USC Digital Folklore Archives / Musical
Folk speech
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Protest Chats at March Against Trump LA

On a sunny Los Angeles morning, 8,000 people marched in protest of president-elect Donald Trump. The course of the November 1st march was from McArthur Park, through the 3rd street tunnel, ending on the steps of a downtown federal building. The march was led by a collation diverse Los Angeles organizations including Union del Barrio, Black Lives Matter Pasadena, Black Lesbians United, the Freedom Socialist Party, and the Palestine Youth Movement. Along with regular members of the headlining organizations, the protest included many novice protestors who were compelled to march by for the first time.

As one can imagine, this massive group of people did not have one single message or platform. Rather they were a coalition of many interest and values, brought together by their shared disapproval of Donald Trump’s impending term. As a result, the chants heard at the march were varied. We’ll examine these chats in particular, and the behavior of people at protests generally as folklore.

Here are the chats I heard:

Rhythmic chants:

“The people united will never be divided”
(The peo-ple — / u-ni-ted — / will ne-ver be / di-vi-ded)

Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!”
(Hey hey — — / Ho ho — — / Don — -ald Trump / has got to go)

“We reject the president elect”
(We — — re /ject — —  the /pres-i-dent e-/lect — — –)

“Love trumps hate!”

Call and response chants:

A:  Not my president
B:  Not my president

A: Black lives matter
B: Black lives matter

A: Sí se puede
B: Sí se puede

A: Say it loud, say it clear
B: Immigrants are welcome here

A: Say it loud, say it clear
B: Refugees are welcome here

A: My body my choice
B: Her body her choice

As a member of the crowd affiliated with no organization, my experience was that almost all of these chants were new to me. I learned them as I walked. The chants came sometimes from the people in front of me and sometimes from the people behind. Sometimes two chats would come at the same time or the same chant would be audible from two directions, out of synch with itself. The people in the middle were in the position to make a choice between the two chants.

The chants were brought to the protest, mainly, by leaders who had used them before, they are folklore because they are performed, learned from other people and they evolve over time. And in the march itself, you can expect the more popular chats to be repeated more often.

Since the march, I attempted to find the origin of some of these chants. Here are some of the most interesting finds.



“The people united will never be divided” is an adaptation of the 1973 Chilean song “¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!” (The people united will never be defeated). Since its creation in 1973 as an anthem for the Popular Unity political alliance, the song has been adapted for dozens of other causes around the world. The chant at the LA protest still had the distinctive rhythm of the line “The people united will never be defeated,” although the chant is spoken, not melodious.


A: My body my choice
B: Her body her choice

The group who began this chant phrased it as it is above. It was designed to be a call and response in which women call out, “My body my choice” and men respond, “Her body her choice.” That chat is an affirmation of a woman’s right to her own method of birth control, including abortion.

However, several people in the crowd switched the response to, “Their body their choice.” The change from the singular “her” to the singular “their” removes gender from the chant, thereby acknowledging that not all people with a uterus identify as female, and that some transgender men and other people who are not “hers” have the same right to choose.

At the protest, most people continued saying “her body her choice” while others said, “their body their choice.” The change is subtle enough that a participant not familiar with the transgender rights movement might not notice or not understand the meaning of the alternative wording. To me, the original chant embodies the point of view of mainstream feminism or “white feminism” which focuses on sexism but pays little attention to the distinct forms of oppression faced by women of color, trans women, and others. While the second chant seeks to champion a more inclusive kind of feminism.

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Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias Monucipilanas

Every city, every town, has a yearly party, feria monucipilanas, and each have their own saint in which they cherish and praise during the festival. The people of the city make a big tower that you light at the bottom of the tower so then the fireworks make really colorful designs upon explosion. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. These fairs seem like the walks that Catholics due in Los Angeles during Easter to acknowledge a saint.


De Tin Marin –Mexican Sorting Song

Main Piece:

“De tin marin, de don pingue

Cucara marcara, titere fue

Yo no fui, you tete

Que ese merito fue”

It can be translated* as follows:

“From Tin Marin, from two big ones,

Cockroach, mockroach, it was a puppet,

It wasn’t me, it was Teté,

the one who did it”

*edited from–see citation below


This was performed by a student at the University of Southern California who comes from a Mexican/Catholic household. She went on to describe this as song “sort of like the ‘inny, miny, moe, except in Spanish.”  Her dad had taught it to her when she was a kid and remembers using it before she would play Freeze tag or other games with her family and friends.


This was performed when talking about childhood. There was a discussion happening about how growing up as first generation Mexican/Mexican American was different in California as compared to Arkansas. The song was brought up at this moment, but recorded at a later date.


This sorting song is very interesting. I had only ever heard it from my own parents, so hearing the differences caught my attention. The student says “que ese merito fue” as the last line of the song. However, other versions, including my own, end with “pegale, pegale, que ese merito fue.” The difference between these two is the “pegale, pegale” which translates to “hit (him/her), hit (him/her).” This difference might have to do with the student’s parents being highly religious, as noted through my interactions with her. Encouraging to harm another person would not have fit within her household.

The song itself has little actual meaning. The words rhythmically go together well and are structured so that it is easy to point at people on each syllable (like other sorting songs). It is also interesting that towards the end, it sounds like someone is accusing someone else of whatever action got the song started. For example, the “pegale, pegale, que ese merito fue” can alternatively be translated to “hit him, hit him, because he did it.” The blame ends up falling on whoever was pointed at last.


Songs and Rhymes from Mexico “Tin marin de does pingue.” Retrieved from Mama Lisa’s World “International Music and Culture.” website.


