Flamenco palos - Guajira

In this blog post, I will analyze the palo flamenco called guajira. This palo belongs to the group called Cantes de Ida y Vuelta (Roundtrip Songs) because they have ties to American genres that were adapted to flamenco. During colonial times, Seville and Havana were very close because of the established commercial route between the two. Ships from Spain left loaded with highly desired European goods and returned with silver from Mexico, pearls from Venezuela, plus porcelain and silk from China.  With the goods exchange came the cultural and art exchange, which in flamenco, resulted in the Cantes de Ida y Vuelta. Guajira was born out of the influence of Cuban music in flamenco. It is very likely that a Spanish song travelled on that ship to Havana and came back influenced with Cuban genre caled punto cubano  (punto guajiro). Guajira's origin is also reflected in its letras, which often talk about Cuba, its capital Havana, beautiful women, cigars, and exotic fruit of Cuba.


Although freedom exists in the way guajiras are structured, it's always best to know the basic structure and analyze one of the structures that are pre-recorded for dance. 

Guitar intro (falseta)

Salida del cante (ayys)

Desplante and llamada

First letra (part 1)

First letra (part 2)

Desplante/ falseta de pies



Second letra (part 1  & 2)




Change to bulerias

Macho de guajiras (final)




The guajira I analyze starts with a guitar intro which is compás-free that can be danced to or not. Eventually guitar turns into compás and the signer starts to sing (salida del cante). Salida del cante is followed by a footwork sequence leading into a llamada for the first letra. The compás closes and restarts slowly. The raising of the tempo and slowing down is very typical for guajiras and is done before each letra


The first letra consists of two parts. The first part, talking about an intention to marry a beautiful Cuban woman, goes:

Contigo me caso indiana


si se entera tu papa

y se lo dice a tu mama

hermosísima cubana


It's very typical for the singer to leave a one-compás space after the first verse called respiro. This compás is typically danced with footwork or body remate. We always need to pay attention to that moment to dance that remate or not. There is also an option of forgoing this remate and simply marking the compás. In this instance, we still need to be aware where we are in the letra. The same appears to the space between the first and second part of the letra. The second part of the first letra talks about a beautiful house a man prepared for his wife to-be in Havana:

Tengo una casa en la Habana

reservada para tí


ay! con el techo de marfil

y el piso de plataforma

para tí blanca paloma

llevo yo la flor de lis


The first letra is followed by a falseta, which in this case is a falseta de piesFalseta de pies is what some dancers refer to as a falseta that is meant to accompany footwork. A guitar in these falsetas always clearly marks the compás and a dancer either asks a guitarist to play one to inspire her footwork or a guitarist throws it during footwork thinking it would match the dancers feet. Be careful, with the term falseta de pies and be prepared for an explanation because some guitarists don't know that term. The footwork part between the letras is a perfect example of what a falseta de pies could sound like in guajiras. The falseta is resolved and followed by a subida and cierre which also serves as a llamada for the second letra.


The second letra talks about the daily life in Havana:

Part 1

Me gusta por la mañana


después del café bebio

pasearme por la Habana

con mi cigarro encendío.

Part 2 (without a break)

Y sentarme muy tranquilo

en mi silla o mi sillón


y comprarme un papelón

de esos que llaman diario

y parezco un millonario

rico de la población.


The second letra is followed by a falseta that is very soft and best to be danced with marcajes. When the guitarist resolves the falseta , the dancer starts an escobilla. There is no traditional escobilla melody such as found in alegrías and again, a guitarist can throw in a falseta if he thinks it matches the footwork pattern, or a dancer can ask for a falseta de pie (if we are not in a tablao settings). In this recording we clearly hear a falseta de pies


Following the escobillas, the dancer starts a subida and calls for the macho de guajiras, which is a special letra sung in bulerias compás while preserving the modality of guajiras. The macho talks about a Cuban girl loved by a sailor sailing between Cadiz and Havana:

De mi trigueña, mi cubana

Desde Cádiz hasta la Habana

El amor del marinero

De la brisa que lleva el agua

Cada beso que nos dimos

Desde Cádiz hasta la Habana


A signer usually extends the macho with repeats and ayys until the dancer finishes dancing, signalizes that it is time for a cierre, leaves the stage, or positions herself by the musicians to finish. 


To hear the escobillas, falsetas de pies, llamadas and remates, listen to the second version called Guajiras completo con baile flamenco.



When it comes to dance example for educational purposes, it is always best to look at older videos that usually follow a traditional structure. As you can see, guajiras are usually danced with an abanico:


Here are a few more versions of a guajira recorded for dancing with a bit different structures that the one discussed above. As you can hear, the words to each letra can vary but the melodies stay similar. When it comes to learning a palo and its letras the most important is to learn their melodies.

If you are considering learning how to dance guajiras, take a look at the flamenco classes I offer!

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