Farm Worker Songs

SONG LYRICS WITH TRANSLATIONS

Click here for a downloadable version.

 

De Colores
Traditional – Mexican Folk Song
De colores, de colores se visten los campos en la primavera
De colores, de colores son los pajarillos que vienen de afuera
De colores, de colores es el arco iris que vemos lucir
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi
Canta el gallo, canta el gallo con el quiri quiri quiri quiri quiri
La gallina, la gallina con el cara cara cara cara cara
Los polluelos, los polluelos con el pio pio pio pio pi
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi
Canta el gallo, canta el gallo con el quiri quiri quiri quiri quiri
La gallina, la gallina con el cara cara cara cara cara
Los polluelos, los polluelos con el pio pio pio pio pi
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi

 

In Colors
Traditional – Mexican Folk Song
In colors, the fields drape themselves in profusion of colors in springtime.
In colors, in colors the young birds arriving from afar
In colors, in colors the brilliant rainbow we spy
And that’s why the great love of infinite colors is pleasing to me
And that’s why the great love of infinite colors is pleasing to me
The rooster sings, the rooster sings with a cock-adoodle-do (kiri, kiri)
The hen, the hen with a cluck, cluck, cluck (kara, kara)
The baby chicks, the baby chicks with a cheep, cheep, cheep (pio, pio)
And that’s why the great love of infinite colors is pleasing to me
And that’s why the great love of infinite colors is pleasing to me
The rooster sings, the rooster sings with a cock-adoodle-do (kiri, kiri)
The hen, the hen with a cluck, cluck, cluck (kara, kara)
The baby chicks, the baby chicks with a cheep, cheep, cheep (pio, pio)
And that’s why the great love of infinite colors is pleasing to me. 
And that’s why the great love of infinite colors is pleasing to me
(translated by Abby F. Rivera 1/05)

 

El Picket Sign
Lyrics: Luis Valdez,
Music: Traditional (Se Va el Caimán)
El picket sign, el picket sign
Lo llevo por todo el día
El picket sign, el picket sign
Conmigo toda la vida
Desde Tejas a California, campesinos están luchando
Desde Tejas a California, campesinos están luchando
Los rancheros a llore-llore, de huelga ya están bien pandos
Un primo que tengo yo andaba regando diches
Un primo que tengo yo andaba regando diches
Un día con Pagarulo y el otro con Zaninoviches
El picket sign, el picket sign…
Hay unos que no comprenden aunque muchos les dan consejos
Hay unos que no comprenden aunque muchos les dan consejos
La huelga es buena pa’ todos pero unos se hacen pendejos
Me dicen que soy muy necio, gritón y alborota pueblos
Me dicen que soy muy necio, gritón y alborota pueblos
Pero Juárez fue mi tío y
Zapata fue mi suegro
El picket sign, el picket sign…
Y ahora organizando la gente en todos los files
Y ahora organizando la gente en todos los files
Porque unos solo comen tortillas con puros chiles
Ya tenemos muchos años luchando con esta huelga
Ya tenemos muchos años luchando con esta huelga
Un ranchero ya murió y otro si hizo abuelo
El picket sign, el picket sign…

 

The Picket Sign
Lyrics: Luis Valdez,
Music: Traditional (Se Va el Caimán)
The picket sign, the picket sign
I carry it all day with me
The picket sign, the picket sign
With me throughout my life.
From Texas to California, farm workers are fighting
From Texas to California, farm workers are fighting
And the growers a’-cryin, ‘a-cryin’, from the strike they’re knuckling under.
A cousin of mine was out irrigating ditches
A cousin of mine was out irrigating ditches
On one day with Pagarulo, the next with Zaninoviches.
The picket sign, the picket sign…
There are some who don’t understand though favored with advice,
There are some who don’t understand though favored with advice
The strike is good for everybody but some play the stupid fool
They tell me I’m too headstrong, yell too much and incite people
They tell me I am too headstrong, yell too much and incite people
But Juarez was my uncle, my father-in-law, Zapata
The picket sign, the picket sign…
And now organizing the workers in all of the fields
And now organizing the workers in all of the fields
Because some only eat tortillas with nothing else but chiles
We’ve been many years, fighting in this strike
We’ve been many years, fighting in this strike
One grower bit the dust, another’s a granddaddy
The picket sign, the picket sign…
(translated by Abby Rivera 1/05)

