“Primer Día” by Julieta Venegas ft. Dante Spinetta, English translation

“First Day” Lyrics
Album: Limon y Sal (Lemon and Salt), 2006
Style: Pop, love song, possibly breakup song, possibly the start of a new relationship though it sounds like one person wants it more than the other.
Country: Mexico
Listen: YouTube

Continue reading ““Primer Día” by Julieta Venegas ft. Dante Spinetta, English translation”

“Tuyo y Mío” by Camilo and Los Dos Carnales, English translation

“Yours and Mine” Lyrics
Album: Mis Manos (Mi Hands), 2021
Style: A romantic Norteña (a North Mexican music style)
Countries: Colombia (Camilo), Mexico (Los Dos Carnales)
Listen: YouTube.

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“Quiero Verte Feliz” by La Santa Cecilia and Lila Downs, English translation

“I Want To See You Happy” Lyrics, 2021 single
Countries: USA (California), Mexico
Style: Cumbia about being ready to be happy again despite all the bad things happening in the world.
Listen: YouTube, Amazon

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“Cuatro Caminos” by José Alfredo Jiménez, English translation of lyrics

“Four Paths”
Style: Ranchera, mariachi, forsaken love song. A song about picking your life path when you feel lost. The cuatro caminos refers to the four cardinal directions.
Country: Mexico
Listen: YouTube, Amazon

Translation:

Es imposible que yo te olvide.
Es imposible que yo me vaya.
Por donde quiera que voy te miro.
Ando con otra y por ti suspiro.

It is impossible for me to forget you.
It is impossible for me to leave.
Because wherever I go, I see you.
I am with another and I sigh for you.

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“Que Te Vaya Bonito” by José Alfredo Jiménez, English translation of lyrics

“May Things Go Beautifully For You”
Style: Sorrowful mariachi love song. This is a post-breakup song, with the narrator wishing his former lover nothing but good things. It sounds like he ended the relationship due to outside circumstances.
Country: Mexico
Listen: YouTube, Amazon. The song was also used for a 1978 Mexican film, but there is little information available online.

Translation:

Ojalá que te vaya bonito.
Ojalá que se acaben tus penas,
Que te digan que yo ya no existo,
Y conozcas personas más buenas.
..

I hope that things go beautifully for you.
I hope that your sorrows end,
That they tell you that I no longer exist,
And that you meet better people…

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“En La Obscuridad” by Belinda, English translation of lyrics

“In the Darkness” Lyrics
Album: Catarsis (Catharsis), 2013
Style: Club, techno
Country: Spain (born), Mexico (raised)
Listen: YouTube, Amazon. Tomorrow is the winter solstice, so here is a club song that mentions being in darkness a lot. The song is about addiction to love, superficially, but also about addiction to drugs. People walk on walls in the music video, and the police come in the end. Don’t mess up your biochemistry, people. The song is energetic, though.

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“Gracias” by José Alfredo Jiménez, English translation of lyrics

“Thank You”, 1972
Style: Mariachi farewell song.
Country: Mexico
Listen: YouTube, Amazon.

José Alfredo Jiménez died 41 years ago on November 23, 1973.

My father is a huge fan of José Alfredo Jiménez. Once, when I was visiting home and helping him install a new music program, he started filling his playlist and found this song. He told me more about the legendary José Alfredo Jiménez, beloved and prolific singer-songwriter of Mexico. Jiménez died in 1973 of cirrhosis of the liver due to his drinking. He didn’t die sad or regretful, though. He died full of gratitude for his fans. He composed this last song, “Gracias” (Thank You) to express his love for everyone, and to let people know that he thought his life was wonderful, and that he had made peace with his upcoming death.

He picked his own epigram, arranged his own funeral, and settled his affairs. Here is an interview with José Alfredo Jiménez at the hospital. Fourteen days before his death, he left the hospital and drove to have dinner with his son, then they played dominos all night.

To this day, he is still internationally famous for his character- and story-driven lyrics. When people think of mariachi, ranchera, and corrido songs, they think of José Alfredo Jiménez.

Translation:

¿Cómo puedo pagar
Que me quieran a mí
Por todas mis canciones?

How can I repay
That you all love me
For all my songs?

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“Cuidado” by José José; La Santa Cecilia; English translation of lyrics

“Careful” Lyrics
AlbumsCuidado (1969); Someday New (2014)
Style: Soulful alternative rock, ballad-like, with bass and acoustic instruments, including accordion.
Countries: United States (Los Angeles, CA); Mexico

Listen:

The song by José José is directed to a lover who is doing things that will lead to a breakup. You can listen to the original version by José José (1969) or La Santa Cecilia’s cover (2014) at YouTube. I love the way lead singer Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez harmonizes the warnings in the lyrics until the words vibrate.

