Semana Santa- Saetas

inter2ling 12/04/2018

“Las Saetas” are mostly improvised popular songs in flamenco style that people sing at Easter, inspired by the images and iconography displayed in the religious parades called “procesiones”

Surprisingly, Spanish Easter celebrations don’t focus on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but commemorate the Passion and Crucifixion instead.

Antonio Machado (1875-1939), a Spanish poet from Sevilla, wrote ” La Saeta” in 1914 .  The poem was later included in his book, “Campos de Castilla” (1911).  In 1969, Joan Manuel Serrat  made a record dedicated to the poet called “Joan Manuel Serrat canta a Antonio Machado”.  He put music and voice to some of the poems in a record I highly recommend.

Listen to “La Saeta” sung by a wonderful flamenco singer, Camaron de la Isla, with Tomatito at the guitar.  Serrat provides the introduction.

Read and feel the poem; don’t hesitate to use the dictionary for unknown vocabulary.


Dijo una voz popular:
¿Quién me presta una escalera
para subir al madero
para quitarle los clavos
a Jesús el Nazareno?


¡Oh, la saeta, el cantar 
al Cristo de los gitanos, 
siempre con sangre en las manos, 
siempre por desenclavar! 


¡Cantar del pueblo andaluz, 
que todas las primaveras 
anda pidiendo escaleras 
para subir a la cruz! 


¡Cantar de la tierra mía, 
que echa flores 
al Jesús de la agonía, 
y es la fe de mis mayores!


¡Oh, no eres tú mi cantar! 
¡No puedo cantar, ni quiero 
a ese Jesús del madero, 
sino al que anduvo en el mar!


This poem is structured in three sections:

A-Introduction, where Machado introduces the topic by reproducing a popular “saeta”.

B-Development, where he describes the function of this type of song and the type of religiousity that they promote.

C-Conclusion, where he reacts and give his opinion. 

1. Can you identify which verses correspond to each of the 3 sections of the poem? The verses are numbered here for your convenience. 

2. In the development section of the poem, Machado uses repetition to suggest stagnation and lack of progress; can you find the lines?

3. Do you think Machado likes this kind of religious cult?  What does he propose?



1: A-1; B-2, 3,4; C-5 

2: verse 2: siempre con sangre en las manos, siempre por desenclavar!; verse 3: todas las primaveras, anda pidiendo escaleras  

3: No, in fact he uses this as a metaphor for the political and economic mind set of the Spanish ruling classes, who he saw as set in the past, focussing on suffering and pain to keep the working class scared, instead of looking for a brighter future.  He proposed the depiction of Jesus walking through the sea, giving the message of light, freedom and enterprise.



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