 

Pastures of Plenty
Lyrics: Woody Guthrie; Music: Traditional, Adaptation of the old melody “Pretty Polly”
It’s a mighty hard row that my poor hand has hoed
My poor feet has traveled a hot, dusty road
Out of your dust bowl and westward we rolled
And your desert was hot and your mountains was cold
I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes
Slept on the ground in the light of your moon
On the edge of your city you’ll see us and then
We come with the dust and we go with the wind
California and Arizona, I make all your crops
Then it’s north up to Oregon to gather your hops
Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine
To set on your table your light sparkling wine
Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground
From that Grand Coulee Dam where the water runs down
Ever’ state in this union us migrants have been
We’ll work in this fight and we’ll fight till we win
Well, it’s always we ramble that river and I
All along your green valleys I’ll work till I die
My rights I’ll defend with my life if it be
‘Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free

 

Solidaridad Pa’ Siempre
Music: Battle Hymn of the Republic by
Julia Ward Howe & William Steffe, 1861
Spanish Lyrics: Augustín Lira, Luis Valdez and Felipe Cantú
(Sung to these lyrics in Spanish)
Solidaridad pa’ siempre
Solidaridad pa’ siempre
Solidaridad pa’ siempre
¡Que viva nuestra unión!
En las viñas de la ira luchan por su libertad
Todos los trabajadores quieren ya vivir en paz
Y por eso compañeros nos tenemos que juntar
Con solidaridad
Solidaridad pa’ siempre…
Vamos, vamos campesinos los derechos a pelear
Con el corazón en alto y con fe en la unidad
Que la fuerza de los pobres como las olas del mar
La injusticia va a inundar
Solidaridad pa’ siempre…

 

Solidarity Forever (Literal translation)
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
Long live our union
In the vineyards of wrath they fight for their liberty
All the workers now want to live in peace
And that is why companions we need to unite
With solidarity
Come, let’s proceed, farmworkers
To fight for our rights
With our spirits held high and with faith in unity
Because the strength of the poor like the waves of the sea
Will inundate injustice

 

Solidarity Forever
Music: Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe & William Steffe, 1861
English Lyrics: Ralph Chaplin, 1915
(Sung to these lyrics in English)
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
For the union makes us strong!
When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun
For what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one
But the union makes us strong
Solidarity forever…
They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn
We can break the growers’ power, gain our freedom while we learn
That the union makes us strong
Solidarity forever…

 

Deportee
(Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Marty Hoffman © 1961)
The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
The oranges are piled in their creosote dumps
You’re flying them back to that Mexican border
It takes all their money to wade back again
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos Jesus y Maria
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane
And all they will call you will be deportee
My father’s own father, he waded that river
They took all the money he made in his life
My sisters and brothers come work in the fruit trees
Rode that truck till they went down and died
Some of us are illegal and others not wanted
Our work contract’s out and we’ve got to move on
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border
They chased us like rustlers, like outlaws, like thieves
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita…
The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos canyon
A fireball of lightning, it shook all our hills
Who are these dear friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says they are just deportees
Is this the best way we can raise our good orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good crops?
To die and be scattered to rot on the topsoil?
To be called by no name except deportee?
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita…
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita…

 

La Peregrinación
(Agustín Lira, 1965)
¿Y que yo he de decir?
¿Qué yo estoy cansado?
¿Qué el camino es largo y no se ve el fin?
Yo no vengo a cantar porque mi voz sea buena ni tampoco a llorar mi mal estar
Desde Delano voy hasta Sacramento, hasta Sacramento mis derechos a pelear.
Mi Virgencita Guadalupana
Oye éstos pasos, Que todo el mundo lo sabrá.
Desde Delano voy hasta Sacramento, hasta Sacramento mis derechos a pelear.

 

The Pilgrimage
(Agustín Lira, 1965)
And what should I say?
That I am tired?
That the road is long
And the end is nowhere in sight?
I do not come to sing because I have such a good voice
Nor do I come to cry about my bad fortune
From Delano I go to Sacramento, to Sacramento to fight for my rights.
My Virgin of Guadalupe
Hear these steps,
Because the world will know of them.
From Delano I go to Sacramento, to Sacramento to fight for my rights.

