I recently received an e-mail from Sweden asking about the Mexican folksong, “La Cucaracha”. The writer wondered how this song could be so familiar so far away from it’s Latin American roots. The answer is simple, some songs are just that catchy, simple and have a certain magic about them. “La Cucarcha” seems to be one of those songs.
So, what is this popular little globe-trotting song all about?
Let’s start with the basics. The Spanish word “cucaracha” means cockroach and there are multiple verses to the song, many of which are silly or nonsensical. Although most frequently associated with Mexican culture, the song actually dates back to a Spanish “corrido” song. And, no one really knows how old “La Cucaracha” is but at least one version appears in a songbook that dates back to 1492!
Is there a standard set of lyrics? No! If you check out the wikipedia page below you’ll see lots of verses including many with historical or cultural references. And, naturally, there are the clever or silly ones, as well:
(English) When a man loves a woman
but she doesn’t love him back
it’s like a bald man
finding a comb in the street.
A Kid-Friendly Version
Although this is a great little song, I never sang it in public because one of the verses referred to marijuana. It just didn’t fit my definition of a family-friendly tune. However, while performing a concert for a group of nuns in South American, one Sister sang me her own version of the song. It was cute and sweet and left out the “offending” verse.
Her version totally inspired me to not only sing the song, but to add some silly English lyrics, preserving the “everyone adds their own touch” approach to adapting folksongs. In my bilingual version, the little cockroach likes to play traditional Mexican instruments. And with 6 legs, wouldn’t any cockroach make a fine percussionist?
Below is a free lyric sheet to this bilingual version, plus the popular Youtube video. And if a little cockroach who plays both guiros and maracas inspires you, you can make your own version of these instruments to play in class or at home. Just check out the links below for the DIY instructions.
Here’s hoping this song makes you laugh and smile, learn a bit of Spanish and share a song with someone you love!
Links and Resources
Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/57s2qPe2YT69GoenDQD1Kf
Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/i-have-a-dream/id49532398
Free Lyric Sheet from TPT: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/La-Cucaracha-Lyric-Sheet-Bilingual-Version-2863996
Wikipedia’s Full History of La Cucaracha
MYO Guiro from TeachersPayTeachers
MYO Maracas from TeachersPayTeachers
La Cucaracha from Amazon mp3