A decima is a ten-line stanza of poetry, and the song form generally consists of forty-four lines (an introductory four-line stanza followed by four ten-line stanzas). It is also called “espinela” after its founder, Vicente Espinel (1550–1624), a Spanish writer and musician of the Soglo de Oro.

The decima deals with a wide range of subject matter, including themes that are philosophical, religious, lyrical, and political. Humorous decimas typically would satirize an individual’s weakness or foolish act. A decimero would frequently challenge the target of the satire or his/her defender to respond in kind with a decima, thereby setting up a song duel that tested the originality and wit of contending composers.

The decima in all Latin America and in Spain is a style of poetry that is octosyllabic (8 syllables) and has 10 lines to the stanza. The rhyming scheme is ABBAACCDDC. It is spoken, sung and written throughout Latin America with variations in different countries. It is often improvised.


Read the poem ‘Masked Life’ on the site that’s written in the Latin American decima style.

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