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.

Hispanic Proverb-Game

Informant: Carlota Rodriguez-Benito. 20 years old. Spanish Heritage, born in Miami, lived in Mexico. USC student.

Informant:“El que se va de su villa pierde su silla”

Translation:“The one who leaves his or her villa looses his or her chair”

Informant: “If someone stood up from their seat, whether that be at school, at home, or anywhere, I would take that seat. When that person returned wanting that same seat, I would say the proverb to let them know that it’s their fault they left it and it’s mine now. I no longer use this proverb because I find it silly. When I was younger, however, I loved to say it because it was a funny game.

Thoughts: Carlota grew up in Miami but still used this proverb as a child. Miami has a very big Hispanic community so it makes sense that Carlota would say it. When I was younger,  just like Carlota, I would say this proverb. It is interesting that we both never say it anymore but still remember the experiences of it.

Colombian Proverb

Informant: Maria Clara Williamson. My mom who is originally from Colombia but has lived in Mexico City for 25 years.


Original: “Al que madruga, a Dios le ayuda”

Translation: The one who rises early, God helps

Informant: “My mom was a firm believer in this saying. Every morning, she would tell me this as a constant reminder to persevere. Growing up in a Catholic household, I was taught not to complain and follow set values. My mother would often use my father’s determination as an example. By 6A.M. he had already showered, changed, and was ready for the day. “Your father’s success comes from rising early and having determination,” she would always say. Throughout my life, I have kept my mothers words with me and have really strived to follow it.”

Thoughts: This is probably the proverb I have heard the most throughout my life. My parents both mention it as they stress the importance of productivity. If one rises early there is so much more one can do with the day. Because religion is an important part of life in Latin America it makes sense that God is included in the saying.


Informant: Maria Clara Williamson. My mom who is originally from Colombia but has lived in Mexico City for 25 years.

Informant: “In México we have Posadas. A posada is a celebration to commemorate the story of Jesus. It is the journey that Joseph and Mary took in Bethlehem. Half the people act as the inns and the rest of the people act as pilgrims. Everyone holds candles and sings. At the end of the singing there is a big party. At the party, there are traditional Mexican piñatas. The piñata has colorful peaks representing the Catholic capital sins. The party is decorated very colorfully and it is a great celebration!”



Los Peregrinos…

En el nombre del cielo,

yo os pido posada,

pues no puede andar,

mi esposa amada.

Los Hosteleros… 

Aquí no es mesón,

sigan adelante,

no les puedo abrir,

no vaya a ser un tunante.



Dichosa la casa

Que abriga este día

A la virgen pura

La hermosa María.

Entren Santos Peregrinos,

Reciban este rincón,

que aunque es pobre la morada,

os la doy de corazón.



The Pilgrims…

In the name of the heavens

I request lodging from you,

Because she cannot walk,

My beloved wife.

The Innkeepers…

This is not an inn,

Go on ahead

I cannot open up for you

In case you’re a crook.



Happy is the house

That shelters today

The pure virgin,

The beautiful Mary.

Enter holy pilgrims

Receive this haven

That although it’s a poor dwelling

I offer it to you from the heart.


Thoughts: Posadas are very traditional in Mexico. I have not attended one since middle school but I vividly remember the experience. I enjoy this celebration because it combines Joseph and Mary’s journey with a fun party. Posadas are geared more towards families but there are many people in Mexico who do not miss these posadas as it really is part of their tradition and religion.


For the full version of the song: “”



Informant: Maria Clara Williamson. My mom who is originally from Colombia but has lived in Mexico City for 25 years.

Informant: “In Colombia during Christmas time there is a big celebration called Novenas. It is a celebration with family and friends. One gathers and sings ‘Villancicos.’ One of my favorite Villancico is called ‘Campana Sobre Campana.’ We all sing, pray, and celebrate together. It is a great celebration because it is so much more than a religious gathering. A novena is a tradition and the perfect gathering to mingle with family and friends. The Novenas were definitely a highlight of the Christmas season. I would often attend several novenas and although they would be similar in the traditions, it would be a different experience.”


“Campana sobre campana

y sobre campana una

asómate a la ventana

veros a un niño en la cuna.

Belén, Campanas de Belén

que los Ángeles tocan

que nuevas me traéis.


Recogido tu rebaño

a dónde vas pastorcillo?

Voy a llevar el portal

requesón, manteca y vino

Belén, Campanas de Belén

que los Ángeles tocan

que nuevas me traéis.”



“Bell over Bell

And on a bell

Get close to the window

See a child in the crib.

Bethlehem, Bells of Bethlehem

What angels play

What new you bring me


Collected your flock

Where are you going little shepherd?

I’m going to take the portal

Cottage cheese, butter and wine

Bethlehem, Bells of Bethlehem

What angels play

What new you bring me. ”


Thoughts: Because my family is from Colombia and we’ve celebrated Christmas in Bogotá,  I’ve attended these novenas. As a little kid, the highlight of these gathering was singing the Villanciscos (Christmas Carols).  We actually have not celebrated Christmas in Colombia for a long time ever since most of my grandparents passed away. Even so, the novenas is a childhood memory that I cherish forever.

Mexican Proverb

Informant: Maria Clara Williamson. My mom who is originally from Colombia but has lived in Mexico City for 25 years.

Informant: “Está mas caro el caldo que las albondigas”

Translation: “The broth is more expensive than the meatballs.”

Informant: “This is a saying I learned living in Mexico. My friend Paloma uses it a lot but I never do. It is said when the effort put into something is more expensive than the end result. Right now we are building a house in an underserved community with your sister. We have to sell tickets for a raffle, travel to the community, get people at the school to participate, and make the whole thing work. This has taken so much of my time and so many people have been uncollaborative. This effort is more laborious, tiresome, and expensive than the end result (the house) and although it’s a good deed it is indeed more expensive.”

Thoughts: This proverb is really interesting. I had never heard it and my mom has certainly never said it in front of me. It is definitely an interesting way of describing a laborious task. There are many Mexican sayings people have and I’m actually surprised to not have heard it before growing up or from Paloma.