Mexican music is rich in colors, emotions, and sounds. It reflects the creativity, sensitivity, and sensibility of Mexican people. The various ethnic groups that constitute the population have unique ways to express their happiness, nostalgia, fatalism, ingeniousness, traditions, and love for the daily little things that constitute life. Regardless of economic, social, or geographical situations, there are no social events not complemented with music: weddings, funerals, religious festivities, patriotic ceremonies, births, the courting or divorcing of a couple. Music is a very important gesture for Mexican people.

As in any part of the world, every Mexican social group has its own sounds, its own music. According to Psacharopoulos , in absolute numbers, “Mexico contains the larges population of indigenous peoples at 12 million” (p. 107). Modiano  said that “Because of the great diversity of languages, habitats, and world-views, relatively little can be said to characterize the [Mexican] Indian population as a whole, except that it is overwhelmingly rural and poverty stricken” (p. 315). This diversity in languages and world-views implies also diversity in the ways of listening and producing music or, using the more accurate verb suggested by Small , every indigenous group has its own way of Musicking. This is true not only for the purely indigenous groups, but also for the mestizo groups, that is, for the groups that have mixed origin: Indigenous, Spaniard, black, and/or any other. It is also this diversity that Mexicans bring with them when they migrate to the United States.

Music is a major means of distinguishing, identifying and expressing differences among the ethnic groups. This points to one of its major functions across cultures: “Music can abstract and distill the relatively unclear and obscure character of culture” (Nett , p. 159). Therefore, we can say that music is not a universal language. Each community has its specific musical language, with its distinguishable characteristics. The communities’ particular ways of musicking depends directly upon the community’s specific social values, ideals, and perceptions of the world surrounding it. Musicking becomes a crucial element to effectively develop ways to relate to each other, to explore, affirm, and celebrate our relationships.

The way in which we relate with each other describes who we are. People identify themselves by means of particular music styles, which is one of the factors that gives them identity and a sense of pertaining to a specific social group. In some cultures, musical “secrets” are guarded from outsiders; in others, music is considered to be owned by individuals, clans, or tribes. Some of this resistance to share music with outsiders is due to fear that the rest of the world will not understand and respect them (Elliott ). But there is not only an internal resistance to share the community’s way of musicking with outsiders. There is also an external resistance to enjoy, understand, assimilate, or even adopt other communities’ music. People do not immediately understand, appreciate, or enjoy the music of other cultures. In fact, Elliott states that music divides music as much as it unites.

The concurrence of different ways of musicking within the United States has had an impact for music education. Within each culture, the means to transmit the ways of musicking from generation to generation may vary. However, what is really important is to involve children with as many ways of musicking around the country, and around the world, as possible. Otherwise, they would miss the opportunity to enjoy, understand, and respect others’ music, and with that, others’ cultures. Children would be focused only in their particular way of musicking. The allegiance solely to the music of one’s cultural heritage represents an obstacle to social unity. It slows the development of a minority’s loyalty to the secular, corporate, nation-state. All symbols of subgroup affiliation (music, literature, clothes, laws, and religious practices) are viewed as impediments to integration and progress. An inclusive music education will reinforce the understanding, respect and value of the different artistic manifestations in the country, helping to create a stronger sense of unity and identity among the diverse ethnic groups, indigenous or not.

According to Zoltán Kodály , there can be no better material for singing than the songs and games used by children throughout their culture’s history. Elliott suggested that a modified curriculum for multicultural education would be distinguished by the selection of music material based on regional and/or national boundaries of culture, ethnicity, religion, function, or race. This music material would be approached from a conceptual perspective, concepts about musical elements, processes, roles and behaviors would be used as curriculum organizers, and are taught and learned as they are taught and learned in their original cultures.