José José:

La Santa Cecilia:

Today is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, but Day of the Dead is coming up on November 1-2. I recommend listening to La Santa Cecilia’s lively “La Negra” (YouTube and translation). I’m also curious about the upcoming animated movie, The Book of Life premiering October 17.

Translation (following La Santa Cecilia’s version):

Cuidado,
Mucho cuidado,
Que estás tomando por un rumbo equivocado.

Careful,
Be very careful,
Because you are going down a wrong road.

Continue reading ““Cuidado” by José José; La Santa Cecilia; English translation of lyrics”

“El Coyote” by José Alfredo Jiménez, English translation of lyrics

“The Coyote”, mid-20th century
Style: Corrido with mariachi music. This is the story of an unrequited love triangle that ended in the rival’s death.
Country: Mexico
Listen: YouTube, Amazon

Translation:

Le pinte un cuatro al coyote, y me fui para la sierra.
El Coyote era un bandido, nacido allá por mi tierra.
Lo conocí desde niño. Fuimos juntos a la escuela.

I drew a cross over the Coyote, and I left for the sierra.
The Coyote was a bandit, born near my hometown.
I knew him since we were kids. We went to school together.

A las primeras lecciones, se sabía lo que intentaba.
Porque cantaba canciones, peleando con su guitarra.
Y aunque perdiera ilusiones, con sus ojos no lloraba.

From the first lessons, it was obvious what he intended.
Because he sang songs, fighting with his guitar,
And even if he became disillusioned, he didn’t cry with his eyes.

Aquella noche de Mayo, le gusto mi María Elena.
Pero yo llegue a caballo. Yo tenía cita con ella.

That May night, he set his sights on my Maria Elena.
But I came by horseback. I had a date with her.

(¡Sí señor! No le busques, Coyote.)

(Yes, sir! Don’t mess with him, Coyote.)

Cuando baje de la sierra, me encare con el Coyote,
Y abrazando a María Elena, le dije ya tiene nombre
Porque en la ermita sagrada, nos casó el cura del monte.

When I came down from the sierra, I came face-to-face with the Coyote,
And hugging Maria Elena, I told him she has a name now
Because in the sacred chapel, the priest on the mountain married us.

El agacho la cabeza, y se fue cobardemente.
Pero como era Coyote, se devolvió de repente.
El me buscaba la espalda, pero yo le halle la frente.

He lowered his head, and he left in a cowardly way.
But because he was a Coyote, he turned around suddenly.
He was looking for my back, but I found his front.

Coyote, Coyote altivo,
Que no respetaste amores,
Pudiendo ser buen amigo,
Te mataron tus traiciones.

Coyote, arrogant Coyote,
(You) who did not respect love,
You could have been a good friend,
(But instead) your betrayals killed you.

Translation Notes:

Le pinte un cuatro al coyote, y me fui para la sierra.

I drew a cross over the Coyote, and I left for the sierra.
I painted a four on the Coyote, and I left for the sierra. [*lit.]

The song begins by describing the Catholic hand motion for blessing another person by drawing a cross in the air, in front of their forehead. It looks almost like you are drawing the number “4” shape, although the way that I am used to seeing this hand motion, it really looks like an upside down “4”. I was taught up-down, then side-to-side.

This is not Mexican slang. It is a poetic phrase that Mexican Catholics will understand from context by recognizing the similarity of the hand movements for a number “4” and a cross. It is an interesting coincidence that “4” is an unlucky number associated with death in China, but José Alfredo Jiménez probably did not know about that. The Catholic context is more relevant.

The man nicknamed “The Coyote” is dead. The narrator of the song then goes back to tell the story of who the Coyote was and what happened.

El Coyote era un bandido, nacido allá por mi tierra.

The Coyote was a bandit, born near my hometown.
The Coyote was a bandit, born over there by my land. [*lit.]

Here mi tierra (my land, my home) likely means they come from the same geographic cluster of towns or ranches or farms. If ranches or farms, then it makes sense why they are not from the same place (thus por mi tierra, not en or de mi tierra). Kids scattered along farming communities like this tend to go to schools at whichever village is closer.

Aquella noche de Mayo, le gusto mi María Elena.

That May night, he set his sights on my Maria Elena.
That night of May, he fancied/liked my Maria Elena. [*lit.]

Y abrazando a María Elena, le dije ya tiene nombre.

And hugging Maria Elena, I told him she has a name now.

He means literally that she has a married name now, but he’s also saying “she’s mine.” Saying ya tiene nombre (lit. he/she/it has a name now) isn’t something you can only say about people. It’s also a way of saying that something has been claimed or that something belongs to someone. For example, if you bake a cake intended for someone specific, you can say that ya tiene nombre. For usage with people, you should be very careful because it may be offensive if used casually; it is a strong statement to claim someone. In this case, the singer has an established close relationship with Maria Elena (recently married) and is saying it to protect her from aggressive interest from another man.

