La Cucaracha – Spanish Folk Song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: College Student
Residence: California, USA
Date of Performance/Collection: 05/02/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context:

Informant JA was an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California at the time of this collection. JA was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, but their dad’s side of the family originates from Mexico. When JA was young, their great-grandmother would sing a Spanish folk song while playing a game with JA when they were about three years old. I spoke with JA to see what they could remember about their experience with this song.


Text:

Lyrics:

“La cucaracha, la cucaracha, da-na-na-na-na-na-na” (repeated until game was over)

Accompanying Game:

While JA’s great-grandmother would sing La Cucaracha, she would hold her arms out in a circle with her hands holding each other almost like a basket. JA would run in a circle in front of their great-grandmother, and when she was done repeating the lyrics, she would put her arms down to try and capture JA while they were within her basket-like arm positioning. If she caught them, she would tickle them. If she did not catch them, JA would win the game.


Analysis:

Hearing about JA’s experience with this folk song and its accompanying game allowed me to consider how it might connect with the role Hispanic/Latina (great) grandmothers play when it comes to sharing cultural traditions and information to younger generations. By singing this song, she is providing entertainment for young JA while simultaneously fulfilling the responsibility of transmitting their shared Mexican culture. In pairing this song with a game, JA’s great grandmother, is perhaps teaching JA that they can partake and enjoy a culture that might feel distant from them as a Mexican American growing up in a suburban area. The performance of this folk song in this context captures the the desire to connect singer and listener to one another all while sharing an aspect of Mexican culture.