"Cielito lindo" is a popular Mexican song from a Spanish copla, popularized in 1882 by Mexican author Quirino Mendoza y Cortés (c. 1859–1957). 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, Ay, Ay, Ay 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. It is debated if the song talks about the Sierra Morena, a mountain range in the south region of Spain, or the similarly named Sierra Morones in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. It has become a non-official symbol of Mexico, specially in Mexican expatriate communities around the world or for Mexicans attending international events such as the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup.
It has been sung by a plethora of artists, such as Tito Guizar, Pedro Infante, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Eartha Kitt, and Ana Gabriel. It was part of the iconic Mexican movie "Los Tres Garcia"
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. Some of the most traditional lyrics are the following:
|Spanish||Literal English translation|
De la Sierra Morena,
Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Ese lunar que tienes,
Una flecha en el aire,
From Sierra Morena,
Ah, ah, ah, ah,
That mole that you have
An arrow in the air
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. 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 Éxitos al Cabrón (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 Adiós Miguel.
- In 1989, José Feliciano on his album I'm Never Gonna Change. His version won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Performance.
- The Three Tenors have done this song in multiple of their concerts. They sing the first and third verses and then the refrain twice.
- Other Spanish versions include those by: Irma Vila y su Mariachi, and Los Lobos, 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 Shamloo and 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. This was conisdered by many Mexican nationals as a racist insult to their culture.
- Agent 99 sings the song in the 1969 Get Smart episode "Tequila Mockingbird".
- UK 1970's football terrace chant: "Ai ai ai ai, 《insert team name here》are rubbish".
- On December 31st, 2014, Jeff Rosenstock, former frontman of the New York punk band Bomb The Music Industry!, released two recordings of "Cielito Lindo", a fast version and a slow version.
- The melody of the song was used in Nazi-occupied Poland in a popular street chant "Teraz jest wojna" ("Now there is war") sung by street musicians and resistance movement .
- The interpretation of Ibrahim Ferrer's composition titled "De camino a la vereda" found on the album Buena Vista Social Club includes an allusion to the song.
Cielito lindo huasteco
"Cielito Lindo" should not be confused with another popular and traditional song called "Cielito lindo huasteco" also known as "Cielito lindo" from La Huasteca in Mexico. This song, distinctly different from the common version above, has been played by many conjuntos huastecos, as it is considered one of the most popular Son Huasteco or Huapango songs.
Sometimes mariachis perform both versions of "Cielito Lindo" and "Cielito lindo huasteco" which are completely different, thus creating some confusion about both.
- "México Lindo y Querido", another traditional Mexican song
- "Biografía de Quirino Mendoza y Cortés" (in Spanish). Mexico: Sociedad de Autores y Compositores de México (SACM). Retrieved 2009-09-28.
- Arturo Ortega Morán, ¡Hasta que me cayó el veinte!: Cielito lindo, El Porvenir, 30 October 2005
- "Top Grammy Winners". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Publishing). 22 February 1990. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- Melodic translation to English by David Bangs: text & music for sing along.
- Mariachi Vargas performs Cielito lindo and Cielito lindo huasteco
- Conjunto Huasteco Los Camperos de Valles performs Cielito lindo huasteco