La Raspa

Cinco de Mayo is next week, so many music teachers will be excited to pull out La Raspa and teach it to their students. Please consider why you are doing this with your students. Is it just for a fun folk dance? If that is your only answer, please reconsider.

Teaching international folk dance is a wonderful way to get world music into the classroom, but we need to learn more about it before we teach it. If we don’t, it turns from cultural appreciation into cultural appropriation. Again, please consider why you are teaching a song like this and make sure you learn about its origins. Please see the history section of this post for more information and why La Raspa in particular can be a potentially tricky piece to use in music classrooms.

Suggested Grade Levels: Prekindergarten, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade

Many Americans are familiar with this popular mariachi tune. Many of us call it The Mexican Hat Dance. Many of us are wrong. This song is actually called La Raspa and is commonly mistaken as The Mexican Hat Dance even though they are two completely different pieces.

La Raspa allegedly originated in Veracruz, a major port city off of the Gulf of Mexico. It is possible that the melody is an amalgamation of traditional Mexican folk music, but the dance to it was created with a mixture of Aztec, Spanish, Mayan, and European dance movements.

There are some recordings that have lyrics to accompany the song. You can see those lyrics here.

Formation: This piece follows a rondo form (A B A C A D A E A, with fewer or more verses depending on the recording). For the purposes of the dance, we will only be referring to the chorus and the verse.

Hop on left foot and present right heel forward, hop on left foot and present left heel forward, hop on left foot and present right heel forward, two fast claps.
Repeat 7 more times while alternating feet (total of 8 times).

Walk or skip in a circle for 16 beats, switch and walk or skip the other way for 16 beats (total of 32 beats). This is a good version for socially distanced dancing.

Repeat until the end of the song.

Modifications: For older students, you can have them link elbows and skip during the verse sections. You could also have them in small groups and create a start formation (all students with one hand in the middle of the circle) that moves during the verses.

Classroom Applications:
–Good as an introductory folk dance
–Learning music/dance from another culture
–Improving coordination
–Opportunity to discuss cultural implications of a dance
–Example of rondo form

Recording of La Raspa
Video of children performing La Raspa


–Carnie, A. (2015, June 9). La raspa (Mexico). Folk Dance Musings.

–Eltuco25. (2012, June 2). La raspa [Video]. YouTube.

History of the la raspa folk dance. (2011, June 6). Folk Dance World.

–Orozco, J. (2020). La raspa [Song]. On ¡Muévete! Songs for a healthy mind in a healthy body [Album]. Smithsonian Folkways.

–Qui, F. (2014, December 7). Mexican dance performance (La raspa 12/06/2014) [Video]. YouTube.

–Thompson, B. (n.d.). La raspa. Beth’s Notes.

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