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5 Christmas songs from Latin America

5 Christmas songs from Latin America

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 22, 2014

Written in 1976 and a traditional Christmas song ever since, this is primarily a kids’ number about riding your little donkey by the light of the North star. Juanes did a popular version (because everything Juanes does is popular), but the version sung by actual children is more traditional, and therefore more festive. (Some people also find it more annoying, but come on, it’s only once a year.) This version, from the 1980s, is cut by a children’s choir from Huaraz, and one of the most definitive.

Puerto Rico: Don Omar – El Tamborilero

One of the best parts about reggaeton star Don Omar’s interpretation of El Tamborilero – in English, The Little Drummer Boy – is the monologue that comprises most of the track, serving as a prayer for the children of Puerto Rico, prisoners, victims of racial injustice, and others, and giving thanks to God. He’s not singing, of course, and it’s one of the most toned down songs in his repertoire, but its heartfeltness delivered with all the intensity you’d want from a man also known as El Rey.

Honduras: El Chevo – Llego La Navidad

Forgive El Chevo for his Zumba association – we need some holiday tunes to help us work off the holiday tamales, don’t we? Llegó La Navidad is that track, and while Feliz Navidad will never be replaced as Latin America’s best-known Christmas song, it has a comparable super-positive attitude, merry wishings in the extreme. Also, great for parties. Ajuuuuua!

Dominican Republic: Omega El Fuerte – Navidad

Alternately, for depressives: mambo superstar Omega could make most anything sound like the gravest event, and Christmast is no exception. The chorus is mournful, but no, he’s just grimly wishing happiness to you and yours, in his characteristic coroner’s croon. Dance in the streets to it.

US: Ariana Grande – Feliz Navidad

This is the only Spanish Christmas song played in most public environments in the US outside of Latino enclaves, and inevitable from November to January. The Jose Feliciano version is the best known, but this clip of Ariana Grande singing it a cappella with her whole family captures its spirit best, outside of the can music pumped into convenience stores and gas stations. She’s not Latina, but she grew up in Florida, which might be why her Spanish accent is pretty decent. And, as ever, her tone is fantastic.

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