No le busques, Coyote.

Don’t mess with him, Coyote.
Don’t look [for a fight] with him, Coyote. [*literal]
Don’t seek it out, Coyote. [*literal]

buscar (verb) = to look for; to seek

buscarle (verb) = to look for it (from someone/something); to seek it out (from someone/something)

Coyote, Coyote altivo, que no respetaste amores

Coyote, arrogant Coyote, (you) who did not respect love

Here, amor (love) is used in plural form. He is not just talking about love in general, but specific loves, i.e. the love he and his wife share for each other.

The word altivo comes from alto (tall, high).

Pudiendo ser buen amigo, / te mataron tus traiciones.

You could have been a good friend, / (but instead) your betrayals killed you.
Having the potential to be a good friend, / you were killed by your betrayals (instead). [*alt.]

The word “instead” is implied by the verb choice and conjugation.

pudiendo ser = having been able to be [having the option to be, in the past]

“Monedita” by La Santa Cecilia, English translation of lyrics

“Little Coin” Lyrics
AlbumTreinta Días (Thirty Days), 2013
Style: Alternative, energetic, cheerful song praising humble lifestyles. This is a song about not needing money to be happy, about valuing humility, and about how living within one’s means is healthier than over-spending to impress others. Good vocals by lead singer La Marisoul and accordion play by Jose “Pepe” Carlos.
Country: USA (Los Angeles, CA)
Listen: YouTube, Amazon

Translation:

Bonito tu trajecito, ¿cuánto das por la apariencia?
Bonito tu cochecito, ¿no te pesa en la conciencia?

Very nice, your little outfit; how much for that appearance?
Very nice, your little car; doesn’t it weigh on your conscience?

Continue reading ““Monedita” by La Santa Cecilia, English translation of lyrics”

“Algo Con Sentido” by Calle 13 feat. PG-13, English translation

“Something With Meaning” Lyrics
AlbumResidente o Visitante (Resident or Visitor), 2007
Style: Hilarious but explicit rap song, slow tempo, increasingly disturbing lyrics
Country: Puerto Rico
Listen at YouTube. This song is hilarious because of its disturbing build-up and then the abrupt end after the first end. Residente Calle 13’s voice acting in this song is great.

***Warning: Explicit language, graphic descriptions of violence.***

Translation:

La gente está jugando con mi mente
Y ando con la mirada borracha.
Mi cabeza está pensando en remolacha,
Por eso no tiene sentido esta guaracha.

People are playing with my head
And I walk around with a drunk look.
My head is thinking about beets;
That’s why this song makes no sense.

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“La Media Vuelta” by José Alfredo Jiménez, English translation of lyrics

“About-Turn”
Style: Ranchera, heartbreak, wavering between denial and acceptance.
Country: Mexico
Listen: YouTube, Amazon

Translation:

Te vas porque yo quiero que te vayas.
A la hora que yo quiera te detengo.
Yo sé que mi cariño te hace falta
Porque quieras o no yo soy tu dueño.

You leave because I want you to leave.
At whatever time I want, I (can) stop you.
I know that you need my affection,
Because whether you want it or not, I am your boss.

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“Cuánto Más” by Antony Santos, English translation

“How Much More” Lyric
Style: Bachata
Country: Dominican Republic
Listen: YouTube

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“Y Todo, ¿Para Qué?” by Intocable, Natalia Lafourcade, and Pedro Reyna Cisneros, English translation

“And All For What?” Lyrics
Style: Pop or ranchera versions, romance song
Songwriter: Pedro Reyna Cisneros
Country: Mexico
Listen @ YouTube to Intocable (ranchera) or Natalia Lafourcade (alt pop)

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“El Perro Negro” by José Alfredo Jiménez, English translation

“The Black Dog” Lyrics
Style: Corrido (a storytelling style) about a loyal dog.
Country: Mexico
Listen: YouTube, Amazon

About:

José Alfredo Jiménez was a famous and prolific Mexican singer-songwriter. Remember his name if you are interested in the music history of Latin America or Mexican culture. His songs created a new mythology in Mexico. He sang about characters and stories. This song is about the murder of Gilberto the Brave, who was killed in his sleep by a cowardly but powerful rival. Gilberto had a loyal dog who avenged his murder. 

Translation:

Al otro lado del puente
De La Piedad, Michoacán,
Vivía Gilberto el Valiente,
Nacido en Apatzingán.

On the other side of the bridge
Of La Piedad, Michoacán,
Lived Gilberto the Brave,
Born in Apatzingán.

Siempre con un perro negro
Que era su noble guardián.

Always with a black dog
That was his noble guardian.

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