Spanish Version of Hotel California is Rich with Subtext and Feeling

The other day I heard the Spanish version of “Hotel California” by the Gypsy Kings in a restaurant that (as usual in California) was staffed by white waiters and brown busboys and cooks.

We are all just prisoners here
of our own device.

Somos todos prisioneros
de propia voluntad.

I grew up with the Eagles version of the song. For a time, we called our humble home in Tahoe “Hotel California” because our relatives often stayed with us for indefinite periods of time, until they could find jobs and get on their feet. And it often felt like a nonstop party.

In terms of its meaning, the English version is pretty straightforward. California has seductive power. It’s bacchanalian and beautiful. You’ll find it impossible to leave, not because anyone’s stopping you—you choose to remain a prisoner here.

In Spanish, the song takes on added layers of meaning. The only line that remains in English is this: Such a lovely place. (And the word “Relax” spoken by the Night Man/El Portero.)

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave”

Mi ultimo recuerdo
Corria hacia la puerta
Ver una candela en el camino
Por donde habia llegado
“Relax” dijo el portero
“Por mi es honor recibir
Puede salir cuando quiere
Pero nunca yo partir”

The Spanish version of “Hotel California” was featured famously (if briefly) in the “Jesus scene” of The Big Lebowski:

I’d be the last person to take anything away from that moment of cinematic brilliance, but you owe it to yourself to listen to the whole song. Preferably while, as Chris Rock says, “driving around this motherfucker.” Maybe near a California farm where workers are harvesting produce. Or better yet, walking in the Mission.

There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place.

Quedar por la noche
Alli estaba a la entrada
Y las campanas a sonar
Y me di con llamarme mismo
Que es puerta del cielo
Ella enciende una vela
En muestra del camino
Suenan voces en el corredor
Y lo que indican diciend

Bienvenido Hotel California
Such a lovely place.

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