La Cucaracha (“The Cockroach”) is a traditional Spanish-language folk song. It is unknown when the song came about. It is very popular in Mexico, and was especially so during the Mexican Revolution. Many alternative stanzas exist. The basic song describes a cockroach who cannot walk. The song has been performed widely. The song’s earliest lyrics, from which its name is derived, concern a cockroach that has lost one of its six legs and is struggling to walk with the remaining five. The cockroach’s uneven, five-legged gait is imitated by the song’s original 5/4 meter, formed by removing one upbeat (corresponding to the missing sixth leg) from the second half of a 6/4 measure:
La cu-ca- | ra-cha, la cu-ca-ra-cha
| ya no pue-de ca-mi-nar
por-que no | tie-ne, por-que le fal-ta
| u-na pa-ta de a-trás.— [nb 1]
(“The cockroach, the cockroach / can no longer walk / because he doesn’t have, because he lacks / a hind leg”; these lyrics form the basis for the refrain of most later versions. Syllables having primary stress are in boldface; syllables having secondary stress are in roman type; unstressed syllables are in italics. Measure divisions are independent of text line breaks and are indicated by vertical barlines; note that the refrain begins with an anacrusis/”pickup”.)
Many later versions of the song, especially those whose lyrics do not mention the cockroach’s missing leg(s), extend the last syllable of each line to fit the more familiar 6/4 meter.
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