The origins of "La Cucaracha"
The song "La Cucaracha" is known worldwide and is especially linked to childhood in Latin America. But where did it all begin?
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“Every popular Latin song that permeates our culture has a story, but few have the whimsical backstory and historical significance that matches "La Cucaracha," perhaps the oldest tune that Latinos — and non-Latinos — can easily sing or whistle,” reads the introduction of the documentary produced by Nuestro Stories, a platform specialized in content related to the Latino community.
“La Cucaracha” premiered recently on the new That Latino Song show, and broadcast on most social media platforms and on the Our Stories website.
The Origin of "La Cucaracha"
The documentary, available on YouTube, reveals that the song first rose to fame during the Mexican Revolution. However, there are two popular schools of thought about its origins.
Many chroniclers say that the best-known version of "La Cucaracha" began as one of the favorite songs of Francisco 'Pancho' Villa's troops, who modified the lyrics and used them to make fun of dictator Victoriano Huerta. Huerta was despised by many for betraying, deposing, and allegedly assassinating popular President Francisco I. Madero.
In this context, the song portrays Huerta as a cockroach because he was addicted to alcohol, marijuana and was considered a conspirator in the overthrow of Madero.
Some historians, argue that the origin of "La Cucaracha" is not related to Huerta, but to the Mexican women of the Revolution.
"La Cucaracha" in the U.S.
The U.S.'s proximity to Mexico meant that the song soon became popular in the States as well.
In 1934, the director and actor Lloyd Corrigan launched the production of a short musical with the same name; and in 1935 La Cucaracha earned producer Kenneth Macgowan an Oscar for Best Comedy Short Film.
The song has appeared in numerous Looney Tunes cartoons and has been performed by artists such as Louis Armstrong, Charo, and Liberace.
“La Cucaracha” has also entered the world of comics thanks to a comic strip by Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz. The strip was first published in LA Weekly in 1992, and the satirical themes speak to the true Latino experience in Southern California.