El Corrido del Cortito, or "The Ballad of the Short-Handled Hoe"


Around 1970 the United Farm Workers' Union theater group, El Teatro Campesino, recorded a song about the short-handled hoe called "Corrido del Cortito," which translates literally as "song of the short one." It was also known as the Ballad of the Short-handled Hoe. The song tells of a laborer who worked in the beet and lettuce fields and eventually had debilitating back pain.


Now I will tell you
In this ballad a story
Of the hardships I went through
When I came to California.
Thinking that I would live well,
That I would live in the glory live in glory.

California,s very beautiful,
One of the best states around.
To find work in the fields,
You hire with a contractor.
No matter if you were brought in,
Or if you came as a wetback.

It's hard for the bracero
That comes here under contract,
Because all he ever does
Is work every day bent over.
When he returns to his homeland
He can no longer stand upright.

I tell you this with reason
Because it happened to me.
When I came to California
I wasn't at all accustomed
To thin beets all day,
Nor to work bent over.

I went to work as a thinner
Of beets and lettuce.
I was so enraged
With the backache I suffered.
At the end of the day I would spend,
A few good moments of relief.

I went to work inthe strawberry,
But I couldn't bend down,
In order to straighten up a little
I found work cutting broccoli.
When that job came to an end,
I began to irrigate instead.

In Texas I used to work
At times driving a tractor.
Other times I irrigated,
When the occasion arose.
What I liked best of all
Was picking cotton.

With this verse I say farewell
From this famed California.
If you have not been well-versed,
Pardon my meager effort
But what this ballad expresses -
Are all things that happened to me.


El Teatro Campesino, "El Corrido del Cortito," 1970c.