It’s Kind of a Funny Tattoo-Related Story

Let me warn you now that this is a personal story. If you’re only looking for things to see and do around Madrid, stop reading, or go to another post!

For those of you who have been following along, you know that I’m taking Spanish classes while also working in Madrid this summer. Well, in class the other day, we started talking about the types of art that everyone enjoys. Because I had recently discovered Madrid’s MULAFEST, I had body art on my mind, so I said that I liked tattoos. Obviously, my teacher wanted to know if I had any, so I showed her the compass on my back that I got after my trip to Chile, and this one that I got on my ribs last winter… 

“Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.” = Traveler, there is no path; the path is made upon walking.

I didn’t find the phrase on my own; José came across it and said that he thought it described my outlook on life. I agreed. Supposedly it was from El gaucho Martín Fierro, which is like the unofficial national book of Argentina. I read parts of it while in Buenos Aires, so after a few months of thinking about the particular sentence, I decided that it represented so many things that are/were important to me, that I might as well tattoo it on myself!

Back to two weeks ago. I’m in Spanish class, attempting to show everyone the ink on my ribs. As soon as my teacher finishes reading, she exclaims, “Oh, it’s from the poem by Antonio Machado! That’s super Spanish. Very nice.” I was vaguely aware that there was a song by a Spanish singer that had the phrase in it but didn’t really know what she was talking about. 

Flash forward a week. My teacher brought in the entire poem for me, and everyone else, to read in class.

Caminante no hay camino

de Antonio Machado

Todo pasa y todo queda,
pero lo nuestro es pasar,
pasar haciendo caminos,
caminos sobre el mar.

Nunca perseguí la gloria,
ni dejar en la memoria
de los hombres mi canción;
yo amo los mundos sutiles,
ingrávidos y gentiles,
como pompas de jabón.

Me gusta verlos pintarse
de sol y grana, volar
bajo el cielo azul, temblar
súbitamente y quebrarse…

Nunca perseguí la gloria.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar…

Hace algún tiempo en ese lugar
donde hoy los bosques se visten de espinos
se oyó la voz de un poeta gritar
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso…

Murió el poeta lejos del hogar.
Le cubre el polvo de un país vecino.
Al alejarse le vieron llorar.
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso…

Cuando el jilguero no puede cantar.
Cuando el poeta es un peregrino,
cuando de nada nos sirve rezar.
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso

So, I maybe should have done some more research about the origins of my tattoo rather than taking a friendly suggestion as absolute fact…

Here’s the fun part, though: It is super Spanish. When I got it, I had no idea that I would be in Spain this summer; I was doing it all for the love of travel, but even more so for the love of Argentina. In reality, it’s as if I was stamping my own fate on myself without knowing.

Once I figured it all out, I had a bit of a “tattoo identity crisis”, but I think that this discovery has only added significance to the phrase in the context of my life experiences. It’s kind of funny how things like that work out, isn’t it? Have you ever had an unexpected run-in with what you thought was fate?

– Alexa

5 thoughts on “It’s Kind of a Funny Tattoo-Related Story

  1. I have had MANY! I love those light bulb moments when you realize that seemingly unrelated things are connected. I believe that they are meant to be
    and I always pay attention to them… some things are not just coincidences.

  2. Oh, dear! I have tattooed the same quote on the exact same place! I adore Antonio Machado’s poem, it’s one of the most beautiful, pure, wise and touching poems in the whole world. “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace caino al andar” is my mantra, the first thing that comes across my mind every morning!

    xoxo Stas

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