Canciones de Cuna: Songs for the Soul

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With babies and toddlers there is always a time when a lullaby comes to our rescue. And yes, I mean rescue because lullabies are fundamental to sooth a crying baby or simply to create the right bedtime environment. These songs are useful not just to lull the baby to sleep but also any little brothers and sisters who may be around.

Lullabies in all languages have put to bed millions and millions of babies, all over the length and breadth of the world. All of them share the necessary elements to put the baby, and even ourselves, at ease: rhythm, melody and story. And that is precisely what fascinates me the most, that there is a story behind each one of them, a story that reveals customs, lifestyles, fears and the unique ways in which each culture values babies and toddlers.

There are many beautiful lullabies in Spanish, many of them with recurring topics such as the urgency for children to fall asleep and allow their mothers to carry on with their domestic tasks. This is the case of Este niño lindo and Duérmete mi niñoAruru mi niño, Muñequita Linda and other similar songs focus on conveying the baby’s beauty, while those with their origin in popular folklore, such as Arruru la faena, speak of the mother’s arduous labor.

Some lullabies like Duérmete mi niño have threatening themes involving wolves and bogeymen; others like Arriba del cielo talk about selling children. Some lullabies, like Señora Santa Ana or A la rorro nene, have been used for centuries to lull Baby Jesus in Catholic and other Christian celebrations. And, of course, there are many lullabies in English that have been translated to Spanish, as is the case of Todos los caballitos lindos (All the Pretty Little Horses).   

Regarding the lyrics, I must say that I love the use of the words “roro, rorro, arroró, aruru” used to denote rocking movement or to say that the boy or the girl is very pretty.

Not all lullabies can be found in books or the Internet. I mean those in which parents or grandparents sing from their own imagination, usually basing their songs on a familiar tune and making up their own stories as they go along. As unbelievable as it may seem, some become part of the family tradition, generation after generation.

Making up your own lullabies could be a fun activity which could help you further strengthen that essential bond of safety and trust between you and your kids, for lullabies are, without doubt, songs for the soul.

What is your favorite lullaby? Have you ever tried creating your own lullabies? Share with us; we’d love to hear from you!

{Image via Jorge Ravines Fotografias}

Adriana Pacheco Roldán, is a children’s books author who has taught Spanish as a second language for most of her professional life. She has always found news ways to teach Spanish, not only as a tool for communication, but as a tool for developing critical ways of thinking and understanding culture, history and traditions. With her husband she founded Heritage Language, a publisher of bilingual books. She is currently a doctoral student of Hispanic American Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. Adriana was born in Puebla, Mexico, and she is very proud of having raised three multilingual and multicultural boys and one girl.

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