This weekend, I went to see Disney-Pixar’s Coco, and I was very curious about the peculiar sound that almost every performer in the movie produced before or after their song. So high pitched, so utterly shrill and attention-grabbing! Luckily, there was a line in the movie itself that gave me the name of the exclamation – El Grito! So, I went home and started looking for whatever I could find about the shout. Surprisingly, there is very little to be found about the phenomenon in English, but I managed to dig up some good scrapes of info, and today, I’m eager to share my little discovery with you!
What is El Grito Mexicano?
El Grito Mexicano (pronounce: ehl GREE-toh mek-see-KAH-noh), or simply Grito, is one of the most typical elements of Mexican culture. The word combination translates into English as simply “Mexican shout”, but it bears great significance. Let’s find out why and how to belt a proper Grito.
The Sound of El Grito
Typically produced by men, El Grito is a surprisingly high-pitched cry with a prolonged initial sound aaaaaah which then resolves into a series of short repeating aye-aye-aye sounds that may resemble laughter. There is no sufficient proof of where the shout has come from, but the most logical version is that it appeared as a battle cry. Therefore, historically, the Mexican shout has been a token of manliness, but women can certainly do it, too.
In fact, El Grito is very similar to various encouraging interjections that many cultures have. It resembles the yee-haw that cowboys do and the repetitive trills of various peoples from Africa. The distinctive feature of El Grito is the prolonged starting sound – one need to hold it for as long as one could and still be able to produce the series of staccato ay-ay-ays at the end. Depending on how it is belted, El Grito can express:
- excitement or joy,
- sorrow, when produced slower,
- happiness, when sped up,
- machismo (manliness), in which case the first sound should extend for as long as your lungs can hold it,
- approval – this version of El Grito resembles short repetitive bursts of sound.
When to Shout like a Mexican
One of the most important occasions when El Grito is abundantly used is the celebrations of El Día de la Independencia en México (Independence Day of Mexico) which is observed on September 16, the day in 1810, when the “cry of independence” started an uprising against the Spanish rule.
However, the Grito is also a very common part of informal celebrations, family reunions, and all sorts of parties. Here’s the list of moments when it would be proper and welcome to produce El Grito Mexicano:
- after a toast speech,
- at the beginning or in the interlude of a well-known song. In this case, it is either the performer or the excited crowd who belt the Grito,
- before the traditional battle cry "¡Viva Mexico, Señores!" (Long live Mexico, gentlemen!). The exclamation can also be concluded with the address “Cabrones”, which the colloquial Mexican Spanish word for “guys”, although it has a way rougher translation (google it, if you are curious).
We don’t know for sure why the shout was invented, but nowadays, it is one of the simplest pleasures a person can enjoy. It’s is free, it gives vent to emotion, and it infallibly pleases audiences! Moreover, El Grito inspires dozen of competitions every year! El Grito experts insist that no matter if you are drunk or sober, if you are a native Spanish speaker or known only a couple of words of Spanish, if it is an organized event or an impromptu challenge in a bar – El Grito Mexicano always makes a good fun contest.
Can you do a good Grito? You can try and belt one right now, and if you feel too shy, feel free to take our El Grito quiz!