De Colores

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"De colores" ([Made] of Colors) is a traditional Spanish language folk song that is well known throughout the Spanish-speaking world[need quotation to verify]. It is widely used as a song in the Roman Catholic Cursillo movement and related communities such as the Great Banquet, Chrysalis Flight, Tres Dias and Walk to Emmaus. It is also associated with the United Farm Workers union, as one of the most commonly heard songs sung during rallies.[1]

History and origins of the song[edit]

The song is associated with Mexican folklore, but it is not known for certain when and where the song originated.[2][3] It is believed to have been in circulation throughout the Americas since the 16th century, with melodies being brought over from Spain during the colonial era.[citation needed] Some versions of the lyrics sung today are widely understood to have been created by a group of Cursillo participants in Majorca, Spain, after one of the earliest Cursillo retreats in the 1940s.[4][5]

Today, in addition to being used as the unofficial anthem of the Farm Worker Movement and as an inspirational song in Cursillo workshops, the song is often taught in schools in the United States—from elementary school to community colleges—as an example of a common Mexican folk song.[6][7][8] It frequently appears in collections of children's songs.

Common song words[edit]

De colores is typically sung in Spanish, but there are different English translations of the song in circulation, and the song has been translated into other languages. The lyrics depict an expression of joy and a celebration of all creation with its many bright colors. Below are four of the most commonly heard verses. Many additional verses (and variations of these verses) are known to exist, some including Christian references and some including more specific to farm life or labor union issues to be used as a rallying-song for farm-laborers.


De colores has been recorded by many different artists, including Los Lobos, Joan Baez, Raffi, Nana Mouskouri, Tish Hinojosa, Arlo Guthrie, José-Luis Orozco, Lucky Diaz, Justo Lamas, Baldemar Velasquez, Tara Strong, Rachael Cantu, Pete Seeger, and Tao Rodríguez-Seeger; and has been referenced in the Flobots song "Handlebars".

In novels[edit]

In Alison Mackie's novel The Gypsy Chronicles, the saintly character Angicaro sings "De colores" on a bus.[citation needed] The power and grace of "De colores" moves through the bus like a wave, and it is not long before everyone, including an unsavory gang of thugs trying to cause trouble, are holding hands, singing and swaying in the tradition of "De Colores", brought together in spirit by the song's powerful grace.


  1. ^ Azcona, Stevan (2008). Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979 (Ph.D.). University of Texas at Austin. pp. 108–109. ISBN 054973886X. OCLC ProQuest id number 9780549738862. 
  2. ^ Serge Séguin (Feb 23, 2012). "Cursillo Movement FAQ: What is the origin of "De Colores"?". French Speaking Cursillo Movement of Canada. Retrieved April 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ Kidd, Allison. "Union Access to Migrant Farmworkers: The Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Cucumber Farmers, and Farmworkers". The Labor Lawyer 20 (3 (Winter/Spring 2005)): 339–361. 
  4. ^ Azcona, Stevan (2008). Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979 (Ph.D.). University of Texas at Austin. pp. 108–109. ISBN 054973886X. 
  5. ^ Commentary on De Colores by Kathy Murguía and Abby Rivera (PDF) (Media notes). Terry Scott. Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 2004. p. 6. id. 
  6. ^ McGuire, Kenneth. "Common Songs of the Cultural Heritage of the United States: A Compilation of Songs That Most People "Know" and "Should Know"". Journal of Research in Music Education 48 (4 (Winter 2000)): 310–322. doi:10.2307/3345366. 
  7. ^ Lum, Chee-Hoo; Shehan Campbell, Patricia. "The Sonic Surrounds of an Elementary School". Journal of Research in Music Education 55 (1 (Spring 2007)): 31–47. doi:10.1177/002242940705500104. 
  8. ^ Trapp, Elizabeth. "Break down Inhibitions and Build up Understanding with Music, Music, Music". Hispania 74 (2 (May 1991)): 437–438. doi:10.2307/344857.