Parody of Happy Birthday song

Happy birthday to me

I’m a hundred and three

I still go to pre-school

And miss my mommy.

My mommy’s at work

She thinks I’m a jerk

And I told the teacher

The dog ate my work


She heard it from multiple friends at school, during another classmate’s birthday party and after they sang the traditional Happy Birthday song. She likes it because she thought it was funny, and it was fun to try adding on new lines with her friends.

I have never heard of this song before, though I remember hearing lots of parodies and variations of the Happy Birthday song while growing up. It’s such a prominent song in kids’ lives, with the childhood importance of growing older, so it makes sense that new variations are still happening today.


Barney Theme Song

I hate you

You hate me

Let’s go kill Barney

With a smack on the face

And a kick on the knee

Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee


She claimed to hear this from her friends at school. This song is just something that’s sung on the playground, for the purpose of humor.

Growing up I definitely heard a lot of variations of the Barney TV show theme song, and distinctly remember the words “I hate you, you hate me”. I don’t remember there being killing or violence, so the song seems a little more morbid than what I remember.


The Swinging Song

My cheeks are red

My mouth is singing

My heart is beating

And my brain is thinking

I like to swing, but that’s not all

My favorite thing is to sing this swinging song


This is a song that was heard on the playground at school, and is sometimes sung by the students while playing on the swings. She also sings it on her swingset at home. She likes it because it’s a fun song to sing.

I’ve never heard this song before, so it may have come about recently.


An Encounter With A Bolero Musician

The informant is a musician from Oaxaca, Mexico. He has been playing Bolero music for sixteen years and is incredibly talented. I approached him at an outdoor coffee shop after hearing him on his guitar. I’ve included a clip of him strumming a Bolero chord.

“Yes so, something I would like to share is music. When I think of folklore I think of my music, Bolero music, the genre of Bolero music. It was something that was taught to me by my dad when I was ten years old. And Bolero music comes from Cuba but it also kind of influenced from myself, to stay connected to my own culture, my own language.

So there’s a folklore of Bolero music. It’s kind of a lost tradition. So I celebrate it, I preserve it, everyday by playing the music, if not listening to it, that style of song on Spotify or on the radio.”

How did your father introduce it to you?

“I think through cassettes or CDs, we would listen to it every evening. And he told me and my brother ‘I want you to learn it, to learn this type of music. So he hired a teacher because it’s folk music. So Bolero is folk music, so you won’t learn it in universities or in schools. It’s specific to my culture.”

So what makes Bolero music distinct, what defines it?

“In my opinion what makes it distinct is the lyrics and talking about it musically, chords, the artists, what they call the golden era of Bolero music. It was started in the 1920s. It started in Mexico. But the music has history since 1883, so it has African, Cuban, European influences.

It’s a lot of heartbreak songs, like blues. But also celebrating love. There used to be serenades, like back in the 1930s-40s where you would serenade a woman that you felt attracted to, a partner. So it’s about love songs, it’s about feeling nostalgia.

I’ve been playing since I was fifteen, so sixteen years now. So now I’m trying to preserve it myself through a concert series that I started two years ago. There’s a lot of artists in LA that play this music but there’s no space or outlet for them to showcase especially folk music, and just folk music in general. So I created this concert series called Boleros De Noche.”

Some songs the informant recommended: Sin Ti, Amorcito Corazon, Cien Años, Sabor a mi, Besame Mucho. The first bolero is called Tristesas. That’s the first Bolero recorded.


Salvadoran Children Song

Sana, Sana culito de rana

Si no sanas hoy, sanaras manana

Translate to: Heal, heal, little bug of frog, if you don’t heal today, then you’ll heal tomorrow.

This song is usually sung to small children that have been hurt. it is a way to keep children from crying to when they get hurt.

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.


Folk medicine

Tortillita Song

Una tortillita para mama, una tortilito para papa, hechos a huego por que ya se van.

A little tortilla for mommy, a little tortila for daddy, put them on the fire because they are leaving.

The informant was taught this song by her mother-in-law. The song is sung to kids that have fallen hurt. You massage the injury a you sing the song.

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Las Mañanitas – Birthday Song

Informant: Valentina Williamson. 11 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City. My little sister.

Informant: “When the cake comes out at birthday parties everyone sings ‘Las Mañanitas.’ When the song is over, the person blows out the candle. After, we all chant ‘MORDIDA, MORDIDA! (BITE, BITE!) and push the person’s head into the cake!”

Collector: “Why do you push the persons head into the cake??”

Informant: “Because it’s funny! The face is covered in cake and we can’t stop laughing!


“Estas son las mañanitas

Que cantaba el rey David

Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños

Te las cantamos a ti!

Despierta, “Nombre”, despierta

Mira que ya amaneció!

Y los pajaritos cantan

Y la luna ya se metio! WOOOOOOO”

(Informant motions as if she pushes a head into the cake)



These are the dawns

That king David sang about

Today for being your birthday

We are singing to you!

Wake up, “NAME”, wake up

See that it already dawned

and the little birds are singing

and the moon has already set! WOOOOO”


Thoughts: It is really interesting that the birthday song in Mexico is much more romantic than the “Happy Birthday” song in the United States. In my opinion, this romanization is a direct reflection of the Mexican cultural values. I know that there are some slight variations from the version my sister gave me. Instead of “Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños (Today for being your birthday) some sing “Hoy por ser día de tu santo (Because today is your saint’s day).” The gesture of pushing someone’s head into the cake is something I did as a child too but no longer do it. Certainly, this only tends to happen at children’s parties.

For a full version of the song: “″