contemporary. The only Spanish language culture I had been taught to appreciate was from the past. 3- It was a great record to dance to; but it also had meaning and politics –I didn’t know you could do that.
I listened to the record and tracks for years and they gained complexity with time.
I did not translate the verses literally; instead I tried to retain the rhyming scheme as much as possible. Also the term “plastico” is hard to translate… it means a combination of phony, materialistic, vain, shallow.