La Cucaracha

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Mon Dec 10 20:00:54 UTC 2001

by Timothy G. Turner
South-West Press
Dallas, Texas

   Turner's book is a fabulous read.  I showed some stuff to David Shulman today, and he was interested in this song, which is well-attested here.

Pg. 178:
   "La Cucaracha," both in its sprightly aid and its curious, endless verses, was one of the notable pieces of Mexican folk music, the "corridos" that are something like the American Negro ballads such as "Frankie and Johnny" and the blueses.  I had first heard it in the Orozco revolution and knew many verses.  Now the Villistas had taken it up, adding verses as the campaign progressed and singing it as they went into battle.
   "La Cucaracha" originally came from southern Mexico and was a song of the smokers of marihuana.  (Mexican form of Indian hemp), a narcotic drug which has stages of great excitation to the addict.  The word "cucaracha," is Spanish for cockroach, but in this sense it is a slang word for the marihuana addict, or marihuanero, which makes some sense out of the chorus:

"La cucaracha, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar,
Porque le falta, porque no tiene
Marihuana que fumar."

(The cucaracha, the cucaracha,
He can't travel any more,
Because he lacks, because he lacks
Marihuana for to smoke.)

(Music notation on facing page, a photo of Villa soldier singing on another page, longer lyrics follow this page--ed.)

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