Maria Ninguém

Rosemary and I were married in Coyoacán, Mexico in 1968 and for a while we lived in the then culturally thriving Zona Rosa in Mexico City. We lived on a narrow street, Estrasburgo, in an extremely narrow apartment about ten feet wide. We were near everything, cafes, art galleries and in particular the American Mexican Cultural Institute (and its ancillary Bejamin Franklin Library) and the Anglo Mexican Cultural Institute. The former was a front for the CIA but with lots of State Department monies they brought wonderful jazz artists, singers and ballets to the city.

I have no idea where it was that in that year we went to see a man we had never heard of called Carlos Lyra. He played a cool guitar with a cool voice free of inflection (most fashionable at the time as part of the Bossa Nova style). Best of all, for Rosemary he was handsome, oozing in sex appeal. Another performer that Rosemary particularly liked for his manliness was American alto saxophonist Bud Shank who was brought by the US State Department to perform in Mexico.

We were charmed by Carlos Lyra and particularly by his catch hit Maria ninguém. The next day I went out in search of his record, Carlos Lyra, a Mexican pressing by Capitol Records. To this day it is quite playable. Best of all I found in the record jacket the lyrics translated into Spanish which I found most charming. Below the Spanish lyrics you will find them in Portuguese and in English.:

Maria Ninguém- María No Más

Puede ser que haya una mujer mejor,

Puede ser que haya una peor, muy bien.

Pero igual a la María que tengo,

En el mundo enterito, igualita no hay.

María Ninguém (Nadie) es María

Y es María buy bien

Siendo yo un Juan Pérez

Mi María , es María nomás.

Maria es una como las otras también,

Sin embargo, es mejor que muchas María

Que hay por ahí.

Marías tan frías, llenas de mañas;

Marías vacías para el nombre que tienen.

María es un don que muchos hombres no tienen;

Vease cuánto claman por María y María no viene

Maria Ninguém

It might be that there are better

It might be that there are worse

but equal to the Maria that I have

there is no other in the entire world

Maria Nobody

She is Maria and Maria is my dear

If I am not João of nothing

Maria that is mine is

Maria Nobody

She is Maria like the other Marias also

It’s just that

she is still better than

many Marias that there are around

Marias that are cold

full of quirks

Marias that are empty to the name they have

Maria Nobody

She is a gift that many men do not have

Just think about how many people call Maria (*)

and Maria does not come

Maria Nobody

She is Maria and Maria is my dear

If I am João of nothing

Maria that is mine is Maria Nobody Maria Ninguém Pode ser que haja uma melhor, pode ser

Pode ser que haja uma pior, muito bem

Mas igual à Maria que eu tenho

No mundo inteirinho igualzinha não tem

Maria Ninguém, é Maria e é Maria meu bem

Se eu não sou João de nada

Maria que é minha é Maria Ninguém

Maria Ninguém é Maria como as outras também

Só que tem que ainda é melhor do que muita Maria que há por aí

Marias tão frias cheias de manias, Marias vazias pro nome que têm

Maria Ninguém é um dom que muito homem não tem

Haja visto quanta gente que chama Maria e Maria não vem

Maria Ninguém, é Maria e é Maria meu bem

Se eu não sou João de Nada

Maria que é minha é Maria Ninguém

Today Sunday in the Arts Section of the NY Times I have been pleased to find an extensive essay on 82-year-old Lyra who willbe performing from May 26 to the 30that Manhattan’s Birdland. Lyra is returning after 50 years when he toured with Stan Getz.The article on Lyra can be found here.

I knew when I was reading about Lyra that I would have to write this blog. I immediately wondered how I could possibly illustrate it. In my files I found no Maria or María. I thought that the loving lyrics might be all about Lyra’s first wife but there is no record that I can find of her name. Or María, Lyra’s María, could have been a sweetheart of his youth. I do know that the song was reputedly a favourite of Jacqueline Kennedy. My wife is my favourite woman but somehow the lyrics are almost deprecating in describing an every man’s María that happens to be special because she is Lyra’s.

María Ninguém’s name can be translated as nobody or no one but I especially like the Mexican Spanish one of no más that sort of means neither more, nor less.

In the end I opted for making Maria Ninguém a mysterious woman. Although you might know that her first name is Lisa and she lives in Washington State.

I have not found the recording of my record but I did find this nice one where Lyra introduces his Saravá in Spanish and sings it in Spanish. In the Spanish notes to his 1970 (also Mexican album Saravá, an RCA recording). The song translated to French was part of the soundtrack of Claude Lelouch’s 1966 A Man and a Woman. The lovely lyrics were written by that most famous Brazilian Vinicious de Moraes.

Saravá 1970 And here is my fave version of Lyra’s Maria Ninguém (after the one in my Mexican Capitol Records one) Maria Ninguém 1959 Astoundingly here is another version, complete with video, of the song recorded by Brigitte Bardot. Maria Ninguém — Brigitte Bardot 1964

Originally published at

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