Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Chicken Dance as cultural marker

Our local library has a "Spanish circle" twice a month on Thursdays, where kids can play and a wonderfully energetic woman named Señora Lupe plays with them and tells them stories in Spanish. It's true that Xan really doesn't need this since his daycare person is Ecuadorian and only speaks to him in Spanish, and I attempt to speak only Spanish when I'm alone with him, but it is a chance to hang out at the library and our view is that anything that gets him used to going to the library is a good thing.

Last semester, I had to teach on Thursdays; in the spring, Thursday is my day home with Xan. Angela had been taking Xan and he has loved it, so she reminded me that today was time for Señora Lupe and to not be too late. I had heard about Señora Lupe and the nutty things she did. ("¡Una mano! ¡Dos manos! ¡No manos! Yaaaay!") We arrived early, actually (how novel!) and watched as Señora Lupe got things organized. She put in a CD and went out of the children's room for a moment.

A song came on.

La gallina turuleca
Ha puesto un huevo, ha puesto dos, ha puesto treees...

I thought, Wow, I know this song. But I haven't heard this song for, gee, at least 25 years. The song is patently idiotic (about, natch, a crazy hen laying eggs everywhere) but I started to sing along to Xan with the music.

Señora Lupe came in, saw me singing and stopped. "¿Eres peruano?" she asked.

I blinked. This has to have been the first time I've been identified as Peruvian so quickly, particularly since I hadn't even said anything. "Sí," I said.

She immediately got excited: looking at her again, I realized that I should have immediately seen that she was Peruvian. Indeed, at that moment, I remember Angela telling me this a while ago, although I had forgotten.) But how did she know?

She smiled and pointed to the CD player. "Hola Yola," she said. "My sister just sent it to me for Christmas. I hadn't been able to find it before."

And sure enough: it was the music. I hadn't realized that "La gallina turuleca" is not a song every Latin kid should know; rather, it's sung by the famous kids variety show diva Yola Polastry who, no joke, has been doing this since I was a kid. Think of Xuxa, only Peruvian and less slutty. In fact, I had the very album that Señora Lupe was now playing. (And, with the wonder of YouTube, you can even see her performing it below! It is really dumb. And yet so awesome.) I hadn't realized that my knowledge of this song pretty much identified me not only as Peruvian, but also fo a certain age -- much like my ability to recite the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution only by singing the Schoolhouse Rock tune does the same thing as an American kid. Indeed, my son and I immediately became Señora Lupe's favorites for the entire time.

And dammit if I'm not still singing the song, over and over like an earworm. How it brings me back.


gumdrop said...

earworms sing? no wonder chekov was slowly going nutso!

jensal said...

Any chance you can tell me where your sister was able to find the album/cd? I would love it as a gift for my sisters!