22 December 2012

A Wonderful Gift

Today I received a nice surprise. It was a note from my friend Javier Camarena that included a You Tube Video that he made that is an audio visual description of some of the delightful traditions of Christmas here in Mexico. His note reads as follows:

Dear Bob,  I have been reading your blog constantly and I`m impressed  with your writhing  and your research, I didn’t  want to pass the opportunity to wish you end Gina a  Merry Christmas, so I`m sending you a “Tarjeta Navideña” that I made with Villancicos that I remember from my youth and images that make me remember my Childhood in Irapuato, I sincerely hope you like it. Again Feliz Navidad y Venturoso Año Nuevo 2013 to you and your Family. Javier Camarena


Please visit "The blog of Javier Camarena" which is written in Spanish and dedicated to the town of Irapuato.

Thank you Javier and may the Lord grant me my wish that you and your family have a very blessed Christmas and that the New Year brings you peace, prosperity, harmony and joy. Amen!

19 December 2012

The Morning Guy

Every morning my wife Gina and I watch a news/commentary program called "El Mañanero", or "The Morning Guy" (or also "Early Show"). It is a bit newsy but also a bit ribald and it pokes fun at life in general and particularly politicians. The star of the show is a man named Victor Trujillo who appears in clown makeup and calls himself "El Brozo", which is a play on words of the name "Bozo" as in "Bozo the Clown" who was a beloved figure in Mexico as well as in the United States and Canada. El Brozo, however, has green hair while Bozo the Clown's hair was red.

Victor Trujillo created the character "Brozo, El Payaso Tenebroso" (Brozo, the Creepy Clown) in 1988 as a parody of Bozo for a TV Azteca program with Ausencio Cruz called La Caravana (The Caravan). He pleased the audience with double-entendres and adult humor. He became so popular that TV Azteca asked him to join the reporters and anchors during coverage of the FIFA World Cup in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002. He also gave his commentary on the Olympics, starting with the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain until the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. From 2002 to 2004, Trujillo as Brozo, was anchor of a popular and successful TV news show, El Mañanero. It was broadcast on Canal 40 XHTVM-TV and later Televisa. Trujillo discontinued the Brozo character following the death of his wife, producer Carolina Padilla, but brought back Brozo in a new TV program that began in early 2006. He is an influential political commentator.

Here is his tongue in-cheek morning "prayer" that he sings in a pseudo Gregorian Chant. He calls it "Oración contra todo mal" (Prayer against all evil). I added a rough English translation to the end of each line.

Oración en El Mañanero
de Victor Trujillo, El Brozo

"Santa Pascuala, 
que no me alcance una bala. (that a bullet doesn't reach me)

Santa Antonieta, 
que no me quiten mi camioneta, (that they don't steal my pickup)

San Macario,
que no me persiga un sicario, (that a hit man doesn't follow me)

San Andrés 
líbrame de un secuestro exprés, (deliver me from a snatch and grab kidnapping)

San Abulón ,
líbrame de un levantón, (deliver me from a high-jacking)

San Timoteo,
que no me toque un tiroteo, (keep me from being shot in a drive by)

San Federico,
que no me rompan el hocico, (keep them from breaking my face)

Santa Librada,
que no me caiga una granada y me lleve la chingada. (keep me from being blown to hell by a falling grenade)


16 December 2012

What is your purpose?

Many years ago when I first became a supervisor over a group of my fellow workers I had a bit of trouble learning the ropes. The problem was how to keep the work moving along moving and make sure that things didn't bog down. An old timer gave me some valuable advice. He said, "Just remember that many times workers unconsciously act just like cattle and it is your job to keep them from bunching up". He was right. When several workers find themselves in close proximity they tend to either start bickering or they start socializing and that takes the focus off of the job at hand. Later on I read somewhere that too many people have no real purpose to focus on. They are like cattle who do nothing but eat the grass that grows up underfoot out of their own excrement. Yucko! It seems to me that those people might be giving the poor cattle a bad name. The point is that without a purpose and a focus we are somewhat like cattle. Why do we get up in the morning and why does anyone care? There just has to be more to life than primordial routine body functions. This video by Simon Sinek provides some food for thought, but don't worry...it isn't grass.

15 December 2012

What motivates YOU?

I have recently turned the corner on my 65th birthday and at the end of the coming year 2013 I plan to retire...if God grants me the license to do so. Like the countless multitude who have preceded me I am now thinking about how to spend the rest of my life. I came across this motivational video from RSA Animate that talks about something that I have always believed in and that none of my employers seemed to understand...that money is a necessary evil and beyond providing the basic necessities of life it ceases to be a great motivator for many intelligent people. There is something else that is much more important. I am sharing this video in the hope that there are others out there who share the same view that I do. In fact, I'm sure that there are. Please stand up and be counted.

