Latin American childlore

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Latin American childlore, the childlore of Latin American countries, has still not been studied to the same extent as that of other countries. The study of British children carried out by Iona and Peter Opie suggests that childlore is more conservative than adult culture. A similar study carried out in a Latin American country might therefore discover among indigenous children verses unchanged since before the conquest. Or perhaps in a large city, traditions preserved from the civilization of Granada.


The studies done in Latin America are mainly collections. Frances Toor's 'Treasury of Mexican Folkways' has several sections devoted to childlore. On pages 66 and 67 she discusses 'the Mexican toy world.' Included, of course, are the toys made by adults for children. But also 'children are clever at inventing substitutes. They make them of bones, stones, sticks, and rags. Their make-believe world is generally like the adult world, filled with belief in magic and miracles.' ( 67) She briefly discusses the childhood and youth of young people (120) and has nine pages of children's games and songs. ( 261 ff.) Here is an example of a children's circle dance,

  Sweet orange, divided lemon
  Tell Mary not to lie down.
  Mary, Mary she did lie down;
  Death came and carried her off. (271)

Vincente T. Mendoza has published a book in Spanish of some 193 children's songs of Mexico.(Mendoza) The songs, with words and music, are organized into groups such as cradle songs, religious songs, children's games, songs that can go on forever, story songs, and nonsense and miscellaneous songs. For example, a popular song, this version from the Valley of Teotihuacan, that has the flavor but quite different lyrics from The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is La Rana.

  Cuando la rana quiere gozar,
  viene el sapo y la hace llorar. (bis)
  El sapo a la rana;
  La rana al aqua;
  Se echa a nadar.
  Cuando el sapo quiere gozar,
  viene el mosca y lo hace llorar. (bis)
  El mosca al sapo;
  El sapo a la rana

The final verse of the eleven that Mendoza records is,

  Cuando la muerte quiere gozar,
  Viene Dios y la hace llorar. (bis)
  Dios a la muerte;
  La rana al agua
  Se echa a nadar.(185)

Judy Sierra and Robert Kaminski have written a book of children's traditional games from 137 countries and cultures. The games from Latin America include games that were introduced to the native peoples by the Spanish and games introduced to the Spanish by the native peoples as well as traditional games of the two communities still played within those communities.

Finally, Herbert Halpert has published a Childlore bibliography (Halpert) which while 'concentrating particularly on England and Scotland' includes 'a smattering from other continents, concluding with the West Indies and Latin America.' (205)


  • Grider, Sylvia Ann. 'The Study of Children's Folklore.' Western Folklore 39.3, Children's Folklore (1980): 159-69.
  • Halpert, Herbert. 'Childlore Bibliography: A Supplement.' Western Folklore 41.3 (1982): 205-28.
  • Mendoza, Vicente T. Lirica Infantil De Mexico. Letras Mexicanas. 2a ed. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1980
  • Opie, Iona Archibald, and Peter Opie. The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Trans. Peter Opie. Oxford Paperbacks. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Sierra, Judy, and Robert Kaminski. Children's Traditional Games : Games from 137 Countries and Cultures. Trans. Robert Kaminski. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1995.
  • Sutton-Smith, Brian. 'Psychology of Childlore: The Triviality Barrier.' Western Folklore 29.1 (1970): 1-8.
  • Toor, Frances. A Treasury of Mexican Folkways. New York: Crown Publishers, 1947.