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This is an Afro-Caribbean poem. It celebrates the African identity. The poem presents African language, rhythm as religious chants of Voodoo. Its theme deals with Man overcoming Evil. The individual distances himself from evil, represented in the serpent. The evil creeps in and has disgraceful traits of a snake, it causes fear. The individual then repeatedly and with a rhythmic chant strikes the snake with a machete as if is punishing it for its traits in a violent climax with the rhythm and repetition.  It is a victory the snake cannot do any harm. The chant continues in the end with power. The poetic form of repetition and rhythm are very important for the interpretation of the poem. (The students need to infer this through the activity).



Paso 1



Nicolás Guillén, de Cuba


La culebra tiene los ojos de vidrio; glass
la culebra viene y se enreda en un palo;stick
con sus ojos de vidrio, en un palo,
con sus ojos de vidrio.

La culebra camina sin patas;legs
la culebra se esconde en la yerba; grass
caminando se esconde en la yerba,
caminando sin patas.


Tú le das con el hachaaxe y se muere:
¡dale ya!
¡No le des con el pie, que te muerde,
no le des con el pie, que se va!

Sensemayá, la culebra,
Sensemayá, con sus ojos,
Sensemayá, con su lengua,
Sensemayá, con su boca,
sensemayá ...

¡La culebra muerta no puede comer;
la culebra muerta no puede silbar; hiss
no puede caminar,
no puede correr!
¡La culebra muerta no puede mirar;
la culebra muerta no puede beber;
no puede respirar,
no puede morder! bite

Sensemayá, la culebra…
Sensemayá, no se mueve…
Sensemayaá, la culebra…
Sensemayá, se murió!

Paso 2

Before focusing on the meaning, look first at the form.
What do you notice at first glance? What element do you
hear when you read the poem out loud?
Now, check this segment recording. Did you sound similar to this?


1) Identifica el tema principal en cada verso.

2) ¿Cómo describe la culebra?

3) ¿Cómo mata la culebra?

4) ¿Qué significa “Sensemayá”?

5) ¿Dónde hay violencia o clímax?

6) ¿Quién tiene el poder en todo el poema? ¿Por qué?

7) ¿Por qué es la forma importante para el significado?

Paso 3

You will notice on YouTube that there are several interpretations on reciting the poem with rhythm and stress. With small group (2-4 people), create a video similar to the recording above, but recite the entire poem with your own interpretation of the use of form. Be sure to connect the poetic form with the meaning. Consider what words to stress and use of rhythm. You may enhance it with expressions and sounds throughout, be creative. You will share your recording with the class for comparisons.

Paso 3

This is an Afro-Caribbean poem. It celebrates the African identity. Can you find support for this on YouTube postings? Also, use the final (optional) Paso from the previous lesson. Can you find any expression of African identity on native postings (or anything on the web) as you research Caribbean music genera? Share what you find with your classmates on the Blog, provide the references and your analysis.