Many years ago, I was first introduced to Cuban music by my wife, who was a Dance major at the time, and I remember loving the Buena Vista Social Club album. On the album there’s a song called “El Carretero”, and the refrain from that song goes “A caballo vamos pa’l monte”, which roughly translates to “On horseback we’re going to the mountain / hill / forest”.
A couple years later, I became very familiar with the term “monte”, when I practically lived in the “monte”, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in La Cruz de Abangares, Costa Rica, close to the famous cloud forest area called Monteverde. The “monte” is what I imagine Africans refer to as the “bush”. It’s the brush, the vegetation, the forest, the jungle, the mountain, etc.
I remember the first time that I went into the monte, “a caballo”. My neighbor friend Franklin, who we called “Franquilino”, loved horses and owned a few of them. So, “a caballo fuimos p’al monte”. The fresh mountain air, the panoramic views, the loud roar of the howler monkeys, and the incredible array of plant species, makes riding on horseback through the rural mountains and forest an awesome experience.
When I heard the song El Carretero recently, I was transported back to the times that I lived in the monte for 2 1/2 years!