01 October 2012

Mouseland Revisited

I am very fond of the famous "Mouseland" speech of the beloved Canadian politician Tommy Douglas who is considered the "Father of Canadian Health Care". He is so admired in Canada that in a poll taken by the Canadian Broadcasting System in 2004 he was named "The Greatest Canadian of All Time". The Mouseland story was told by Tommy Douglas in 1944 but it is so apropos of the coming presidential election in November that I want to share it with you again. Tommy used this story many times to show in a humorous way how voters fail to recognize that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives are truly interested in what matters to ordinary citizens, yet people continue to vote for them. Perhaps the next time around we will have a winning third party candidate if we can ever find a popular Libertarian without a loose screw or a well-meaning Socialist like Tommy who doesn't give the people the communist scare.

08 September 2012

Serendipitous News

I have a new blogging partner. His name is Javier Camarena. He is a native of my adopted city of Irapuato, Guanajuato, México which I like to characterize in Spanish as "mi patria chica", or in other words, "my little homeland" or "my little home turf". However, Javier now lives in Chicago, the city where I was born and raised and we have discovered that in effect we have traded places. He, like me, is very interested in history and he has begun a blog called "IrapuatoJaCa" which stands for "Irapuato - Javier Camarena" and it is written in Spanish. He is going to translate some of my blog posts into Spanish and place them on his blog in order to share with his family and friends various tidbits of Mexican history and culture that I have discovered. I welcome all of my fellow students of Spanish to visit his blog and see what he has to offer. It will be an excellent way to practice your Spanish and learn a bit of Mexican history and culture at the same time. I hope to translate some of his own original blog posts into English and post them here as well. You can access Javier's beautiful blog by clicking on this link: IrapuatoJaCa

Here is the introduction to Javier's latest blog post called "Muéganos" which I greatly appreciate. I have added an English translation below:

El presente post es una labor mancomunada entre el Sr. Bob Mrotek Autor del Blog “Mexicobob” y un servidor, resulta que Bob es nacido en Chicago y con sangre de ascendencia de Polonia, pero residente en Irapuato y con un cariño a nuestra tierra a prueba de balas pues se nota el corazón de fresa que lleva dentro, para nuestra desgracia él escribe en el idioma Inglés para su audiencia que es principalmente de Anglosajones residentes en México, dando a conocer aspectos de nuestra cultura y tradiciones que a veces son desconocidos aún por nosotros, los nativos de estas tierras, yo por el contrarios soy orgullosamente nacido en Irapuato pero radicado en Chicago y por medio de comunicaciones sostenidas hemos llegado a un acuerdo mutuo consiguiendo su aprobación para traducir algunas de la publicaciones que a través de los años ha sacado a la luz en su columna cibernética, la labor investigativa, el esfuerzo, la dedicación, y el contenido del presente reporte son enteramente producto de su dedicación y esfuerzo como autor del mismo.

A Quienes tienen la fortuna de dominar la lengua de Shakespeare les recomiendo que visiten su sitio, es fenomenal la labor investigativa que realiza y nos lleva a conocer aspectos desconocidos de nuestro terruño y nuestro estado. 

This post is a joint effort between Mr. Bob Mrotek, the author of the blog Blog "Mexico Bob" and myself. It just so happens that Bob was born in Chicago and is of Polish heritage, but is now living in Irapuato and has a bulletproof (See note 1 below) affection for our land because it shows the heart of a "Fresero" (Strawberry Head - See note 2 below) in him. To our dismay he writes in the English language to his audience that is mostly Gringos living in Mexico, revealing aspects of our culture and traditions that are sometimes still unknown for us, the natives of this land. I, on the other hand, am proudly born in Irapuato and based in Chicago and through sustained communications have reached a mutual agreement regarding approval to translate some of the publications that he has brought to light in his column through the years through cyber investigative work, effort, and dedication. The contents of this current posting are entirely the product of his dedication and effort as author.

For those lucky enough to master the language of Shakespeare I recommend you visit his site. The investigative work carried out is phenomenal  and leads us to knowledge of unknown aspects of our land and our state.

Note 1 - I sure hope that Javier is right about the term "bulletproof"!

Note 2 - People from Irapuato are known as "Freseros". Irapuato was the Strawberry Capital of the World for many, many years and the word "fresa" means "strawberry". Calling someone a Fresero is a term of endearment akin to calling someone from Green Bay, Wisconsin a "Cheese Head". By the way, it may be interesting to note that Irapuato and Green Bay are Sister Cities.

