“Cielito lindo” is a popular Mexican song from a Spanish copla, popularized in 1882 by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés (c. 1859–1957).
De la Sierra Morena,
cielito lindo, vienen bajando,
Un par de ojitos negros,
cielito lindo, de contrabando.
Ay, yai, yai, yai,
Canta y no llores,
Porque cantando se alegran,
cielito lindo, los corazones.
Pájaro que abandona,
cielito lindo, su primer nido,
Si lo encuentra ocupado,
cielito lindo, bien merecido.
Ese lunar que tienes,
cielito lindo, junto a la boca,
No se lo des a nadie,
cielito lindo, que a mí me toca.
Una flecha en el aire,
cielito lindo, lanzó Cupido,
si la tiró jugando,
cielito lindo, a mí me ha herido.
Literal English translation
From the Sierra Morena,
Pretty darling, they come down,
a pair of black eyes,
Pretty little heaven, which are contraband.
Ay, yai, yai, yai,
sing and don’t cry,
because singing gladdens,
Pretty little heaven, the hearts.
Bird that abandons,
pretty darling, his first nest,
if he finds it occupied,
Pretty little heaven, is well deserved.
That mole you have
pretty darling, next to your mouth,
don’t give it to anyone,
Pretty little heaven, for it belongs to me.
An arrow in the air
pretty sweetheart, Cupid launched
playing he shot it towards me,
Pretty little heaven, and I’ve been wounded.
It is roughly translated as “Lovely Sweet One”. Although the word “cielo” means sky or heaven, it is also a term of endearment comparable to sweetheart or honey. “Cielito”, the diminutive, can be translated as “sweetie”; “lindo” means cute, lovely or pretty. Sometimes the song is known by words from the refrain, “Canta y no llores” or simply the “Ay, Yai, Yai, Yai” song.
Commonly played by mariachi bands, it has been recorded by many artists in the original Spanish as well as in English and other languages. Even though the song talks about the “Sierra Morena”, a mountain range in the south region of Spain, in recent decades it has come to be widely known as a theme song for Mexico, based in the Spanish background of the country, particularly at international events, like the FIFA World Cup.
The scheme corresponds to the Spain Castilian classical stanza known as “seguidilla,” i.e. seven lines of alternating heptasyllabic and pentasyllabic verses. Lyrics vary widely from performer to performer and every singer is free to add some new verse to his or her own interpretation.
In the article “¡Hasta que me cayó el veinte!” Ortega discusses the origins of the first verse of this song. His research discovered that in the early 17th century, armed bandits would take refuge in the Sierra Morena mountains of Spain and that people feared for their lives when they had to travel through the region. The words of the first verse of “Cielito Lindo” were found in a song from that era, hinting at that fear. But with time the meaning of the verse changed as people began romanticizing it. “Your face is the Sierra Morena. Your eyes are thieves who live there.” The verse had other melodies put to it and variations on the lyrics. Mr. Quirino Mendoza, the composer, adapted the verse to his own melody and gave us the song we know today.
The song has been subject to many versions:
- Alma Cogan’s 1957 hit, You,Me and Us used the tune from Cielito Lindo, with English lyrics.
- Voodoo Glow Skulls, a ska punk band from California, do a cover on their album Exitos Al Cabron (1999).
- Pedro Infante sang it in the 1947 Mexican film Los tres García. He also had the lead role in the film
- In 1942, Brazilian singer Carmen Costa released a famous Brazilian Portuguese version of the song called “Está Chegando a Hora” (The time is coming).
- In 1963, Trini Lopez released a very famous Spanish version of the song, on his album Trini Lopez at PJ’s
- In 1982, popular Puerto Rican boy band Menudo covered this song for performances in Mexico, only. It was finally released in 1983, but only on the album Adios Miguel.
- In 1990, Jose Feliciano’s version wins a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Performance.
- Other Spanish versions include: Irma Vila y su Mariachi, Los Lobos, and Plácido Domingo alongside Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras. In 2006 it was recorded by Ana Gabriel.
- There are instrumental versions as well most notably by Mantovani
- Cuban Rumba band leader and actor, Desi Arnaz performed the song’s refrain several times on the television show he co-starred in with his real-life wife, Lucille Ball – I Love Lucy.
- The song “Richard Allen George…No, It’s Just Cheez” by Less Than Jake ends with a sing-along about mustaches, to the melody of “Cielito Lindo.”
- Iranian singer Mohsen Namjoo included it in his third album Oy. His version features Golshifteh Farahani as co-singer. Within the song, he included some poems by Shamlooand Rumi.
- Limerick songs are often set to the tune of “Cielito Lindo.”
- Deanna Durbin, a Canadian/American singer and actress from the 1930s and 1940s, also recorded a version of this song in Spanish.
- A 4/4 adaptation was used in the finale of Shostakovich’s 6th Symphony
- An ad for Fritos featured the Frito Bandito character singing a version of the song with different lyrics.
Vargas de Tecalitlán
|Origin||Tecalitlán, Jalisco, Mexico|
|Genres||Son jaliscience, canción ranchera,bolero ranchero, corrido,huapango de mariachi, polka,jarabe, son jarocho and valsmexicano.|
|Associated acts||Rubén Fuentes|
Enrique de Mendoza
José “Pepe” Martínez
José Martínez Jr.
|Past members||Luís Fernando Martínez|
image by DanielTeran