Dear Mexican: My fiancé is trying to learn Spanish so he can speak to my grandmother when we get married next month. Lately, he’s been listening to CNN en Español to get an ear for the language. A couple of days ago, he told me that, after several weeks of seeing the channel, he noticed that there are ALWAYS chickens clucking in the background of the commercials. He wants to know, “What’s up with the chickens?” and “Is worshipping chickens a Mexican thing?”
Dear Gabacho: Dear Wabette: Does your gabacho not speak English, either? Can’t he ask the Mexican a question on his own? Not only that, but your gabacho is either a liar or mistakenly tuned into the Rural Farm Network for his Spanish lessons. I see CNN en Español and have never once heard chicken clucks during a commercial. In fact, the only time I can recall hearing chickens in the background of any program is when gabacho talk show hosts rant about Mexicans. That sound clip cliché isn’t used exclusively for Mexicans, though: entertainers have associated chickens with the poor since the days of vaudeville, and even famed reporter Borat Sagdiyev unleashed a chicken on unsuspecting New Yorkers in his recent documentary to hilarious results. As for the chicken-worship question, your gabacho is wrong again: the Mexican reverence toward gallus domesticus is reserved for the gallo giro, the fighting cock. Rural Mexicans treat their hens as they treat their women: as purveyors of breasts, eggs and little else.
Not long ago, I attended a Los Tigres del Norte concert at a small hall with no dance floor. The people attending were supposed to sit down and enjoy the music. Five minutes into the music, these jumping beans started dancing in the aisle. Within minutes, half of the attendees were going up and down the aisles dancing to the music. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Mexicans create improvised dance floors. Why do Mexicans love dancing so much?
Dear Gabacho: Anyone who needs to ask why people dance to Los Tigres del Norte—the norteño supergroup that combines traditional polka beats with socially conscious lyrics to create something that’s part Clash, part Lawrence Welk and puro mexicano—has no soul or is a gabacho. How can you not sway to their metronomic bass, their lush accordion trills, their canned sound effects, member Hernán Hernández’s mexcelente Mexi-mullet? Mexican music is among the most danceable outside Brazil because its practitioners understand that nalga-shaking stirs humanity into the realm of ecstasy. Almost all the genres that constitute Mexican popular music—the aforementioned norteño, the brass-band strut of banda sinaloense, son jarocho’s twinkling harps and guitars, even the dark riffs of Mexican heavy metal—put the focus on rhythms rather than lyrics (the exception is ranchera, the domain of drunkards and macho pussy men).
But dancing for Mexicans is more than a mere physical act. Every hallmark moment in Mexican society centers on dances—weddings, baptisms, informal gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries. More noteworthy are the dances held by hometown benefit associations that raise billions of dollars for the rebuilding of villages in Mexico. Tellingly, Mexican society does not consider girls and boys to be women or men until they begin to dance. Once they’re eligible to dance, Mexicans are eligible to take care of their community, too. Mexicans know that dancing solidifies trust, creates community, repairs the injured civic and personal soul. Besides, it’s a great way for Mexican adolescents to grope each other in a parent-approved environment.
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