05 September 2012

Rosalinda the Pretty Rose

Rosalinda (Pretty Rose) is the title of a Mexican Soap Opera that is available on You Tube with English subtitles. This is an excellent aide for English speaking people to learn how to speak Spanish as well as a tool Spanish speaking people who are learning to read English.

Rosalinda, starred by the very pretty Mexican actress Thalía, was produced by Televisa in 1999. It tells a story of this girl who sells flowers and decorates a restaurant. One day, she meets Fernando José, a man who plays the piano at the restaurant. They fall in love, get married, and have a child named Erika, but the villain,  Fernando's stepmother Valeria, desires to split the happy couple up as villains always do and...well you will just have to watch to find out what happens.

Rosalinda Part 1

Rosalinda Part 2

Rosalinda Part 3

Rosalinda Part 4

Rosalinda Part 5

Rosalinda Part 6

Rosalinda Part 7

Rosalinda Part 8

02 September 2012

Men & Women of Science

Joseph Glanvill (1636–1680) was an English writer, philosopher, and clergyman. He was not a scientist, nevertheless he was very interested, and even excited, about scientific undertakings in the last half of the 17th century when for all practical purposes modern science was born. The following excerpt is from a book that he wrote in 1661 which he revised and expanded several times in the years following. Today I was thinking of something profound to say about the passing of Neil Armstrong and the other brave NASA astronauts (including Christa McAuliffe) who preceeded him in his next wonderful adventure to the great beyond.
For me, I think the words of Joseph Granvill say it all:


"Methinks this age seems resolved to bequeath posterity somewhat to remember it: the glorious undertakers, wherewith heaven hath blest our days, will leave the world better provided than they found it. And whereas in former times such generous free-spirited worthies were as the rare newly observed stars, a single one the wonder of an age: in ours they are like the lights of the greater size that twinkle in the starry firmament: and this last century can glory in numerous constellations. Should those heroes go on, as they have happily begun, they'll fill the world with wonders. And I doubt not but posterity will find many things, that are now but rumors, verified into practical realities. It may he some ages hence, a voyage to the southern unknown tracts, yea possibly the moon, will not be more strange than one to America. To them, that come after us, it may be as ordinary to buy a pair of wings to fly into remotest regions; as now a pair of boots to ride a journey. And to confer at the distance of the Indies by sympathetic conveyances, may be as usual to future times, as to us in a literary correspondence. The restoration of gray hairs to juvenility, and renewing the exhausted marrow, may at length be effected without a miracle: and the turning of the now comparative desert world into a paradise, may not improbably be expected from late agriculture."

10 May 2012


I am not a cat lover. I just don't have it in me. However, I must admit that I am tolerant...Nay! I am actually partially fond of one particular cat. I have never seen him and he comes around at night and makes awful noises and he usually leaves a calling card fashioned out of cat doo-doo which I always step on by accident and then stink to high heaven. He also leaves me notes written in paw prints on my car's hood and windshield that I have yet to interpret. Why do I tolerate this cat? It is because neither of us can tolerate mice. The reason that I can't tolerate mice is because my wife can't tolerate them and whenever she thinks that there may be a mouse around the house my life becomes unbearable. Where I live in Mexico, one must always be careful not to leave an open door unattended, even for a few minutes, or a mouse will sneak in. It most often happens when there is a sharp change in the weather, especially just before the rainy season or in the autmn when it gets colder. If I could only know where the cat lives I would send over some catnip or some cat vitamins or something. I worry about the time when something might happen to him and my backyard jungle will go unguarded. I am always careful to check for his calling cards in the morning so that my wife won't step on one because that will be the last of cat's nine lives no matter how many he has left. A man named William Congreve once wrote a line in a play called "The Mourning Bride" that said "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." I would like to add "or a woman who is frightened by a mouse or steps in stinky cat crap". Sometimes I think that life is like walking a tightrope between cats (or women) on one side and mice on the other. I just pray that in my case the Dear Lord grants my buddy the cat an extra nine lives. I will take the crap...one way or another.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. I think that I shall call the cat "Ah-Wim-A-Weh".

