World Cafe Guests

WXPN Radio

The premier guide for new and significant artists in rock, blues, and folk - including NPR-syndicated World Cafe ®

XPoNential Radio

24/7 Musical discovery. A unique mix of emerging and heritage blues, rock, world, folk, and alt-country artists.

World Cafe Archives

Join David Dye as he navigates the World Cafe through live performances and interviews with celebrated and emerging artists.

Folk Radio

Folk music radio streaming on the web; Americana, Roots Music, recordings, and stories from folk's best.
Listen Live

Latin Roots: The Christmas Music Of Latin America

December 25, 2012 - In this edition of World Cafe, Beat Latino host Catalina Maria Johnson sits down with host David Dye to discuss the Christmas music traditions of Latin America. One thing that sets Central America's music apart from that of North America, she says, is the fact that a lot of it is made for dancing!

The first song Johnson plays, "En La Navidad," proves just that. It's a classic salsa tune, performed here by Héctor Lavoe; he's one of Puerto Rico's most famous salsa singers, or salseros. Joining Lavoe in the song is fellow Puerto Rican Yomo Toro, who was among the most revered players of the country's national instrument, the cuatro.

From there, Johnson plays a song from Lila Downs, one of Mexico's most talented ranchera singers. She performs "Amarga Navidad," or "Bitter Christmas." The song strays far from the upbeat tone of much holiday music, and Johnson describes its words as a parting message at the end of a relationship: "December is, like, a really good time for you to leave, because I'd like to start the new year without you."

A lot of Latin Christmas music describes other popular traditions practiced during the holidays. Dominican salsa and merengue singer Cuco Valoy's "A Comer Lechon" is an ode to lechon, a suckling-pig-based dish popular in a number of countries; it's often eaten on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve.

Finally, Johnson brings a North American interpretation of Latin Christmas music. "Feliz Navidad," originally written in 1970 by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano, has become part of the popular holiday-music canon, even outside of Latin America. Daddy Mack Blues Band's version adds Memphis twang to the popular tune.

Listen to the Christmas special at

Listen to Catalina Maria Johnson's holiday playlist on Spotify.

Session Setlist:
Yomo Y Daniel Hector / “En La Navidad” / Feliz Navidad
Lila Downs / "AMARGA NAVIDAD" / La Cantina
Latinos Band / "FAROLITO" / Navidad Colombiana – Para Cantar Y Bailar La Novena De Aguinaldos
Cuco Valoy / "A COMER LECHON" / Tira Pulla En Navidad!
The Daddy Mack Blues Band / "FELIZ NAVIDAD" / Bluestones

Latin Roots from World Cafe is made possible by a grant from the Wyncote Foundation.

World Cafe Guest Search

Forget trying to classify them and just listen: Railroad Earth’s Session, and “Katie Cruel’s” importance in music, tonight on...

For the last handful of weeks on Folkadelphia Radio, we’ve been focusing on a featured song, digging a little into its history,...Read More

The ever-evolving Kite Party will celebrate their new record on May 8 at PhilaMOCA

On May 6, Kite Party will unveil their second full-length album, Come on Wondering. On May 8, they’ll celebrate with a record...Read More

Singer-songwriter Abi Reimold celebrates her EP release this Saturday at Hong Kong Garden

Philly-based songstress Abi Reimold – also a photographer and occasional contributor to The Key – will celebrate the...Read More

DRGN King, Family Vacation, Big Tusk, Ghost Gum and more scheduled to play show on Record Store Day at Vinyl Revival...

If you were already having a hard time planning out how you were going to celebrate Record Store Day on April 19, things just got a...Read More

Redbull’s Sound Select pairs Philly artists Embarker and Chris Forsyth with Oneohtrix Point Never

Redbull’s Sound Select monthly feature, showcases local artists across the country is bringing some additional recognition to...Read More