Inside: A guide to the classic Spanish songs that made history and shape Latin music today.
Some songs run in your veins. They take you home, your heart swells with memories, and maybe you can’t help but go grab your dancing shoes.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I’ve gathered a list of those songs here: 25 traditional songs in Spanish everyone should know.
The Latin music scene is so varied it’s not easy to make a list like this! But all the songs here are among the greats.
If you know these, you’ll have a solid intro to music in Spanish across its many different genres.
I had to leave out some of my own favorites to concentrate on just the most famous Spanish songs for you!
Related: The Best Spanish Love Songs
25 CLASSIC SPANISH SONGS
This lists includes the classics as represented by various styles, regions, and time periods.
Get ready to be transported around the world as we take our tour of these iconic songs.
Guantanamera is is a classic folk song from Cuba, written in 1929 and based on a José Martí poem. The version below is performed by Celia Cruz, the legendary Cuban singer known as “The Queen of Salsa” and also famous for her song La Vida es un Carnaval.
The tune has evolved through the years and used in struggles for peace and justice across Latin America and the U.S. It has been recorded by a remarkably long and diverse list of artists, including Joan Baez, the Fugees, Jimmy Buffett, Jose Feliciano, Julio Iglesias, Pete Seeger, and numerous others– Live About
This rumba-flamenca classic was penned in 1987 and performed by a Gitano-French group, the Gipsy Kings. Some of the lyrics were borrowed from the Venezualan folk song Caballo viejo. The word bamboléo means to sway, as when dancing. Though the group is French, they were very influenced by Spanish culture.
3. La bamba
La Bamba represents a historical crossover between music in Mexico and the United States.
It was the late 1950s when a 17-year-old boy took an old Mexican folk song and set it to a rock ‘n’ roll beat. La Bamba” made rock ‘n’ roll history when it became the first Latin-based song to cross over to the pop and rock audience. That teen-ager, Ritchie Valens, was made famous.– NPR
Although Ritchie Valens died tragically in a plane crash at a young age, this catchy tune remains one of the most iconic Spanish songs on a global scale. The 1987 cover by Los Lobos is one of the only three Spanish-language songs to be No 1. in America.
4. Los caminos de la vida
From Colombia, Los caminos de la vida is a classic example of a “vallenato,” or in this case, a “cumbia vallenato.” It looks back on a difficult childhood; offering tribute to a brave mother fighting for her family.
5. Oye cómo va
Oye cómo va is a cha-cha-cha written by Latin Music king Tito Puente. Puente was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, and his music was a fusion of dance, Afro-Cuban jazz, and mambo.
The song only grew in fame when it was covered by guitar master Santana, and it was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.
6. Como la flor
This is one of the most famous songs from Selena Quintanilla, and won the Tejano Music Award in 1994.
In her short career, Selena dominated Latin charts. She broke into the US charts as well, with her fusion of pop, cumbia, and, dance music. She was known as “the Madonna of Tejano music” and is famous for Amor prohibido and Bidi bidi bom bom as well.
7. Cielito lindo
This is perhaps the oldest song on this list, composed in 1882. The folk song is a staple in Mexican history and the famous refrain “Ay, ay, ay, ay– canta y no llores…” is known the world over. Cielito Lindo is played by mariachi bands, part of countless serenades, and even sung in soccer stadiums.
Querida was composed by Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel in 1984. Juan Gabriel, a flamboyant and passionate performer, was known as “El Divo de Juaréz.” His wildly successful career broke barriers in the music scene, especially in Latin America.
The version below is a 2015 version featuring Juanes.
9. Bésame mucho
In 1941, Consuelo Velázquez composed this famous love song at just 25 years old. Despite the passionate lyrics, she says she had never been kissed at the time of writing the lyrics.
Bésame Mucho” is not so much an enduring standard as a global phenomenon. Translated into dozens of languages and performed by hundreds of artists, the song has been an emblem of Latin identity, an anthem of lovers separated by World War II and perennial grist for lounge singers everywhere.– The New York Times
10. De música ligera
Soda Stereo is likely the most influential and classic rock band in Latin America. The Argentinian group received an MTV Legend Award and sold over 20 million albums. According to Google Arts and Culture, their 1990 song De música ligera:
…is one of Soda Stereo’s most famous and symbolic songs, whose musical influence has been remarkable in the history of Latin rock for over two decades. Due to its popularity, the song is considered an anthem of rock en español.
Performed by Enrique Iglesias, Bailando holds the record for the longest-running No. 1 spot on the Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart– for 41 weeks. It also received 3 Latin Grammys.
The song, performed with Gente de Zona and Descemer Bueno, is a fusion of reggaeton, flamenco, and dance music.
From Oscar D’Leon, Venezuelan musician and singer, Llorarás is one of the best examples of salsa. It was produced in 1974, with D’Leon and the group Dimension Latina.
13. El rey
A Latin Grammy Hall of Fame song, José Alfredo Jiménez wrote El Rey in 1971. It’s among the most famous mariachi songs of all time, with many covers.
The one below is performed by Vicente Fernández and shows the impact on many different artists.
14. Historia de un amor
Panamanian Carlos Eleta Almarán wrote this bolero in 1955, after the death of his brother’s wife. It inspired a movie by the same name and various covers in year since. Renowned Mexican singer Pedro Infante covered the song as well, which became one of his most famous hits. The cover below is sung by Guadalupe Pineda.
The song tells of a man’s suffering after his love has disappeared. It holds the world record to be the most popular song to be translated and sung across the world in various languages by various singers from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.– Google Arts and Culture
15. Caballo viejo
Caballo Viejo is a Venezuelan folk song, written and composed by Simón Diaz in 1980. This is one of the most classic examples of traditional tropical music, and the version by Roberto Torres y su Charanga Vallenata is included the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame.
