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