 

Roll The Union On
Lyrics: John Handcox & Lee Hays;
Music based on the gospel hymn “Roll the Chariots On; Song written in 1936 at a Labor School in Arkansas
We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll
We’re gonna roll this union on
We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll,
We’re gonna roll this union on
And if the growers get in the way, we’re gonna roll right over them
We’re gonna roll right over them, we’re gonna roll right over them
And if the growers get in the way, we’re gonna roll right over them
We’re gonna roll this union on
We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll…
And if the cops get in the way, we’re gonna roll right over them
We’re gonna roll right over them, we’re gonna roll right over them
And if the cops get in the way, we’re gonna roll right over them
We’re gonna roll this union on
We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll…

 

Huelga En General
Lyrics: Luis Valdez;
Music: Traditional from Cuba
Hasta México ha llegado la noticia muy alegre que
Delano es diferente
Pues el pueblo ya está en contra, los rancheros y engreídos que acababan con la gente
Y como somos hermanos, la alegría compartimos con todos los campesinos
¡Viva la revolución! ¡Viva nuestra Asociación!
¡Viva huelga en general!
El día ocho de septiembre de los campos de
Delano salieron los filipinos
Y después de dos semanas para unirse a la batalla salieron los mejicanos
Y juntos vamos cumpliendo con la marcha de la historia para liberar al pueblo
¡Viva la revolución! ¡Viva nuestra Asociación!
¡Viva huelga en general!
Viva la huelga en el fil
Viva la causa en la historia
La raza llena de gloria
La victoria va cumplir
Nos dicen los patroncitos que el trabajo siempre se hace con bastantes esquiroles
Y mandan enganchadores pa’ engañar trabajadores que se venden por frijoles
Pero hombres de la raza se fajan y no se rajan mientras la uva se hace pasa
¡Viva la revolución! ¡Viva nuestra Asociación!
¡Viva huelga en general!
Viva la huelga en el fil…
Ya saben los contratistas que ni caro ni barato compraran nuestros hermanos
Y como es bien sabido que pa’ mantener familias mas sueldos necesitamos
Ya esta bueno compañeros como dice César
Chávez esta huelga ganaremos
¡Abajo los contratistas! ¡Arriba nuestros huelguistas!
¡Que se acabe el esquirol!

 

General Strike
Lyrics: Luis Valdez;
Music: Traditional from Cuba
All the way to Mexico the happy news has been transported that Delano is different
The people are in battle with the growers and their flunkies who abused and crushed the workers
And since we are all bothers, we share our happiness with all farm workers.
Long live the revolution! Long live our Association! Long live the general strike!
On the 8th day of September the Filipinos walked out from the fields in Delano
And to unite in the struggle the Mexicans walked-out two weeks later
And together we’re succeeding with the march of history to liberate farm workers
Long live the revolution! Long live our Association! Long live the general strike!
Long live the strike in the field
Long live the movement in history
The people rich in dignity
The victory will win
The lil’ growers tell us that the work is always done with a good deal of scabs
And they bring smooth-talking labor contractors to entice and trick workers who sell out for measly beans
But workers with nerve dig their heels in and bravely take a stance while the grapes turn into raisins
Long live the revolution! …
Long live the general strike …
Contractors know full well that our brothers won’t sellout for pittance nor be bought for lots of cash
Since it’s well known that to care for our families what’s really needed are higher wages
Enough brothers and sisters as Cesar Chavez tells us, “We will win this strike!”
Down with the labor contractors! Up with our strikers! Wipe out all the dirty scabs!
Long live the general strike…
(translated by Abby Rivera 1/05)

 

Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun
(Daniel Valdez, Sylvia Galan, Pedro Contreras)
Up to California from Mexico you come
To the Sacramento Valley, to toil in the sun
Your wife and seven children, they’re working every one
And what will you be giving to your brown-eyed children of the sun?
Your face is lined and wrinkled and your age is forty-one
Your back is bent from picking, like your dying time has come
Your children’s eyes are smiling, their lives have just begun
And what will you be giving to your brown-eyed children of the sun?
You marched on Easter Sunday, to the Capitol you’ve come
To fight for union wages, and your fight has just begun
You’re a proud man, you’re a free man, and your heritage is won
And that you can be giving to your brown-eyed children of the sun!

