“Las Mananitas” and Other Less Lovely Bastardizations of the Spanish Language

“Las Mananitas” and Other Less Lovely Bastardizations of a Foreign Language

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The prompt: What was the #1 song when you were born?  Write about how the song relates (or not!) to your personality.

The #1 song in the U.S. on the day I was born was “Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba Chihuahua (My Bambino Go to Sleep) ” by Perry Como.  Although I would advise against it, you can hear it HERE.

I guess the song, which I had never heard before today, reflected the attitude of most U.S. citizens at the time–that being that any language other than English was just gobbledegook and no one would notice that you weren’t speaking it if every once in a while you threw in a word they would recognize (in this case “Chihuahua”) which at even that early date had managed to blast its way over the border. Somehow, it escaped notice that “bambino” was Italian and “chihuahua” Spanish.

The song itself crosses all borders from innocuous, irritating and of small musical originality to mildly insulting to the culture.  It is probably in atonement that at the age of 54, I myself crossed that border going in the opposite direction and although I, too, butcher the Spanish language a bit, at least I use real words to do so.

So here I am, Mexico, many years later and a bit worse for wear but here to atone for the ills of my birth year.  Do with me what you will.  Stream slightly off-key banda music into my ears nightly from regions down below. Awaken me to the strains of “Las Mananitas” (Little Mornings)–a lovely serenading song that unlike that other silly song meant to lull me to sleep so many years ago, does not offend at all.

On any given morning somewhere in Mexico, its strains may be heard outside some early morning window.  It might be used to propose, to declare love or to honor a mother on mother’s day, but it has also come to be the traditional song sung on birthdays.  The first time I heard it, and still the most lovely rendition I have heard, was in the movie ” Boys on the Side” with Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore and Mary-Louise Parker.

Here is Mexico’s favorite, Vicente Fernandez, singing that song.

And HERE is where you can watch “Boys on the Side”–one of my all-time favorite films.

17 thoughts on ““Las Mananitas” and Other Less Lovely Bastardizations of the Spanish Language

  1. lghoelson

    ‘reflected the attitude of most U.S citizens at the time–that being that any language other than English was just gobbledegook and no one would notice that you weren’t speaking it if every once in a while you threw in a word they would recognize (in this case “Chihuahua”)”

    So true.

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  2. Marilyn Armstrong

    English-speaking Americans STILL believe that other languages are just being annoying if they want us pronounce names of their cities (for example) in some recognizable way. I’m always yelling at the television with corrections. I figure we can at least pronounce the names of cities and countries with something like accuracy. Personally, though, I’m hopeless with language, but it’s a matter of principle.

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  3. Martha Kennedy

    This song isn’t Spanish. It’s Italian. Chi — Shhh; Baba — short for Bambino.To sing nonsense syllables to a child isn’t so strange. When I was a little thing, a year old or so, my baby sitter was an Italian kid and his mom who lived next door (we lived in a duplex). It was pretty popular still in 1952 and both my babysitters and my mom sang it to me as a lullaby. I like it.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      But why the name Chihuahua put into the lyrics? Is that used in Italy as well? Did I get my back up about nothing??? Oh heck, now I’ll have to find a new topic to complain about!!! Ha.

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          Ha! But if I’m going to get het up, it might as well be about something real! Now I have to listen to that damn song again and probably publish a retraction. There goes my perfect record!!! But, truth is served!

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
    1. lifelessons Post author

      I agree. That song was just so inane and insulting. I couldn’t even stand to listen to it all the way through. Thankful it evidently died a fast death as I’d never heard it before today. Thanks, Yeshasvi, for reading and commenting.

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  4. Pingback: Chi Baba Blues | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

  5. Mother Wintermoon

    I grew up in a neighborhood of Italian immigrants and they all LOVED the song. Perry Como was an American-born child of Italian immigrants. The Comos only spoke Italian at home with their children. Perry did not begin speaking English until he started school in the U.S.

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