Cielito Lindo is often referred to as the other Mexican national anthem. When asking for song selections, you might also hear it called Canta y No Llores, which is the refrain of the song; “Sing and don’t cry.”
Every Mexican orchestra, mariachi band, trio or single minstrel knows this song and it is often what they will play as an introduction.
The original lyrics are attributed to Quirino Mendoza y Cortés (c. 1859 – 1957) but he likely stole them from an old Spanish song, hence the reference to the Sierra Morena, a mountain range in Spain. Legendary armed bandits inhabited these hills and travelers were terrified to pass through. Singing eliminated those fears and, as the song concludes, makes for happy hearts.
“Your face is the Sierra Morena; Your eyes are thieves who live there” transformed into “From the mountain ranges, beautiful little sky, are coming down a pair of black eyes, beautiful little sky, that are being smuggled…” and therefore became a more romanticized version, rather than the original fearsome account.
The word ciel in Spanish means sky or heaven, so its interpretation in this song is like many Spanish terms… quite liberal. It is not unusual for a man to call his sweetheart cielito. Lindo means pretty, lovely, cute.
Other than “Ay, ay, ay, ay” most non-Spanish speakers have no idea what the song is actually saying. Translated it is not only amorous; it captures the risk and uncertainty that often accompany love. “One bird who abandons his first nest to return and find it occupied by another is well deserved.” “From your house to mine, there is only one step and now that we are alone, give me a hug.”
Que es cómo es.
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