(Who Discovered) America?

Ozomatli, 2004

Who does the man who sailed across the sea represent?

Whose America is represented by the character named America in the song? Is it the America of European colonizers or those who were exploited and massacred by the Europeans in America?

What do the songwriters mean when they say that America "hypnotized" the man who sailed across the sea?

At the end of the song, does the man who sailed across the sea still love America?

"Who Discovered America" performed by Ozomatli on Street Signs, © 2004. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

For more information about Ozomatli, visit their official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult the following online resource for lyrics:


In 2007, the band Ozomatli began serving as cultural ambassador for the US State Department, touring Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, and India. Although the State Department's sponsorship of cultural diplomacy throughout the world had receded after the end of the Cold War, the program was rejuvenated following 9/11 as part of an effort to project a positive image of the country. The band symbolized two things that were priorities of the State Department: American multiculturalism and freedom of speech. The first is seen in the membership of the band, which includes people of Mexican, El Salvadoran, Japanese, and Filipino descent. It is also heard in their music, which blends musical genres from these and other cultures. The second is seen in the fact that the US government sponsored the tours despite the band's criticism of dominant American ideologies and policies.


"(Who Discovered) America?" is a vehicle for such a critique. From Ozomatli's Grammy Award-winning album Street Signs (2004), the song tells of a man who traveled across the sea to his beautiful lover, which the chorus ("Ah, America …") makes clear is America. Enchanted and enriched by America, he "couldn't tell wrong from right" and accepted that she had a "chain of lovers who died her slaves / with an ocean of blood for every drop that she gave." The question mark in the title of the song encourages listeners to question the identity of America, and the portion of the title in parentheses asks listeners to ponder who discovered America. Is America the beautiful lover or the dangerous enchantress? Was America discovered by such people as the character who sings the song, or by the natives who America enslaved?

For more on Ozomatli, see "Violeta."



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