With this understanding in mind, and knowing that the population of students of Mexican origin is continuously growing in American schools, I have put together this collection of Mexican songs and rhymes. Most of the examples included here are songs and rhymes I grew up singing and playing, and I was able to trace them back at least one or two generations before mine. The examples I did not learn as a child were collected from primary sources, from individuals who grew up in Mexico singing these songs, or from collections based on field recordings. Therefore, every example can be considered an authentic Mexican children song or rhyme.

Along with the score for each example, I have included information about the source, a detailed description of the way the songs and rhymes are used in their original social context, and a detailed description of the game, whenever applicable, that takes place with each singing game or rhyme. In order to facilitate the understanding of the meaning of the songs and rhymes I have included the lyrics in Spanish and literal translations into English.

Using my training and profound respect for Kodályian music education philosophical principles, each example has been analyzed in detail. The musical and extra-musical content of the songs and rhymes is organized in indexes that facilitate incorporating the songs and rhymes within a pre-established curriculum. The musical content has been organized in melodic, rhythmic, and structural indexes. The extra-musical content is indexed by song type and subject mater. These indexes make it easier for the teacher to find material to serve specific curricular goals and objectives. For example, the music teachers preparing students in the study of rhythmic patterns containing quarter- and eighth notes can locate the list of songs and rhymes containing quarter and eighth notes in extractable patters within the song or rhyme. In the Rhythmic ­­Index, the teacher can also see the pattern within which the rhythmic element occurs, including the melodic content, meter, and the placement of the pattern in the song (initial, internal, or final). Based on this information, teachers can make decisions about the appropriateness of the song for their particular curricular needs. Likewise, the Extra-musical Index provides the possibility to find songs that address particular topics or particular types of songs. For example, it would be easy to find a song about animals, that simultaneously has rhythmic and melodic content appropriate for the students’ musical level of achievement. The indexes can be found in the website

What I am ultimately advocating here is that whenever we include Mexican examples in music and general classrooms, we use authentic examples, examples that have passed the test of time, and that have survived generation after generation both in Mexico and among immigrants in the United States. Ultimately, the knowledge of diverse ideologies and personalities reflected in the world’s artistic manifestations will help us to understand who we are, and help identify characteristics that both distinguish us from and makes us similar to other social groups. When the systematic organization of the musical and extra-musical content of the authentic examples included in this book are seen in detail, and when the songs have been learned and their social context understood, the personalities and characteristics found among the diverse Mexican groups start to show their faces, which allows for a better understanding and respect for this multifaceted culture. This collection is the result of the profound love and respect I have for Mexican children and their songs and games.

Beatriz E. Aguilar, PhD

Psacharopoulos, G., Morley, S., Fiszbein, A., Lee, H., & Wood, B. (1996). Poverty and income distribution in Latin America: The story of the 1980s. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Modiano, N. (1988). Public bilingual education in Mexico. In C. B. Paulston (Ed.). International handbook of bilingualism and bilingual education (pp. 313-328). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Inc.

Small, C. (1998). Musicking: The meaning of performing and listening. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Nettl, B. (1983). The study of ethnomusicology: Thirty-one issues and concepts. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Elliott, D. J. (1995). Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. NY: Oxford University Press.


Bónis, F. (Ed.). (2009). The selected writings of Zoltán Kodály. Los Angeles, CA: Boosey & Hawkes.

Elliott, D. J. (1995). Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. NY: Oxford University Press.


Dr. Beatriz Aguilar is associate professor at Edgewood College, in Madison, WI, where she teaches courses related to general music education, early childhood music education, music and cultural identity, cross-cultural communication, and piano. Dr. Aguilar has a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She received a MME and a PhD in music education from the University of North Texas, where she also specialized in early childhood music education and was a certified as Kodály music educator. Dr. Aguilar has presented at various conferences throughout the US and Mexico. She is continuously collecting traditional Latin-American children’s songs and rhymes, analyzing their musical content and cultural context.


Aguilar, B., Holmes, A. V., Göktürk, D., & Chen, J. (2010). Assessment “Over the ocean” – Outside the United States. In Brophy, T. S. (Ed.). The practice of assessment in music education: Frameworks, models, and designs. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications.

