“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
“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
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.
“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.
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…
“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.
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.
“Careful”Lyrics Albums: Cuidado (1969); Someday New (2014) Style: Soulful alternative rock, ballad-like, with bass and acoustic instruments, including accordion. Countries: United States (Los Angeles, CA); Mexico
I saw the film Cantinflas (2014) this weekend. I liked it, but thought it was a little too Hollywood-centric. If you want to see the movie and don’t know anything about Cantinflas, I wrote some cultural background for you:
(1) Who is Cantinflas — “Cantinflas” is the stage name of a Mexican comedy actor, real name Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno Reyes, who lived 1911 to 1993. He was famous for his word play, and in particular word play that used Mexican Spanish vocabulary and idiomatic phrases. The 1900s were a time when Mexico was creating its independent identity after revolution, a time of increasing Mexican pride in mestizo/mixed heritage and culture whereas before Spanish/European culture was considered supreme. Mexican Spanish has a lot of words derived from Nahuatl, the Aztec language. To understand Cantinflas’ comedy, you needed to understand these common Mexican Spanish words.
(2) Cantinflas’ comedy style — The actor has resulted in the Spanish verb cantinflear, which means “to speak a lot and say little; to babble; to speak in a nonsensical way.” This is in reference to Cantinflas’ exaggerated obsfugation of language, and his “extemporaneous, incoherent verbiage”. It is funny because it superficially mimics the flowery language of more powerful people (upper classes, pedantics, bureaucrats, authorities, etc.) while really not communicating much. Additionally, Cantinflas builds off of misunderstandings and uses a lot of wordplay, moving dialogue from its original topic to “chaotic” tangents. I think the translators of Cantinflas (2014) worked best with the wordplay, and had a harder time with the babbling. It’s not their fault. When the native language dialogue is wordy and babbly, you know it’s on purpose. When the subtitles are wordy and babbly, you naturally first wonder if the translation is just bad. This may affect the comedic timing if you aren’t fluent in Spanish. The babbling scenes are short and few, though, so don’t worry about this.
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)
“Little Coin”Lyrics Album: Treinta 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
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?
“Something With Meaning”Lyrics Album: Residente 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.***
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.
“The Black Dog” Lyrics Style: Corrido (a storytelling style) about a loyal dog. Country: Mexico Listen: YouTube, Amazon
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.
Al otro lado del puente De La Piedad, Michoacán, Vivía Gilberto el Valiente, Nacido en Apatzingán.