Chola, how I love you, chola,
fresher than a just-picked apple,
with your big gathered skirt
and your blouse of finely woven cloth.
Your laughter sparkles
like crystals of frost.
Your impish eyes twinkle
like stars in the dawn sky.
The sun plays upon your lips;
the moon grows jealous of your broad grin.
Your two braids seem to me
like two vipers upon your back.
I take such pleasure in seeing you,
little passerby of the plaza,
stirring up with each step
the ardor of the men in the village.
I wish I were a falcon,
so I could grasp you in my talons
and free from your bodice
the two doves held captive there.
No one desires you more than I,
you sly and uncatchable flirt,
with your fourteen layers of skirts
and your cape of fine wool.
You were all dressed up in your holiday best,
when I surprised you during
the men’s Sunday get-together
where, as is our custom, we gather in the afternoon
for something savory and a drink of chicha.
And after a little swallow,
when you were loosened up ,
you asked for one of those huaynos
accompanied by a charango, harp, and guitar.
Then, with such gusto, you sang.
You sang with all your soul;
it seemed like you had
a lark in your throat.
Then the dance began
with lively tapping and much grace,
and handkerchiefs flying
in the wake of your silvery, serpentine footsteps.
That’s how it’s good, bandit woman.
Dance it hard, Barbaracha.
How lovely are your eyes
glowing like embers!
How your laughter throws out sparks
and ignites the merrymaking,
and how your big, rosy-red skirt
cries out in joy.
Look at me for I am seeing you,
little mountain girl nearly split to pieces;
your dancing makes my breast pulse
with happiness and frenzy.
Applause flares up in the air.
Now all gazes light up.
And the drunken heart of the crowd
bursts open like a pomegranate.
How the charango laughs.
How the guitar wails.
How hearts skip lively in the breast
and hearty laughter peals forth.
Little mountain girl, pretty chola,
lift up a bit of your skirt;
I’ve heard tell that your thighs
are more blushful than dawn.
I have to see how much you like
to fiercely swirl your rump.
I want to grasp it
with my two pirate hands!
Don’t you see how sharp blades
of desire glitter in my gaze?
How I should like to take a bite of you,
little mountain girl with your wild streak.
Dancing all night
drinking chicha and rum
until the hour of dawn.
And after so much dancing to huaynos,
her two drunken doves
under the fine green cloth of her blouse
Barbaracha: a Quechua adaptation of the woman’s name, Barbara.
chola: an Andean woman
huayno: a type of traditional Andean song and dance. The huaynos are usually plaintive love songs.
charango: a small five-stringed guitar used in the folk music of the Peruvian highlands
chicha: a strong fermented drink, popular in the Peruvian Andes
“Romance de la Barbaracha/Barbaracha’s Romance” is from Charango, 1941. This is one of Nieto’s best known poems. It is widely anthologized and reprinted in Peru.