Overture Center for the Arts. (2007). Spotlight on learning: Educator’s resource guide, Sones de Mexico. [Contributions], 6 – 11.

Devroop, K. & Aguilar, B. (2006). The occupational aspirations and expectations of music education majors in Mexico. Research and Issues in Music Education 4(1),

Aguilar, B. (2004). The effect of individual versus collective creative problem solving experiences on fourth- and fifth-grade students’ compositional products. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Texas, Texas.

Aguilar, B., Ramsey, D., & Lumsden, B. (2003). The Aztec Empire and the Spanish missions: Early music education in North America. The Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 24(1), 62-82.

Aguilar, B. (2000). Music, race and mind. Southwestern Musician, 69(4), 46-49. Texas: TMEA.


Scholarly Presentations

2013                Juguemos a cantar: traditional Mexican songs and cultural identity. Workshop presented at the Greater Madison Area Chapter of the Early Childhood Music and Movement Association. Madison, WI.
2012                Hispanic songs with a purpose in the early childhood classroom. Workshop presented at the Wisconsin State Music Conference, Madison, WI.
2012                Juguemos a cantar: Hispanics songs for early childhood. Presented at the International Convention of the Early Childhood Music and Movement Association, Green Lake, WI.
2010                Manejo de la disciplina para el aula de educación musical temprana. Panel presentado en la conferencia annual de la Asociacion de Educación Musical de Wisconsin, Madison, WI.
2010                Mexican and Mexican-American music and culture: The development of cultural identity Course offered at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education, Madison, WI.

2009                Assessment “Over the ocean” – Outside the United States. Presentation at the Florida Symposium on Assessment in Music Education.

2009                Canciones Hispanas desde la perspectiva Kodály. Taller presentado en la conferencia annual de la Greater Milwaukee Orff Dimensions Conference, Milwaukee, WI.

2009                Music celebrations from around the world: Workshop presented at the Wisconsin State Music Conference, Madison, WI.

2009                Walking down the alley to the other side of the world: Early childhood movement activities from Russia and Mexico. Workshop presented at the Wisconsin State Music Conference, Madison, WI.

2009                Hispanic Songs from a Kodály Perspective. Workshop scheduled to be presented at the Greater Milwaukee Orff Dimensions Conference, Milwaukee, WI.

2008                A song in their hearts: Music for young kids. Workshop at the UW Whitewater Early Childhood Education Conference, Whitewater, WI.

2008                Hispanic Songs and games in the classroom. Workshop presented at the WSMA, Waunakee, WI.

2008                Investigación cualitativa en el área de la educación musical [Qualitative research in music education]. Workshop at the National School of Music at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City.
2008                Hispanic Children Songs from a Kodaly Perspective. Workshop/master’s level course at Edgewood College, Madison, WI.

2008                Combining the Kodály Methodology with Hispanic Folk Songs. Workshop/master’s level course at Edgewood College, organized and presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Center for Music Education, Madison, WI.

2008                Traditional Mexican songs and rhymes for the elementary music classroom. Workshop at the Wisconsin State CMENC mini-conference, UW-Eau Claire, WI.

2007                Mexican art and music. Workshop at the Overture Center for the Arts, in partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District, Madison, WI.

2007                Kodály de colores: Traditional Mexican songs and cultural identity. Workshop at the Wisconsin State Music Conference, Madison, WI.

2007                A song in their hearts: Music for young kids. Workshop at the Wisconsin State Music Conference, Madison, WI.

2007                La evaluación del comportamiento musical [Assessment of musical behavior]. Workshop at the National School of Music at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City.

2007                Investigación cuantitativa en el área de la educación musical [Quantitative research in music education]. Workshop at the National School of Music at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City.
2007                Metodología Kodály en México [Kodály methodology in Mexico]. Lecture at the National School of Music at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City.

