Star-Spangled Beaners: Francisco Scott Quiñones, Jose Canusi

by Victor Payan on July 3, 2014 in Cultura, El Now

For generations, Americans have revered The Star-Spangled Banner as their National Anthem, singing it at baseball games, karaoke nights and Fourth of July celebrations around the country.

It may come as a surprise, however, that the song’s author, Francis Scott Key, was actually a Mexican immigrant named Francisco Scott Quiñones and that the song was written to his friend and fellow immigrant Jose Canusi after witnessing the storied defense of Ft. McHenry on Sept. 16, 1814.

According to records in the National Archives, the original manuscript (image, below)  begins with the words: “Jose, can you see by the dawn’s early light?”

Long a source of pride in the Mexican-American community, the subject of Francis Scott Key’s true identity is taboo in academia and historical re-enactment circles.

“The National Anthem’s Mexican roots are America’s best-kept secret,” says UCLA Musicologist T. Gray Del Norte. ”And it makes perfect sense if you consider that the Statue of Liberty is French and the U.S. Constitution is based on the Iroquois Confederacy.”

Del Norte also says The Star Spangled Banner, which is popularly known as a march, was originally written as a corrido.

“It was the first corrido, actually,” says Del Norte.  “And what makes it truly remarkable is that it was written for the accordion 30 years before the instrument was invented.  And the fact that the song was written on Sept. 16, 1814…That is some seriously visionary shit.”

In a letter to his wife, Quiñones clearly indicates the Star Spangled Banner was composed for an accordion:

Oh, My Darling Clementina,
While observing a group of Scottish highlanders tormenting the Americanos with the intolerable racket of their bagpipes, my heart called out for an instrument of my own with which to grate the British ears.  Accordion [sic] to my calculations, such an instrument is wholly possible. I will write a song for it!

Del Norte also notes that Americans only sing the first stanza at official functions, and even that is done with great difficulty.

“The complete song is longer than Las Manañitas and the verses are much harder to remember,” says Del Norte.  “It’s nearly impossible to sing in a manner that is typical of Mexican songwriting.

Although not much is known about Quiñones and Canusi, records indicate they entered the United States in 1776, just days after the Continental Congress had established the new borders of the 13 colonies.

When Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1810, they technically became the first Mexicans in the United States and were promptly asked to leave.

Changing his name to Francis Scott Key, Quiñones was able to pass as an American, while the darker-skinned Canusi changed his named to Giuseppe and passed as Italian.

Although Quiñones and Canusi have been erased from the history books, millions of Americans unknowingly commemorate their contribution to American history as the first “Star Spangled Beaners.”

And to this day, Mexicans in the United States proudly celebrate their compadres Quiñones and Canusi by stocking up on fireworks every July and blasting the rockets’ red glare ‘til the dawn’s early light.

Images Courtesy: T. Gray Del Norte

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jorge Esparza July 4, 2014 at 7:04 PM

No Mames, guey!

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Jorge Esparza July 4, 2014 at 7:06 PM

^^^
I I I

:)

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