Author Archives: Nico Williamson

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: “”

El Ratón Pérez

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

Informant: “Whenever a tooth fell out, I would put it under my pillow and the “Raton Pérez” (Mouse Perez) would take it away and leave me money.”

Collector: “When did you first hear about the Ratón Perez”

Informant: “I guess I heard it from my parents. When my first tooth fell out they told me to place it under the pillow as and the ratón would exchange it for money.”

Collector: “Do you know why the ratón took teeth?”

Informant: “My parents told me he wanted my teeth because he collects teeth from all the children around the world. Also, all my friends had the same experience. We all believed in the ratón and would show off the money he gave us.”

Me: “Why did you believe in the Raton Pérez and not the tooth fairy.”

Informant: “If my tooth fell out in Mexico it was the Raton Perez’s job. If I was in the U.S. it was the Tooth Fairy’s job. Like once my tooth fell out when I was in New York and I believed the tooth fairy took it. It was all about where I was. HA HA!  I even thought they would meet up and compare their tooth collections.”

Thoughts: The Raton Perez and Tooth Fairy are classic folklore parents tell their children. What interested me the most from my sister’s performance is that she believed it was locational rather than sticking to one belief. I also know that in Spain they call it “Ratoncito Pérez” or “Little Mouse Pérez.”


Interesting read on the origins of the Ratón Pérez: “”

Día de Reyes

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

Informant: “On January 6 Los Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men) arrive! The night before, I leave my shoe next to the window and when I wake up I find a gift in it. It is like a small gift. Like last year I got candy and an iTunes gift card. I love this because I get gifts after Christmas (Informant smiles).”

Collector: “Why do they bring gifts”

Informant: “Emmm…Los Reyes Magos delivered gifts to Jesus when he was born. Los Reyes Magos bring gifts because of that”

Collector: “Do you do anything else to celebrate this day?!”

Informant: “Estem…. La Rosca!! How could I forget?! We usually have a dinner with my friends and family. After dinner, there is a very special dessert called ‘la Rosca de Reyes.’ Sometimes it has pieces of dried fruit in it but I don’t like that one so I make dad buy the other one. So we pass it around and everyone cuts their own piece. There is like a little baby Jesus hidden somewhere. Whoever gets the baby Jesus in their piece has to host a dinner and bring tamales! That person doesn’t really do it but we all them him or her to!”

Thoughts: The Dia de Reyes is very important. Because Mexico is very religious, there is a strong emphasis on celebrating Christ. When I was a little kid, I didn’t get gifts from the wise men as it wasn’t something my parents did. As an older brother, however, I was actually the one who first put the gifts in my sister’s shoe. I wanted her to have the tradition. Since I’m abroad, my parents have kept it and my sister loves it.

Hide and Seek Game

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


Original: “Una bolita de algodón patin paton melocotón sabes tu donde cayó con verdad y sin mentir con pura casualidad” (Pauses at each syllable)

Translation: A little cotton ball patin paton melocotón do you know where it fell with truth and without lying with pure chance.

Informant:  “When I play hide and seek with my friends we sing that song to decide who is going to count. We all put one foot in and form a circle. We sing the song while one person touches each foot during each syllable. Once the song is over that last person has to say a place they’ve been but think no one has gone to. Like if it landed on me I could say Paris! If no one from the group has been to Paris, I get out and don’t count. BUT! If someone else from the group has been to Paris they get out, don’t count, but I have to stay in! I then use my hand to move around the feet and we sing the song again. The last person to be in looses and has to count.

Me: “Do you know how you came to learn this song?”

Informant: “No idea, I think at school. We always sing it but I have no idea where it came from!”

Thoughts: I have never heard this song to play hide and seek before. When I was younger I recall there was a song about Pinocchio to see who would count. Incorporating the place a person has traveled to adds an educational aspect to the game. Certainly, children question each other about the places they’ve been to and therefore learn from such.

Mexican Proverb

Informant: Maria Burguete. 20 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City.

Informant: “Camarón que se duerme….se lo lleva la corriente”

Translation: Shrimp that falls asleep… taken away by the current

Collector: “What does it mean and when did you first hear it?”

Informant: “If you fall asleep you loose, is basically what it’s saying. Mexican mothers tell this saying to their children so that they pay attention. I don’t remember when I first heard this proverb, but I think my mom would use it whenever I would be lazy and not obey her. Also, I think my teachers in lower school would use it”

Thoughts: I have heard this proverb many times growing up. Just like Maria, my mother would often cite it when I was lazy. It is interesting that we both heard this proverb from our mothers and not our fathers. Another interesting observation is that my mother is from Colombia and therefore the proverb is not restricted to a country.