16. Eres Tú
Juan Carlos Calderón was the famous songwriter behind the song Eres Tú. It was released by the Spanish group Mocedades in 1974, and was actually Spain’s entry song for the Eurovision Song contest in 1973. The song reached international fame and hit #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
18. La rebelión
This classic salsa song was written by Joe Arroyo in 1986. Though the upbeat tempo and music may make you want to get up and dance, the story is based on a story suffering in the context of the slave trade in Colombia, during the Spanish rule.
Known as “El Joe,” Joe Arroyo is a significant symbol not only of salsa but also in Afro-diasporic music. His Afro-Latino storytelling was empowered through a variety of African beats that are present in Colombian music like champeta and porro as well as styles like soca, calypso and merengue.– People en español
18. Dile Al Amor
Romeo Santos is one of the legends of bachata, and his roots with the group Aventura brought the genre into mainstream music. Dile al Amor hit #1 on Billboard Hot Latin Songs in 2009.
19. La gota fría
La gota fría is an early example of a vallenato folk song, written in the 1938 by Emiliano Zuleta. The version released by Carlos Vives in 1993 both popularized the genre and helped launch Vives’ career. This style influenced many major artists such as Shakira.
Macarena was originally a flamenco-pop song. It was written in 1992 by two Spanish musicians, Antonia Romero and Rafael Ruiz, under their group name Los Del Rio. An American label released an English version 1995 and it exploded in popularity the summer of 1996, and hit #1 for a record fourteen weeks.
Although Shakira has more recently popular music, her groundbreaking work and classic sound can be found in songs like this one. Shakira is sometimes called “The Queen of Latin Music,” with a globally recognized name and songs that top charts in both English and Spanish.
Hoy is one of the most successful singles released by Gloria Estefan and won an International Latin Billboard Music Award. The tropical-dance pop song was composed by Peruvian songwriter Gian Marco Zignago and filmed in Machu Picchu.
Gloria Estefan is a pioneer in the music industry, paving the way for other Latin artists after her. She is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and 7 Grammys, and is in the VH1 and Billboard lists for Top 100 greatest artists of all time.
24. Quizás, Quizás, Quizás
Quizás, quizás, quizás is a cha-cha-cha written by Osvaldo Farrés in 1947. It has been covered by many famous artists like Nat King Cole and Doris Day, and Julio Iglesias.
25. Livin’ the Vida Loca
Livin’ la vida loca is an iconic 1999 Latin pop song that took the world by storm. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks and was named on the list for Best Latin Songs of All Time. Ricky Martin, a Puerto Rican singer is one of the all-time most famous Latino performers.
Honorary Mention: Despacito
Despacito is more recent than most that made this list, but its sheer popularity makes it notable. The pop-reggaeton song burst onto the global music scene 2017 and made history on both the Spanish and English music charts. It is the most-watched YouTube video of all time, with almost 8 billion views. Luis Fonsi wrote the original song, and the remix features Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber.
Is it too soon to be considered a classic? Probably so, but it will undoubtedly be included in any future lists!
More Information on Famous Spanish Songs
What are the main Genres of Spanish Music?
This in not an exhaustive list, but here are some of the core genres:
- Latin Pop
- Rock en español
What Is the most played spanish song?
This is hard to measure, due to covers and metrics from older songs. However, Despacito ranks highest as the single most-streamed song in Spanish by YouTube metrics.
What Is the Most famous Latina Singer?
It’s difficult name just one and depends if we are measuring by views, awards, or name-recognition.
Here are five Latinas that must be included in the top 5:
- Gloria Estefan (Latin Dance pop, has sold 70 million+ albums)
- Celia Cruz (“The Queen of Salsa”)
- Selena (“The Queen of Tejano Music”)
- Shakira (Among the most-streamed and Billboard Top 10 in the past decade)
- Jennifer Lopez (Global name recognition)
What Is the Most famous Latino Singer?
Again, these answers can vary. The Latin music has tended heavily toward male artists, and there are a lot of famous names.
Again, this is not a list of the most historical artists, just listed in terms of sheer popularity. Here’s a starter list:
- Enrique Iglesias (“The King of Latin Pop”)
- Daddy Yankee (“The King of Reggaeton”)
- Luis Miguel (Latin Pop and other genres)
- Julio Iglesias (Sold over 100 million albums)
What Is the Most famous Love Song in Spanish?
Bésame mucho is probably the most famous romantic Latin song, of all time.
What Is the Most famous Song in Spanish?
Despacito is the most-streamed Spanish song ever, at over 8 billion views.
Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano probably ranks number 1 for global recognition.
La bamba is probably the most recognized song in Spanish, in the past century.
What Is the Most famous Mexican Song in Spanish?
La bamba by Ritche Valens, or Querida by Juan Grabriel.
What Spanish Singer Has the Most Grammys?
The Latin Grammy began in 1989, so this list reflects that!
Most Latin Grammys by a male artist:
- René Pérez Joglar (31)
- Eduardo José Cabra Martínez (24)
- Juanes (23)
- Juan Luis Guerra (18)
- Carlos Vives (14)
Most Latin Grammys by a female artist:
- Natalia LaFourcade (14)
- Shakira (12)
- Rosalía (8)
- Maria Rita (7)
- Mercedes Sosa, Julieta Venegas (6)
Most Latin Grammys by a group:
- Calle 13 (22)
- Café Tacuba, Banda el Recodo (9)
- Maná, Jesse & Joy, Los Tigres del Norte (6)
- Molotov (5)
- Grupo Pesado (4)
Now you tell me what I missed! Comment with your favorite traditional songs in Spanish below.