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Colombia, Latin Popular, Spanish (Español/Castellano)

“Yerbatero” (Juanes)

YouTube “Yerbatero” by Juanes at 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa

Yerbatero (2011) 

Le traigo el remedio
Para ese mal de amor que le estremece
No se merece sufrir
si su pareja le dejó 

Tengo toda clase de brebajes, plantas medicinales
Las he traído desde muy lejanos bosques hasta aquí 

Soy yerbatero, vengo a curar su mal de amores
Soy el que quita los dolores y habla con los animales
Dígame de que sufre usted
Que yo le tengo un brebaje
Que le devuelve el tono y lo pone bien

Si a usted, señor, lo deja su mujer
úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel
Y para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel
No se preocupe, búsquese uno usted también 

Sufre de depresión, mal de amor
Lleva varias noches sin dormir
Y sus días no van bien en el trabajo 

Anda moribundo, preocupado, cabizbajo, desenamorado
Le tengo la solución si le duele el corazón

No soy doctor, soy yerbatero…

Yerbatero* (Translation by ORS, 2010)
(Herbalist witch doctor) 

I’ll bring you the medicine
For that love sickness that makes you shudder
You don’t deserve to suffer
If your partner left you 

I have every kind of potion, medicinal plants
I have brought from distant forests all the way here

I’m a yerbatero, I come to cure your love sicknesses
I’m the one who takes away the pain and speaks with the animals
Tell me what you suffer from, sir
‘cause I have a potion for you
‘cause I give you back your tone and get you well 

If your woman leaves you, sir
Rub this carnation oinment on your soul
And for the lady whose husband has been unfaithful
Don’t worry, get yourself one too 

Do you suffer from depression, love sickness?
Have you spent many nights without sleeping?
And your days don’t go well at work? 

Continue dying, worried, downcast, loveless?
I have for you the solution if your heart hurts

I’m not a doctor, I’m a yerbatero…


El yerbatero  – herbalist, witch doctor; from L. herba “grass, herb” and related to Spanish hierba, Port. erva, Fr. Herbe, It. erba, Romanian iarbă; curiously, the German etymon for herb is Kraut (as in sauerkraut) and the Greek etymon is βοτανο (as in botany).

Traer – to bring; from L. tradere “to hand over” (trans + dare, “to give across”) and related to English betray (Fr. trahir, It. tradire, Sp. Traicionar, Port. trair, Rom. a trăda) and treason/betrayal (Fr. trahison, It. tradimento, Sp. traicíon,Port. traição,  Rom. trădare), and even ”tradition”

El remedio – medicine; as in remedy from L. remedium (re + mederi “to heal again”), related to Fr. remède, Ital. rimedio, Port. remédio/medicamento, Rom. remediu

Estremecer – to shudder, shiver (from fear); possible from L. tremere and Gk. tremein, “to tremble, shiver” ; related to Fr. trembler, It. tremare, tremolare, Sp. temblar, Port. tremer/estremecer, Rom. a tremura.

Merecer – to deserve; as in merit, from L. meritum (reward) and L.merere/meriri “to deserve”; related to Fr. mériter, It. meritare, Port. merecer, Rom. a merita

El brebaje – potion; related to “brew” and “beverage”, as in Fr. breuvage (poiton, drink, concoction); possibly from L. bibere “to imbible, drink” from Gk. pinein “to drink”; to drink: Fr. boire, It. bere, Sp/Port. beber, Roman a bea.

El bosque – woods, forest; related to English “bush”; words for “bush”, Du. bos, Ger. Busch, Dan. busk, Swed. buske; words for “woods, forest”, Fr. bois, It. bosco.

Quitar – to take away, remove; related to English “quit” and “quiet” from L. quietus “free, calm”; related to Fr. quitter (to leave)

Untar – to apply, rub, spread; also in Port. untar; related to English words “unguent” and “ointment” from L. unguentum “ointment”

La pomada – ointment; as in pomade, from Fr. pomade, It. pomata from L. pomum “fruit, apple”; also in Port. as pomada

El clavel – carnation (botany)

Infiel – unfaithful, from L. fidelis “loyal” and L. fides “faith”, related to Fr. infidèle, It. infidele, Port. infiel, Rom. infidel

Llevar – to carry, bring; to spend (time); from L. levare “to raise, lift, alleviate, lessen”

Moribundo – dying; as in moribund; from L. moribundus “dying” from mori “to die”

Cabizbajo – downcast, crestfallen; literally “head down” from cabeza + bajo

Desenamorado – loveless; from des + enamorado (in love); from Fr. S’enamourer “to become enamored with” from L. amare “to love”


1.  Formality: Usted and 3rd person pronouns / verb conjugations

Formality in Spanish is often expressed by using the pronoun “usted” (instead of the less formal “tu”), as 3rd object pronouns “le” (instead of “te”) and “su” (instead of “tu”).  This song has many examples:

Usted: 3rd person formal subject pronoun

Dígame de que sufre usted : Tell me what you suffer from, sir

Le: 3rd person Indirect object

Le traigo el remedio : I have for you the medicine

3rd person verb conjugation + se (3rd person reflexive)

No se preocupe: Don’t (you) worry

Su: 3rd person possessive pronoun

Si su pareja le dejó : If your partner left you
Sus días no van bien : Your days are not going well 

2.  Recursion and Linking

Recursion is a complex scientific term which, in linguistics, refers to embedding ideas and phrases within larger phrases and sentences. 

Here is a simple English example of recursion, followed by a non-recursion version.

#1 : My friend, whose father is very strict,  is the wildest boy in school.
#2:  This is my friend.  His father is very strict.  He is the wildest boy in school.

As you can see, the idea of the strict father can be nestled into the bigger idea of “my friend is the wildest boy in school”.

Recursion forms part of Noam Chomsky’s theory of Universal Grammar; in other words, every human language should theoretically be built to use such recursive devices, as in #1.  This idea has been challenged most recently by Daniel Everett after his work with the Pirahã people in the Amazon.  According to Everett, the people of this indigenous group instead communicate using the #2 pattern.

Like it or not, most languages use recursion in high-level and/or verbose speaking and writing.

In Spanish, there are couple ways to do this.  The formal, written way is the keyword “cuyo”, which corresponds to “whose” but must be modulated according to number and gender.

Te presento a mi amigo cuyo padre es muy severo. 
Let me introduce you to my friend whose father is very strict.

In the song, there is one example:

Para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel, no se preocupe.
For the lady whose husband has been unfaithful, don’t you worry. 

Technically, this could be “para la señora cuyo marido ha sido infiel”, but I think it is more common to use “que” as the link.

3.  “Se”: 3rd person reflexive

Since there are very few reflexive verbs in English (“to do something to oneself”), this is typically a struggle for students learning Romance languages. 

Úntese en el alma pomada
Rub (on) yourself oinment in the soul
              Rub ointment on your soul

No se preocupe
Don’t (you) worry yourself
              Don’t (you) worry

Búsquese uno
Look (for) yourself one
               Look for one (for yourself)

*Don’t confuse this “se” with the same word used to indicate Passive action.

No se merece sufrir
              Suffering is not deserved/warranted.



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