09 May 2012

Mother's Day in Mexico Revisited

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 10th, is Mother’s Day in México. It is always on the 10th of May. My wife Gina is taking the afternoon off to go to her mother’s house with a hired helper to clean the house from top to bottom in anticipation of tomorrow’s celebration.  In the United States Mother’s Day is always on the second Sunday of May regardless of the date. In 2009 the second Sunday of May fell on May 10th and so that  year the people of both Mexico and the United States honored their Mothers on the same day. That won’t happen again until the year 2020. Why does Mexico celebrate Mother’s Day on a fixed date and the United States celebrate Mother’s Day on a variable date but both in the first half of May? It's a rather long story. Originally they celebrated on the same date but things got a bit confused along the way. The important thing is that Mothers everywhere get their due. Let’s take a look at how the whole thing got started.

First of all, celebrating motherhood is nothing new. The practice goes way back in history all over the world. In England it evolved into “Mothering Day” which was a Sunday in Lent when servants were given the day off to return to their ancestral home and visit their mothers and share time with their families. The practice did not fare well in the American colonies at first and it wasn’t until after the bloodshed of the American Civil War and during the Franco Prussian war that an interest in celebrating Mother’s Day was revived. A lady named Julia Ward Howe, who in 1861 wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, made a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870. She called on mother’s the world over to come together and protest the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers. Her motive was not so much to revere motherhood as it was to use motherhood as a catalyst for peace. During the ensuing years the celebration of Mother’s Day was disorganized and sporadic but the seed that Julia Ward Howe planted began to grow.

At the same time that Julia Ward Howe was writing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” there was a lady in West Virginia named Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis who was organizing women to work for the well-being of their communities by holding “Mother's Work Days”, which were days when groups of women dedicated themselves to campaigns involving better hygiene, sanitation, and medical care in the small communities of rural West Virginia. During the Civil War she helped not only her neighbors but wounded soldiers from both sides as well and through all that she managed to keep peace among the various political factions in her neighborhood. Taking their cue from Julia Ward Howe, a women’s group led by Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis began to celebrate an adaptation of Howe’s idea called “Mother’s Friendship Day” in order to re-unite families and neighbors that had been divided between the Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War. Her many humanitarian efforts were only cut short by her death on Tuesday, May 9th, 1905.

After Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. The idea for Mother's Day came to Miss Jarvis on May, 9th 1907, the second anniversary of her mother's death, which happened to fall on a Thursday. On May 10, 1908 which was the second Sunday in May, the first official Mother's Day celebration took place at Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. From there the idea spread from state to state and foreign countries as well, including Mexico. In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother's Day, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance, declaring the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. This may be where the fixed date versus variable date separation took place. What had been originally celebrated May 10th had now been officially transferred to the second Sunday.

In Mexico City in 1917 a young man of 28 from the State of Puebla named Rafael Alducin Bedolla founded what was to become an important newspaper called Excelsior. In April of 1922 he invited all interested parties to a convention to propose a nationwide holiday in Mexico dedicated to Mexican motherhood. As a result of this convention the first official Mexican “Día de la Madre” was celebrated on May, 10th, 1922. Guess what…it was a Wednesday! Why they didn’t follow the second Sunday idea we’ll probably never know. If anyone does know, please tell me. Father’s day in Both Mexico and the United States is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. This year Father’s Day in both countries will fall on Sunday, June 17th.

There are various ways that Mexican people celebrate Mother’s Day depending upon their local customs. Here in Irapuato, Guanajuato, where I live, it is the custom to stand outside of the mother’s house after midnight and sing “Mañanitas”, a very old traditional song. It is usually reserved for the Blessed Virgin, Mother’s Day, and birthday celebrations. If the people are wealthy they may hire Mariachis to do their singing or perhaps a small “Norteño” type band.  Some people, who are not so wealthy, band together and go in turn to the houses of each of their mothers with the men singing one part and the women singing another part. It is very beautiful. The night doesn’t end until everyone’s mother has been serenaded. On the morning of May 10th the mothers usually attend morning mass at their local church and after mass the children treat mother to breakfast. In the afternoon everyone gathers at the home of the oldest mother in the family and the ladies make chicken with mole sauce, jalapeños, corn tortillas, and red rice. If they don’t want to cook they send out for “carnitas” (braised pork) which is another favorite dish and it is served with refried beans, tortillas, and rice. Afterwards there is a desert of either ice cream or cake or both. Oh, yes, I almost forgot…there is generally plenty of tequila too, usually served with the carbonated soft drink “Squirt”. It is a special time that reunites the family with the mother at the center. Here is the Mother’s day version of “Mañanitas:

Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David.
Hoy por ser día de las madres, te las cantamos a ti.
Despierta Mamá despierta mira que ya amaneció.
Ya los pajaritos cantan. La luna ya se metió.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte.
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.
Ya viene amaneciendo. Y a la luz del día nos dio.
Levántate Madre mía. Mira que ya amaneció.