2005                The Musical Conquest of America: Who Won This War? Paper presented during the Edgewood College Faculty Colloquium series, Fall 2005.

2004                The effect of individual versus collective creative problem solving experiences on fourth- and fifth-grade students’ compositional products. Poster session presented at the Wisconsin Music Education Association Convention, Madison, Wisconsin.

2001                Empirical Research in music Education. Workshop at the National School of Music at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City.

2001                The development of critical thinking though music education. Lecture at the National Institute for the Fine Arts, Mexico City.

2000                Research in Music Education. Workshop at the National School of Music at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City.

1999                Music Education in Early childhood. Workshop, National Institute for the
Fine Arts, Mexico City.

1999                Piano Accompaniment for the Music Educator. Workshop, National Institute for the Fine Arts, Mexico City.

Martha Serrano

Martha Serrano is a talented and accomplished singer, composer, pianist, and flute player. She studied music at Mexican Society of Authors and Composers; Superior School of Music in Mexico, Center of Dramatic Art in Mexico; University of North Texas; Doblaje Audio Traducción S.A. de C.V. in Mexico; and the National Autonomous University of North Texas. She is a winner of the prestigious scholarship offered by the National Fund for the Arts in Mexico. She has worked with internationally recognized pop singers such as Lupita D'alessio, Daniela Romo, Sasha, María del Sol, Sarita Montiel, Guadalupe Pineda, Francisco Cespedes, Eugenia León,  Juan Gabriel, Yuridia and others. Martha has composed themes for Sesame Street in Mexico, and "Esta tarde y Hombres necios" for the singer Lupita D'alessio. Martha is also the founder of the Christian group Torre Fuerte, and has two CDs as a solist: "Destellos" y "La otra mitad" recorded by NB Productions.

 Contact Information:



Iraida Noriega

I was born on august 16th 1971 in majestic mexico city. My mother Esperanza,is a passionate cuban lover of all arts; my father Freddy was and will always be a great musician and poet; my brother Freddy is a talented filmmaker, and singer; and my son Nicolas is my most absolute joy, and constant inspiration and reminder that love and freedom can dance in the same song.

In 1990 I went to New York and through the teachings of enlighted beings like Sheila Jordan, Mimi Ditz and Bob Norton, all of them teachers at City College, I chose music as my path. Fellow students like Goussy Celestin, amazing singer, dancer, and pianist in New York, and Theo Bleckmann, amazing german singer, changed entirely my vision in music. I was fortunate to be invited by saxofonist Rolando Briseño to sing in his latin jazz ensemble.

In 1993, I returned to Mexico city with a great need to connect with my roots, and with modern Mexico. Roberto Aymes, a well known doble-bass player, invited me as a singer in his jazz ensemble, and this opened a whole new world for me in the mexican music scene, playing with musicians of very different genres, in all kinds of venues, that go from Bellas Artes, to pop theatre Metropolitan, to Sala Nezahualcoyotol, Lunario, and all kinds of clubs and festivals in the country.

Some of the musicians with whom I`ve shared music, and have influenced the way I see and live music are Agustin Bernal, Aaròn Cruz, Enrique Nery, Gabo Gonzalez, Emiliano Marentes, Tony Càrdenas, Cuicanitl, Magos Herrera, Eugenia Leon, Hebe Rossell, Ricardo Sanchez, Nico Santella, Israel Cupich, Hernàn Hecht, Tavo Nandayapa, Leika Mochan, Alex Otaola, Diego Maroto, Fernando Toussaint, Jose Fors...and... in fact, every musician I`ve every played with.

I`ve always had the certainty that music will take me to other places, and so far, I`ve sung in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Houston, Colombia and Spain, and I am looking forward to new adventures.

In 2012, “Caracolito”,music with a jazz folk orientation was released. It was chosen by Itunes as one of the 10 best cds of jazz in latin America.