 

We Shall Not Be Moved
Traditional, Based on an old hymn “I Shall Not Be Moved”
We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water
We shall not be moved
The union is behind us,
We shall not be moved,
The union is behind us,
We shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water
We shall not be moved
We shall not,
we shall not be moved…
United we will win
We shall not be moved
United we will win
We shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water
We shall not be moved
We shall not,
we shall not be moved…
United in the struggle…

 

No Nos Moverán
Traditional, Based on an old hymn “I Shall Not Be Moved”
No, no, no nos moverán
No, no, no nos moverán
Como un árbol firme junto al río
No nos moverán
La unión con nosotros
No nos moverán
La unión con nosotros
No nos moverán
Como un árbol firme junto al río
No nos moverán
No, no, no nos moverán…
Unidos ganaremos
No nos moverán
Unidos ganaremos
No nos moverán
Como un árbol firme junto al río
No nos moverán
No, no, no nos moverán…
Unidos en la lucha…

 

Despedida de César Chávez
(Francisco Garcia, April 1993)
Viernes de abril –23 del año ‘93
César Chávez se marchó
De éste mundo ya se fue
Tiende tu vuelo paloma por las montañas y valles
Allá arriba de las lomas ya descansa César Chávez
Siempre te recordaremos fuiste bueno entre los buenos
Cumples tu misión hermano con el gran “Plan de Delano”
Ya te encuentras descansando dónde se encuentran los grandes
Kennedy, Villa y Zapata,
Martin Luther King y Gandhi
Y allá nos están mirando luchadores por la justicia
Y nos están vigilando que sigamos en la lucha
Seguimos la misma causa que Chávez nos ha enseñado
A pelear por la justicia
La lucha no ha terminado
César Chávez no murió
Ténganlo presente Uds.
La verdad de sus palabras
Sí se puede, sí se puede
En Keene le cantan las aves entre arboleras y rocas
Ya descansa César Chávez entre su jardín de rosas
Chávez ya está descansando rodeado de verdes cerros
Así quiso Dios Eterno
Que esté con Él en el cielo

 

César Chávez’ Farewell
(Francisco Garcia, April 1993)
Friday in April—23 in the year ‘93
Cesar Chavez passed away
From this world he has departed
Spread your wings dove and fly through the mountains and valleys
Over there atop the mountains Cesar Chavez now rests
We will always remember you honorable midst staunch people
You attain your mission brother with the great “Plan of Delano”
You can now be found resting where great ones are seated
Kennedy, Villa and Zapata,
Martin Luther King and Gandhi
From beyond they are watching us fighters for justice
And they are vigilantly guarding that we continue in the struggle
We continue the same cause
That Chavez taught us
To fight for justice
The struggle has not ended
Cesar Chavez did not die
Keep him in your heart always
The truth of his words
Yes it can be done; yes it can be done
The birds sing to him in Keene
Among the groves and rocks
Cesar Chavez now rests within his rose garden
Chavez is now resting
Surrounded by verdant hills
That is what God Eternal willed
That he be with Him in heaven
(translated by Abby Rivera 02/05)

 

Brand New Life
(Copyright Terry Scott, 2003)
Pedro was twenty when he came from the South
Juanita was just seventeen
They both come looking for work in the North
Chasing that golden dream
Well, they met in Mexicali in the back of a truck
Waiting to cross the line
Both feeling scared and already missing
The families they were leaving behind
But, hey, when that brand new life calls you
You know you pack your bags and you run
And, hey, don’t that new life sparkle just like a diamond
Beneath the California sun
Beneath the California sun
They walked through the desert for three days and nights ‘Till they
hitched a ride to L.A.
Juanita had an uncle in Huntington Park
And Pedro had friends near San Jose
He found work in the fields picking fruit from the trees
And he wrote to Juanita each week
At the end of a year he bought a car and a ring
And he asked her while on bended knee
But, hey, when that brand new life calls you…
Well it’s been seven years since they tied the knot
The ties that bind still hold strong
They live in a trailer on the outskirts of town
With their third baby due before long
And sometimes in the stillness they make love at dawn
They talk about all they’ve been through
And if you were to ask if they’d do it all again
Their answer would ring sure and true
But, hey, when that brand new life calls you…

 

