The National Anthem of Peru

History, Lyrics and Anthem Etiquette of the Himno Nacional del Perú

National Anthem of Peru
Soldiers standing for the National Anthem of Peru on Independence Day. Tony Dunnell

The history of the National Anthem of Peru dates back to 1821, just a month after Peru had proclaimed its independence. In August of that monumental year, the great liberator General José de San Martín arranged a public contest to find an official national anthem for the newly independent nation.

San Martin and his anthem selection commission heard seven compositions but were unequivocal in their final choice. The new Himno Nacional del Perú, otherwise known as the Marcha Nacional del Perú (National March), was that of Peruvian composer José Bernardo Alcedo, with lyrics by José de la Torre Ugarte.

How and When Do Peruvians Sing Their National Anthem?

It’s quite common to hear the national anthem as you travel through Peru. Little school kids belt it out with gusto in the early morning; soccer fans sing it with passion before the national team plays at the Estadio Nacional; and it resonates from military parades, such as those during the Fiestas Patrias in celebration of Peru’s Independence Day.

Anthem etiquette, meanwhile, is fairly straightforward. Peruvians place their right hand over the heart while singing, especially during more formal or somber occasions. During military recitals, it’s customary for someone to shout “Viva el Perú!” at the end of the anthem, to which the entire assembly replies “Viva!"

As a foreign tourist, you are not expected to join in with the singing or the associated actions—but you certainly can if you like.

Peruvian National Anthem Lyrics

The exact lyrics of the Peruvian National Anthem have been contested and sometimes changed over the years. Revisions and alterations, however, have often met with public outcry, forcing a return to the original lyrics.

In 2005, the Peruvian Constitutional Tribunal declared that the first verse of the anthem was not actually written by José de la Torre Ugarte. But having considered the will of the public and Law N. 1801 of 1913—which declared the anthem as official and intangible—the Tribunal decided to leave the first verse intact.

The first verse, however, has remained a controversial stanza. The depressing lyrics -- referring to the oppressed, condemned, whimpering and humiliated Peruvian -- have been criticized for being too negative. Julio César Rivera, a retired government auditor, has been campaigning for years in an attempt to rewrite the lyrics to the traditional tune (read “Whimper no more: Peru national anthem bound for glory” by Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent for The Guardian).

Rivera has so far been unsuccessful, but the Peruvian Government has officially recognized the overly downbeat nature of the first verse. In 2009, the Peruvian Ministry of Defense announced that the armed forces would sing the chorus and the more upbeat sixth verse instead of the first.

In total, the Peruvian National Anthem consists of a chorus and six verses. In general, however, the anthem is confined to the chorus, one verse and then a repeat of the chorus. You can hear the standardized version of the anthem online.

While many Peruvian citizens still prefer the first verse, it is the sixth verse that is now the officially sung stanza:

Himno Nacional del Perú / National Anthem of Peru

Choro (Spanish) Chorus (English)
Somos libres
seámoslo siempre, seámoslo siempre
y antes niegue sus luces
sus luces, sus luces el Sol!
Que faltemos al voto solemne
que la patria al Eterno elevó,
Que faltemos al voto solemne
que la patria al Eterno elevó.
Que faltemos al voto solemne
que la patria al Eterno elevo.
We are free
May we always be so, may we always be so
and let the lights be denied before
the lights, the lights...of the sun!
Before we break the solemn vow
which the fatherland elevated to the Eternal,
Before we break the solemn vow
which the fatherland elevated to the Eternal,
Before we break the solemn vow
which the fatherland elevated to the Eternal.
Verso I (the former official verse) Verse I (the former official verse)
Largo tiempo el peruano oprimido
la ominosa cadena arrastró
condenado a una cruel servidumbre
largo tiempo, largo tiempo,
largo tiempo en silencio gimió.
Mas apenas el grito sagrado
¡Libertad! en sus costas se oyó
la indolencia del esclavo sacude
la humillada, la humillada,
la humillada cerviz levantó,
la humillada cerviz levantó, cerviz levantó...
For a long time the oppressed Peruvian
the ominous chain he dragged
Condemned to a cruel servitude
for a long time, for a long time
for a long time he quietly whimpered
But as soon as the sacred cry
Freedom! in its coasts was heard
the slaves' indolence shakes
the humiliated, the humiliated,
the humiliated neck raised up,
the humiliated neck raised up, neck raised up...
Verso VI (current official verse) Verse VI (current official verse)
En su cima los Andes sostengan
la bandera o pendón bicolor,
que a los siglos anuncie el esfuerzo
que ser libres, que ser libres
que ser libres por siempre nos dio.
A su sombra vivamos tranquilos,
y al nacer por sus cumbres el sol,
renovemos el gran juramento
que rendimos, que rendimos
que rendimos al Dios de Jacob,
que rendimos al Dios de Jacob, al Dios del Jacob....
On its summits may the Andes sustain
the two-color flag or standard,
may it announce to the centuries the effort
that being free, that being free
that being free gave us forever.
Under its shadow may we live calmly
and, at birth of the sun in its summits,
may we all renew the great oath
that we surrendered, that we surrendered
that we surrendered to the God of Jacob,
that we surrendered to the God of Jacob, the God of Jacob...
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