Right now I am preparing two new projects. One for with the trio of bassist Israel Cupich, with exceptional arrangements to songs from the pop world. And the other, is a project with groove and soul orientation with musicians, rappers and poets.
I am also finishing two multidisciplinary projects with great and talented friends. One is called Fragile, together with singer musician Leika Mochan and poet Edmeè Garcia. The other project which will see the light this year is an amazing collaboration of free improvisation with guitarrist alex otaola, where we create acustic and electronic atmospheres for the visual creations of Pio Cineamano.

Very recently, I was invited as a spokesperson for Save The Children, which makes me very happy. On May of 2012 I began a radio show called Effecto Mariposa, for the jazz station Horizonte. I`ve been invited recently to do activist work with Greenpeace and i am very excited about that too. I keep working on my music, I keep teaching, because i greatly enjoy sharing with other singers, and I keep my heart and ears open to listen in to what`s next.


Elementos with emiliano marentes-- Ars flventis-- 1994 Reencuentros with roberto aymes – jazzcat-- 1995 Cuicanitl, voices only-- jazzcat – 1996
Efecto Mariposa – pentagrama – 2000
Viaje de mar—jm distribuidores – 2003
Soliluna with magos herrera – jm distribuidores—2006
Asi era entonces ahora with zinco big band-- judy—2006
Quien Eres tu with enrique nery and aaron cruz—sala de audio – 2008 Ven Conmigo-- judy-- 2009 Caracolito—fonartelatino 2012


Rastrillos-- Homenaje a Rockdrigo
Fernando Toussaint-- La inmensa minoria
Arinda Caballero – Oceano
Maria – Floresitas Mexicanas
Cesar Olguin-- Ni tan solo, ni tan perro
Hebe Rossell –- Para Ser Otra
Restos Humanos-- Penthouse Subterraneo
Homenaje a Fito Paez
Mexican Divas vol. 2 and 3
Alain Derbez – Sonora Onosòn
and Las Cosas Por algo son


Pepe Frank – 5 x 5
Evangelina Elizondo – Cenicienta y sus amigos
Eugenio Paoli – Canciones para jugar y vivir los valores
Cecilia Rascòn – Canciones para niños grandes
Narimbo y Emilio Lomne-- Chiapas, corazòn de la tierra


Erotica de fin de Circo music by Agustin Bernal
La Marquesa de Sade by Vera Milarka
Piensa en Mi.. series of mexican music by Malu Martinez Cantu Dr. Frankenstein music by Jose Fors


City College in New York city
Composition and arranging with Emiliano Marentes
Piano and arranging with Enrique Nery
Vocal coaching with Hebe Rossell and Ricardo Sanchez
and every musician with whom I`ve had the opportunity to make music with.


Workshops on vocal improvisation in Escuela Superior and Escuela Nacional Tonica 2007 and 2008 in Guadalajara
Berklee Workshops in Xalapa
Jazzuv in Xalapa
DIM in mexico city
Arts Center in San Luis
and permanently private lessons at home.


iraida noriega mexico city 55 84 10 32 044 55 42 19 03 27


Julia Melzer, who perfectly captured my dream, designed the cover. Tiles came to Mexico from Spain, as did most of the songs in this collection. Mexicans took the tiles and impregnated them with their colorful spirit. The tiles represent the syncretism between European traditions and Mexican indigenous cultural identity. You will see the following on the tiles: the catrina, a female dressed-up skeleton, represents Death, a frequent character in the songs; the guitar, one of the most common instruments in Mexico; the mariachi, one of the most characteristic music groups; an alebrije, the fantastical wood animal, which also looks like a very colorful pinata; the horse, also brought to Mexico by the Spaniards, and so elegantly adopted by Mexicans. The Mexican toys on every tile replace the flowers usually found in the original tiles. These toys are part of the personal collection of my sister, Idalia Aguilar, who also took the pictures. Julia Melzer, who perfectly captured my dream, designed the cover.