Nosotros Venceremos
English Lyrics: Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan, Pete Seeger –1960;
Spanish Lyrics: Members of El Teatro Campesino;
Music: Traditional, based on a mid-19th Century revival hymn “I’ll Overcome”
Nosotros venceremos, nosotros venceremos
Nosotros venceremos ahora
O en mi corazón
Yo creo
Nosotros venceremos
No estamos solos
No estamos solos
No estamos solos ahora
O en mi corazón
Yo creo
Nosotros venceremos
No tenemos miedo
No tenemos miedo
No tenemos miedo ahora
O en mi corazón
Yo creo
Nosotros venceremos

 

We Shall Overcome
English Lyrics: Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan, Pete Seeger –1960;
Spanish Lyrics: Members of El Teatro Campesino;
Music: Traditional, based on a mid-19th Century revival hymn “I’ll Overcome”
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome some day
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day
We are not alone,
We are not alone,
We are not alone today
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day
We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid today
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

 

El Esquirol
Lyrics: Teatro Campesino;
Traditional Mexican corrido “Rosita Alvírez”
El año ‘65 en Delano comenzó
La huelga por mejor sueldo
Y el esquirol resistió
Y el esquirol resistió
Su mamá se lo decía
Mijo, no quiebres la huelga
Mamá, no tengo la culpa
Que a mi me mande mi suegra
Que a mi me mande mi suegra
El esquirol fue temprano
Su patrón a saludar
Luego le besó la mano
Y ahí se puso a bailar
Y ahí se puso a bailar
Lo llamó el contratista
Y le dijo muy enojado
Si me descuido tantito
Tu me comes el mandado
Tu me comes el mandado
El esquirol fue corriendo
Su patroncito a buscar
Usted que es como mi papá
Mándeme a otro lugar
Mándeme a otro lugar
El esquirol está en Welfare
Dándole cuenta al estado
Su patrón a todos dice
Lo corrí por arrastrado
Lo corrí por arrastrado

 

Niños Campesinos
Luís Valdez; Teatro Campesino
Como a la una, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis de la mañana
El sol calienta ranchos anchos y de luz todos los baña
Y a eso campos van los niños campesinos
Sin un destino, sin un destino
Son peregrinos de verdad
Van de camino los veranos, inviernos y primaveras
Cruzando estados y condados y ciudades extranjeras
Como las golondrinas van bajo los cielos
Dándose vuelo, dándose vuelo
De sus anhelos de verdad
Van a los files de la uva, betabel y de manzana
Y ahí los niños se las pasan todo el día entre las ramas
De sol a sol hasta que llegan pagadores
Dándoles flores, dándoles flores
Para dolores de verdad
Pero algún día eso niños serán hombres y mujeres
Trabajadores campesinos que defienden sus quereres
Y mano en mano tomarán otro camino
Con un destino, con un destino
Pa’ campesinos de verdad
Como a la una, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis de la mañana
El sol calienta ranchos anchos y de luz todos los baña
Y a eso campos solo van los esquiroles
¡Viva la huelga!
¡Viva la huelga!
¡Viva la causa de verdad!

 

Farmworker Children
Luís Valdez; Teatro Campesino
About 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 o’clock in the morning
The sun warms up wide ranches and bathes them all in light

And to those fields go the farmworker children
Without a destiny, without a destiny
They are truly pilgrims
They go on the road summers, winters, and springs
Crossing strange states and counties and cities
Like swallows they go beneath the heavens
Giving flight, giving flight
To their very real yearnings
They go to the fields of grapes, sugar beets, and apples
And there the children spend the whole day under the branches
From sunrise to sunset until their parents (literally, the payers) arrive
Giving them flowers, giving them flowers for very real sorrows
But one day these children will be men and women
Farmworkers who defend their desires
And hand in hand they will take another road,
With a destiny, with a destiny, for true campesinos
About 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 o’clock in the morning
The sun warms up wide ranches and bathes them all in light
And to those fields only the scabs go Long live the strike!
Long live the strike!
Long live the cause of truth!

 

Sources and Background
Most of these songs can be found at the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project’s music page: http://farmworkermovement.com/medias/music/.

See especially links to “El Teatro Campesino”, “Luis Valdez & El Teatro Campesino”, “Thunderbird Records”, “Alfredo Figueroa”, and “Terry Scott” for a variety of versions and interpretations. 

For a list of albums (mostly unavailable) see http://www.crmvet.org/docs/albums.htm.

Contact us

National Farm Worker Ministry
P.O. Box 10645
112 Cox Ave., Suite 208
Raleigh, NC 27605
Email us here
919-807-8707 (office)