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The Meaning Behind The Song: Manuelita La Tortuga by María Elena Walsh

The Meaning Behind The Song: Manuelita La Tortuga by María Elena Walsh


As I sit here, listening to the soothing melody of “Manuelita La Tortuga” by María Elena Walsh, memories flood back from my childhood. This timeless Argentinean song has captivated the hearts of both children and adults for decades. In this article, we will delve into the meaning behind the lyrics and explore the enchanting story of Manuelita the turtle.

A Journey to Paris

The song begins by introducing us to Manuelita, who resided in Pehuajó. One day, to everyone’s surprise, she decided to embark on an extraordinary adventure and traveled all the way to Paris. The reason behind her sudden departure remains a mystery, leaving many to ponder the motivation for her unconventional choice.

Accompanied by whimsical lyrics, the chorus playfully questions Manuelita’s intentions, asking where she is going with her “traje de malaquita” (malachite dress) and her audacious stride. This recurring chorus adds a musical charm to the song and invites listeners to join in the curiosity surrounding Manuelita’s journey.

Love and Transformation

During her time in Paris, Manuelita finds herself falling in love with a fellow turtle who crosses her path. However, she becomes insecure about her own appearance, fearing that her age may deter his affection. In a moment of reflection, Manuelita contemplates the idea that Europe and patience might serve as a means to enhance her beauty.

This section of the song reflects the relatable human desire for self-improvement and the lengths we sometimes go to in pursuit of love and acceptance. María Elena Walsh skillfully weaves this universal theme into a children’s song, providing depth that resonates with listeners of all ages.

A Parisian Makeover

In an amusing turn of events, Manuelita decides to visit a Parisian dry cleaner. Here, she undergoes a transformation, receiving a coat of varnish and a stylish French hairdo. With her newfound confidence, she adorns her feet with fashionable boots. The imagery of this portion of the song evokes laughter and showcases the delightful imagination of María Elena Walsh.

A Homecoming Journey

After spending years abroad, Manuelita finally decides to return to her hometown. Due to the prolonged journey, she arrives wrinkled, mirroring her appearance as she left. Undeterred by age or weariness, she is determined to reunite with her turtle love in Pehuajó.

Like all great stories, “Manuelita La Tortuga” concludes with a reiteration of the catchy chorus, leaving the listeners yearning for more. This song teaches us about the power of persistence, the importance of love, and the beauty of embracing one’s true self.


As the final notes of “Manuelita La Tortuga” gracefully fade away, I am reminded of the countless times I sang along to this song as a child. The words and melody hold a special place in my heart, evoking a sense of nostalgia and joy. María Elena Walsh’s talent for crafting meaningful children’s music shines through in this timeless piece. Whether you listen to this song as a form of relaxation, during playtime, or as a way to bond with loved ones, “Manuelita La Tortuga” will continue to be cherished for generations to come.

So next time you find yourself seeking a touch of whimsy or a reminder of life’s enduring lessons, give “Manuelita La Tortuga” a listen and allow yourself to be transported to a world where turtles embark on grand adventures and love conquers all.

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