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The Comical Yet Moral Message Found in Selena’s “La Carcacha”

Cover art of Selena's "La Carcacha"

Happy #SongLyricsSunday! It is a really hot Sunday with temperatures nearing 100°F/40°C. I am enjoying the day by working on my blog, watching the Olympics, and of course, listening to music. Today’s prompt for #SongLyricsSunday is “Automobile, Car, Jalopy, Vehicle”. Instantly, I thought about using “La Carcacha” (The Jalopy) by Selena (y Los Dinos). I love Selena’s discography and recently enjoyed watching the new Selena series on Netflix. I am happy to talk about one of my favorite Selena songs, “La Carcacha” as its such a fun and catchy song! Let’s explore it a little bit more below!

Even Though He’s Got a Jalopy

“La Carcacha” was released in 1992 as a single off Selena’s 1992 album Entre a Mi Mundo (Enter My World), which the infamous song “Como La Flor” is from. The upbeat and fun song was written by Selena’s brother Abraham Quintanilla III and the band’s keyboardist Ricky Vela. Quintanilla wrote the song after witnessing two incidents. One was after he and keyboardist Joe Ojeda saw a broken-down car at a restaurant in Ovalo, Texas. Ojeda told him that the word for a broken-down car was “carcacha” in Spanish.[1]

Another incident that inspired Selena’s brother has overheard a conversation when he was ordering takeout with his new BMW. The conversation was between two women who said they would date a man based on what car he owned.[1] These incidents inspired Quintanilla to write a comical song with a moral message.

Critics were in love with the song when it came out. Many called it a “danceable” cumbia track that has an optimum vibe. It features searing guitars, call-and-response, chants, and Selena’s “mesmerizing snake-charmer vocals” (as one critic put it).[2] Many critics have praised the musicality of the song as well the content of the lyrics. American musicologist Ilan Stavans wrote in Encyclopedia Latina has said that this song is a “vivid poetic portrait of barrio life.”.[3] Another critic has said that this song is a “tale of barrio teen romance”[2] due to the marvelous content of its lyrics.

The single didn’t really gain any success in the charts when it was originally released in 1992. But in 2010, it reached #6 in the US Latin Digital Songs Sales for Billboard, 15 years after Selena’s death.

I love “La Carcacha” for the moral message of what real love(r) is all about inside a comical context. I also love its upbeat, fun, and danceable cumbia beat. Of course, Selena’s charming and amazing vocals take the top prize as she brings the soul of the song with her talented vocals. How about you, what do you like about “La Carcacha”? Listen to the song below and let me know in the comments!

Fun fact: The music video was filmed in Monterrey, Nuevo León on March 20, 1992, and is the first-ever music video for Selena y Los Dinos

The Lyrics to Selena’s “La Carcacha”

Here is the English translation of the song, thanks to LyricsTranslate.com:

One! Two! Three! Four!
People wonder “what’s this cloud of smoke
that is choking us?” Nobody knows what it is
An old car comes honking down the street
with the wheels of a tricycle
and the engine the wrong way around
as usual in the corner, I’m waiting
his faithful girlfriend
My friends are making fun of him
They whisper things about him

Jalopy, step by step
don’t stop swaying
Jalopy, little by little
don’t leave us behind (x2)

Look girls, I don’t feel regret
nor do I feel ashamed of my boyfriend
even though he is poor and his car is old
he treats me like a queen, a real man
even though he’s got a jalopy
what really matters is that I sit beside him
He is not handsome either
but he is a faithful boyfriend

Jalopy, step by step
don’t stop swaying
Jalopy, little by little
don’t leave us behind (x2)

Everybody, hands up in the air
and singing:

Jalopy, step by step
don’t stop swaying
Jalopy, little by little
don’t leave us behind

Here are the Spanish lyrics:

Que humadera que nos viene ahogando
La gente se pregunta nadie sabe qué es
Un carro viejo que viene pitando
Con llantas de triciclo y el motor al revés
En la esquina yo esperando
Como siempre su novia fiel
Mis amigas se estan burlando
Murmuran cosas de él

Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcacha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar
Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcacha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar

Miren muchachas que no me arrepiento
Y tampoco me avergüenzo yo de mi galán
Aunque sea pobre y tenga un carro viejo
Me trata como reina
Un hombre de verdad
Y aunque tenga una carcacha
Lo que importa es que voy con él
Tampoco será el más guapo
Pero si es mi novio fiel

Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcacha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar
Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcacha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar

Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcaha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar
Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcaha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar

Todo mundo con las manos en alto
Y diciendo

Carcaha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar
Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcaha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar
Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcaha, poco a poquito
No nos vayas a dejar
Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear



The Rules for #SongLyricsSunday

(This challenge is currently hosted by the generous Jim Adams.)

Anyone can participate in #SongLyricsSunday, even if you aren’t a music blogger! If you want to participate, here are the rules:


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References

[1] Quintanilla, Selena (1992). Entre a Mi Mundo (Media notes). A.B. Quintanilla (producer), Suzette Quintanilla (spoken liner notes producer). EMI Latin.

[2] Patoski, Joe Nick (1996). Selena: Como La Flor. Boston: Little Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-69378-2.

[3] Stavans, Ilan (2005). Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, And Society In The United States (4th ed.). Danbury, CT: Grolier Academic Reference. ISBN 0-7172-5815-7.

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