USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘healing’
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Folk speech

Mexican Healing Chant

My informant taught me this chant in the context of our Forms of Folklore JEP class. I asked her if she was familiar with “sana, sana” and she said yes, and then finished the chant. She said that she learned this from her parents, and that they say this to her when she has been hurt. My informant said that this usually occurs at her home, but that it could happen anywhere. When asked if it works, she giggled and said, “well, it makes me laugh.” She repeated this as the reasoning as to why she likes and does it.


“Sana, sana, culito de rana,
y si no se cura ahorita, se cura mañana.”

Her translation:
“I hope you feel better,
if it doesn’t get better today, it gets better tomorrow.”

Word-by-word translation:
“Healthy, healthy, frog ass,
and if not cured now, cured tomorrow.”

While saying these lines her parents usually rub the inflicted area. You can hear her performing this here: Sana, Sana.


One of the most interesting aspects of this piece of folklore is perhaps what was almost left out, “culito de rana.” My informant giggled over it while reciting the chant in Spanish, and when translating it into English she left it out entirely. This piece, which Google Translate translates as “frog ass,” could have been lost entirely. This omission makes one wonder the reason behind it. Did she intentionally do so, for my sake and sensibilities, or did her parents tell her a simplified translation? The first option certainly makes more sense, especially considering her incessant giggles. So, more likely than not she felt uncomfortable sharing such material with me. To me, this emphasizes the early understanding of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate behavior and speech. The environment of the school reinforces and could be the source of her understanding of behavioral norms. Her teacher is extremely strict and reprimands the students for every false move—even speaking out of turn. There is no doubt that she would frown upon the use of vulgarity and that my informant would be punished for such speech.

The vulgarity (and my informant’s attempt to cover it) proves very interesting for analysis. It could be a part of the chant in order to allude to (and perhaps make fun of) magical workings that could involve such things as frog butts. With this in mind, the chant could be seen as a parody of a spell, or it could be the remnants of an actual healing spell.

Simultaneously, the laughter involved in the chant does not only point to discomfort but also to a bit of levity. Though her parents transmitted the chant to her, the authority didn’t confer seriousness. Instead, it could be taken lightly—my informant didn’t say that it worked, but that it does make her laugh. And perhaps this was the intended result (especially if the goal was to poke fun at magical workings).

Furthermore, and more particularly, the piece of folklore does something interesting—it offers the hope of recovery but not the promise that the recovery will be immediate. This statement is at least in a different tone than more traditional comforts—“you are okay,” “it isn’t too bad,” etc. Instead of that, it conveys that it may not be okay right now, that it may be bad, but that it will not be soon. This points to a different sense of time, and immediacy.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Sana Sana

My informant grew up in Texas and was raised by her white and Puerto Rican mothers.  This is a healing chant that her Puerto Rican mother would sing to her whenever she had a scratch

Sana Sana

Colita de rana

Si nos sena ahora

Senaras mañana


In English it translates to:

Heal heal

Little frog

If you don’t heal today

you’ll heal tomorrow


My informant had a version that she would sing:

Sana sansa

Colita banana

Si nos ahora




This song is a way of calming down the child when the child is hurt, but also invoking a bit of magic to help heal the child.  This version of the song comes from Puerto Rico, a very tropical place where little frogs are common.  This is an endearment to the child that also reminds the mother and child where the family is from, especially since the mother has moved away from her home and culture.  The second one that my informant would sing is a parody of the original in fractured Spanish which she did not speak fluently as a child.  It combined the “a kiss will make it better” with the Spanish song, much like her home which was combined with American and Puerto Rican cultures.  She made it rhyme like the original but it gets more and more jumbled as she goes on.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech

Sana Sana Culito de Rana

Sana sana, culito de rana
Si no sanas hoy,
Sanarás mañana


Heal heal, little ass of frog
If it doesn’t heal today
It will heal tomorrow

This is a rhyme that parents, usually moms, will say to their kids when they get a little injury. My informant said that it’s like a mom kissing a boo-boo and that you can hear a lot of Latin mothers say this to their kids; he learned it from his. Sometimes there will be variations on it such as:

“sana, sana, culito de rana,
si no se te alivia ahora,
se te aliviará mañana”

it heals, heals, little ass of frog,
if it is not alleviated to you now,
is alleviated to you tomorrow

Sometimes parents will change “ass” to “tail” or “bottom” for little boo-boos and keep it as “ass” for boo-boos that hurt a lot.