Quincho Barrilete Translation/Analysis

Song By: Carlos Mejia Godoy



De la marimba de chavalos de la Tirsa
este tal Quincho se las gana a los demás
con sus diez años no cumplidos todavía
es hombre serio, como pocos en su edad.

Mientras su mama se penquea en la rebusca
Quincho se faja como todo un tayacán
mañana y tarde vende bolis en los buses
para que puedan sus hermanos estudiar.

Que viva Quincho, Quincho Barrilete,
héroe infantil de mi ciudad,
que vivan todos los chavalos de mi tierra,
ejemplo vivo de pobreza y dignidad.

Que viva Quincho, Quincho Barrilete
su nombre, no se olvidará,
porque en las calles, plazas, parques y barriadas
el pueblo lo repetirá.

Joaquín Carmelo viene a ser solo un membrete
que le pusieron en la pila bautismal,
pero su nombre de combate es Barrilete
le cae al pelo, con su personalidad.

Allá en el Open, vive desde el terremoto,
a hacer lechuzas este Quincho es un campeón,
por un chelín, te hace un cometa prodigioso
para ponerle un telegrama al colochón.

El tiempo sigue, incontenible, su camino
y el chavalito que vivió en el Open tres
no volverá a ponerse más pantalón chingo
ni la gorrita con la visera al revés.

Un dia va a enrrollar la cuerda del cometa
y muy feliz mirando al sol se marchará
enfrentará las realidades de su pueblo
y con los pobres de su patria luchará.


Of all of Tirsa’s children
Quincho is goes above them all
He hasn’t turned 10 years old yet
But he’s a serious man unlike many of his age

While his mother tries to find work
Quincho works like a grown man
Day and night he sells bolis on the busses
So his siblings can go to school

Long Live Quincho, Quincho Barrilete
Hero child of my city
Long live the children of my country
Living example of poverty and dignity

Long Live Quincho, Quincho Barrilete
His name, we won’t forget
Because on the streets, plazas, parks, and neighborhoods
The people will repeat it

Joaquin Carmelo becomes a nickname
That they named him on the baptismal font
But his combat name is Barrilete
It fits with his personality

He lives in The Open since the earthquake
To make kites, Quincho is the champion
For a quarter he’ll make a prodigious kite
To send a telegram to Jesus
Time passes, his path is irrepressible
The little boy that lived in the Open 3
Will never put on shorts again
Nor his little hat with the visor backwards

One day he will wind up his kite string
And he’ll happily march towards the sun
He’ll confront the realities of his people
And he’ll fight with the poor of his nation


De la marimba de chavalos - Chavalo/as refers to children. La marimba is an idiomatic way of saying she has many children, as many as the bars of a marimba./Chavalo/as se refiere a los niños. La marimba es una manera idiomática de decir que tiene muchos hijos.
Se penquea en la rebusca - A way to say she works very hard in many different jobs./La mujer tiene varios trabajos y trabaja dura.
Faja como todo un tayacán - Tayacán is used to refer to a strong, influential man. In this context, the boys work ethic is an example to be followed./Tayacán se refiere a un hombre fuerte de influencia. En este contexto, se debe seguir el ejemplo de la ética del niño
Bolis - Bagged ice cream/Helado embolsada
Le cae al pelo, con su personalidad - The nickname that was given to him fits as naturally as the hair on his head./El apodo le queda natural como el pelo.
El Open - Pre revolution Ciudad Sandino was known as "El Open" it was separated into several zones./Antes de la revolución el Ciudad Sandino era conocida como "El Open" y estaba dividida en varias zonas.
Chelín - 25 cent coin/Moneda de 25 centavos
Colochón - Common nickname for Jesus Christ in Nicaragua. Means "curlyhead"./Apodo común para Jesus.
Chingo - It's a term used for when your clothes are too small./La términa se utiliza cuando la ropa se queda apretado.


The 70s were a time where most of Latin America was ruled by US backed dictatorships who tyrannised their own people by restraining civil liberties, supressing basic needs and intimidating the general population by publically persecuting those who were against them by using very cruel and inhumane methods of punishment which often coincided with inevitable imprisonment or execution. During this time, the Somoza Dysnasty had already ruled Nicaragua for 40+ years and the people were growing more defiant of the regime by the day. Carlos Mejia Godoy was one of many who were against those in power and despite the risk, he began writing songs not only of protest but also ones that highlight the daily struggle and resiliance of the Nicaraguan people. His music was seen as a threat so it was played via hidden radio stations that were run by Sandinistas and his work eventually gained popularity due to the relatability of the lyrics and the growing discontent of the ones in charge. His music first gained international success when the song "Quincho Barrilete" won 1st prize at the OTI festival due to the audience resonating with the story of the impoverished boy revolutionary.

The song begins by establishing the setting, the protagonist is a 10 year old boy that has to work to help his mother to support his younger siblings. The chorus that repeats throughout the song acknowledges these acts of survival as heroic and exclaims that he's seen and respected by his community for his efforts. The next verses are riddled with cultural and historical references which are a staple in Mejia Godoy's writing and when understood gives the song greater depth. In Central America and Mexico, people often have assigned nicknames, for example, Vicente/a=Chente/a, Jose/feminine variations=Chepe/ita. Quincho is the assigned nickname of those named Joaquin and Barrilete is a slang term for kite which he shows a great talent for making and often crafts them to make extra money. He is a survivor of the 1972 Managua Earthquake which left him and many others displaced which exposes him to the pain and suffering of others. In the end he realizes that in order to end the vicious cycle of poverty everyone, including himself, must stop being passive and demand to be treated with respect by those in power.

It's easy to see why this song struck a chord with anyone who listened during that era. Poverty is something often seen as a source of pitious shame. Something that automatically makes you weak in all forms. To have someone acknowledge this phenomenon in a dignified manner is not only rare but empowering, especially to those living during this tumultuous time period. It informs the audience that anyone, no matter the age or economic status, has the power to make a difference within their community especially when it's done together. The Somoza dictatorship were outsed by the Sandinistas in 1979 after popular resistance defeated their army and had them and collaborators arrested or exiled. This could not have been done without the music that helped fuel the people who participated. Music that gave common people the strength and courage to fight against tyranny and win.