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Guajíras is a prime example of a canción de ida y vuelta, flamenco music that has grown out of the travels of Spanish working people who went to the New World to work and returned to Spain, bringing traces of the culture of the New World home with them.

Guajíras comes from the music of farmers, many of them with roots in Andalucía, who worked small farms in Eastern Cuba. These farmers were known as guajiros, and the songs they sang about the beauty of Eastern Cuba were known as Guajíras.

Guajíras changed from a four-count to a twelve-count rhythm as it crossed the Atlantic. The resulting form is a beautiful, langorous tropical rhythm.

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Guajiras Form

Featured Guajiras Video

Baile: Margarita Villalobos

Toque: Ernesto Hermoza

Cante: Maria De de la Piedra

What makes this video special: Beauty revealed in this traditional Guajíras performed with an abanico/Spanish fan

At its most basic, Guajíras is simply a song for voice and guitar with a series of similar letras. If danced, the guajiras can have as many as five sections including an entrance, llamadas, letras, a silencio, escobillas, and a Bulerías por Guajíras. Whether all of these sections are performed, how long each section lasts, or the number of repetitions included varies from performance to performance.

The guitar usually opens the introductory section with a falseta based on the basic Guajíras harmony (see For Guitarists, below). The guitar resolves into the characteristic Guajíras chord pattern, over which the singer will sing the instantly recognizable salida. The dancer may enter during the guitarist's falseta or during the salida.

Like all flamenco dances, the Guajíras has a clear beginning, middle and end.  The fluid nature of the choreography also allows for improvisation within the structure, including danced falsetas, and escobillas performed a palo seco.

The Guajíras is traditionally a woman's dance. The dancer will often use an Abanico Pericón -- a large Spanish fan.  The fan is twirled and otherwise manipulated throughout the dance, adding an elegant, beautiful and flirtatious air. Castanets are also often included in the dance, though the fan is more popular.

Guajiras Form

Guajiras Compás y Palmas

The underlying Guajíras compás is a twelve-count pattern starting on beat 12 with accents on beats 12, 3, 6, 8 and 10. Harmonically, the basic compás pattern for Guajiras is similar to the Alegrías. The syncopated bass line, however, clearly distinguishes it as a guajiras.

V      V     V   V   V 

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 

The standard palmas for guajiras are the same as the palmas for Soleares por Bulerías and Alegrías.

V      V V   V     V V   V   V V V   V V V

12 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 

Guajiras Compás y Palmas

Guajiras Baile

Sample Guajiras Baile

Baile: Pedro Fernandez

Toque: Cristián Soto, Rodrigo Vera

Cante: Ángela Fernández

Bajo: Felipe Valenzuela

Cajón: Jorge Fernández

Cello:  Paulina Mühlewiehoff 

When the dancer enters the stage, she performs a llamada or an escobilla/llamada, cueing the singer and guitarist for the letra to follow. The tempo of the piece usually accelerates during the footwork sections and slows down for the letras. 

The dancer performs a letra lyrically and rhythmically, building up the tempo into a subida or an escobilla that ends with a finishing cue, a remate.  The dancer can then perform another letra (with the singer) or perfom a silencio, a danced falseta, with the guitarist.

This scenario can repeat as many times as the dancer wishes. Generally speaking, dancers perform between 1-3 letras. At the end of the footwork, the singer will usually wait one set of compás (12 counts) as the guitarist slows down the music to a more langorous tempo for the letra.

The dancer then performs an escobilla, and can perform an escobilla a palo seco (without guitar accompaniment), a traditional escobilla with guitar accompaniment, or both.

The dancer finishes the dance by building up the tempo with footwork patterns, and performs a cue that signals a salida/exit or a bulerías por Guajíras.  For the exit, the dancer will most likely perform a traveling sequence across stage, exiting while twirling the fan.

For more descriptionsand structural information, please see the Alegrías FOR DANCERS section. Contemporarily, dancer's will follow the same formula as that of the Alegrías.

Guajiras Baile

Guajiras Toque

Sample Guajiras Toque

Toque: José Luis Montón


The harmony for the letra consists of phrases based on the compás pattern and phrases that end on B minor. The pattern in which these prhases are used varies from letra to letra.

E7           A

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

E7           A

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

A      F#m   Bm7

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

A      F#m   Bm7

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

E7           A

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

A      F#m   Bm7

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

E            A

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11


The llamada for guajiras uses a phrygian cadence to temporarily interrupt the constant back and forth between tonic and dominant in the compás.

F      E     A

12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Guajiras Toque

Guajiras Cante

Sample Guajiras Cante

Cante: Chano Lobato

Toque: Manolo Franco

El río Guadalquivar
Va entre naranjas y olivos         

Ay..los dos ríos de Graná
Bajan de la nieve al trigo

Y el río Guadalquivar
Tiene la barba granate

Ay dos ríos de Graná
Ay uno nieve, y otro sangre

Contigo me caso Indiana
Ay si se entera tu papa
Y se lo dice a tu mama
Hermosísima Cubana
Tengo una casa en la Habana
Reservada para tí

Ay.. con el techo de marfil
Y el piso de plataforma
Para tí Blancapaloma
Llevo yo la flor de lis
Ay . . .          

The Guadalquivar river
flows between the oranges and olives

The two rivers of Granada
Descend from the snow to the wheat.

And the Guadalquivar river
Has a garnet beard

The two rivers of Granada
One has snow, the other blood

I will marry you, my island girl 
Ay! if you tell your father
And you tell your mother
Beautiful Cuban girl
I have a house in Havana
especially for you

From it's ivory ceiling
And the porch
For you white dove
covered in fleurs-de-lys,
Ay . . . 

Guajiras Cante
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