Spanish-language version of U.S. anthem stirs controversy

Saturday, April 29, 2006 A Spanish-language version of the U.S. national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner" has sparked controversy amid a developing debate over the status of illegal immigrants.

Produced by British record producer Adam Kidron and due to be released Friday, the recording "Nuestro Himno" (Our Anthem) features recording artists Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Armando "Pitbull" Perez, and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon.

The song uses Spanish lyrics based closely on the English original, says Kidron. However, a remix planned for release in June will include lines critical of U.S. immigration policy.

President George W. Bush declared Friday that the anthem should be sung in English and not Spanish. "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English," said Bush.

In response, Kidron said, "The intention of recording 'Nuestro Himno' (Our Anthem) has never been to discourage immigrants from learning English and embracing American culture. We instead view 'Nuestro Himno' as a song that affords those immigrants that have not yet learned the English language the opportunity to fully understand the character of the Star-Spangled Banner, the American flag and the ideals of freedom that they represent."

News of the release of "Nuestro Himno" sparked surprise and outrage on Internet blogs. Columnist Michelle Malkin called the Spanish-language version an attempt to "pander to ethnic grievance-mongers who don't respect American laws or traditions." [1]

The political website The American Street points out that the U.S. Bureau of Education commissioned a Spanish-language translation of the anthem in 1919, [2] which is displayed on the Library of Congress' website. [3]

The melody to "The Star-Spangled Banner" itself was borrowed from English drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven." Kidron, in noting this, says, "There's no attempt to usurp anything. The intent is to communicate."