07 April 2012

Christ has risen! Hallelujah!

¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡Aleluya! 

               HAPPY EASTER


18 March 2012

It's not his turn...

This morning I read a little item in the paper by my friend Armando Fuentes Aguirre in his column "Mirador" ("Observer"). It was under the category "Historias de la creación del mundo" or "Stories about the creation of the world". The story tickled me because it reminded me of one of the current leading candidates in the Republican primary race for the November presidential elections in the U.S.

I don't think my friend and mentor will mind me repeating the story here with a translation for the benefit of my fellow students of the Mexican language and culture. The story is about the creation of the sunflower which in Spanish is called "el girasol". The word "girasol" literally means "turn to the sun" because the sunflower continually tries to turn towards the sun during the course of the day.

En verdad el Señor no iba a hacer al girasol.
The truth is that the Lord wasn't going to make the sunflower.

Quiero decir que al principio no había girasoles.
This means that in the beginning there were no sunflowers.

Si los hizo después fue nada más como pretexto para hacer luego Van Gogh.
The fact that He made them later on was nothing more than a pretext for creating Van Gogh afterwards.

El girasol, que no sabía eso, se sentía muy orgulloso de sí mismo.
The sunflower, not knowing that, was very proud of himself. 

(En general las criaturas que no saben muchas cosas se sienten muy orgulloso de sí mismas).
(In general, the creatures who don't know many things feel very proud of themselves).

Fue, pues, el girasol con el Creador le dijo:
It was for that reason then, that the sunflower said to the Creator:

Gracias, Señor, por haber hecho el Sol para que girara en torno mío.
Thank you, Lord, for having made the Sun to revolve around me. 

11 March 2012

English Dames

My little step-grandson, is also my godson and we usually call by his nickname, "Chiqui" (CHEE-key), which is short for "chiquito" meaning "little one". He is six years old and like most six year olds he is an inexhaustible bundle of energy except when he is sleeping. He is always looking for something to do so I decided to teach him to play checkers. The regular game of checkers in Mexico is almost the same as it is in the U.S. and Canada except for the nomenclature. Instead of "Checkers" the game is called "Damas Inglesas" (DAH-mahs een-GLEH-sahs) which means "English Dames" or "English Ladies". In English we "capture" an opponent's piece and in Spanish we "comer" an opponent's piece meaning that we "eat" it. In English, when our piece safely reaches our opponent's side of the board it receives the crown of a "king" but in Spanish it receives the crown or "corona" (kor-OHN-ah) of a "reina" (REY-nah) or "queen".

I was going to buy a set of checkers but then I thought, "Nahhh...what fun is that?" so I decided to make a set. I came across a man who was selling large tiles made of "barro", a type of kiln fired clay used for things like flowerpots. I guess we would call the material "terracotta" in English. I bought a tile for fifteen pesos and it was sixteen inches square which was exactly what I wanted. Then I sealed the tile with paint sealer and divided it into sixty-four  two inch sqares with a large ruler. Then I painter each individual square with red or black enamel to make the checkerboard pattern. I used a small brush and a lot of patience. It took several sessions but the results turned out pretty good as you can see in the photo below. When I was done I glued a very thin piece of plywood to the back of the tile to reinforce the terracotta and also to keep the terracotta from damaging any wooden surface that I placed it on.

After I finished the checkerboard I still needed the checker pieces. I had decided to try plastic milk bottle caps when I started the project and I asked my wife Gina to tell all of her family and friends to save their milk bottle caps because I would need a lot of them. I had to make sure that I twelve each of two different colors. She didn't want to do it at first because she was afraid that they would think she is weird. I told her to tell them that she is doing it for her husband and that if she tells them that I am crazy they will surely understand. She did just that...tell them that I am crazy, and one of her friends said to her, "Poor Gina, I think you are understating the obvious". However, the plan did work and I got a big bunch of milk bottle caps after about a week or so, just in time to match them up with the checkerboard. There were two colors that had at least twelve caps of each color and they were light blue and yellow.

To make a long story short every thing came together just fine and we have been enjoying the heck out of this checkerboard. After Chiqui got the hang of it he started learning strategy very quickly and it wasn't long before he was beating his mother and his grandmothers and all of his cousins and to date I am the only one he hasn't beat. It is getting too close for comfort. In fact, the games get so tense that when we have to go to the bathroom we have to have another party guard the board to prevent.... ahem...someone from "accidentally" moving a piece in their favor. If it wasn't for this we would probably both rather pee in our pants than leave the board unguarded.

Chiqui wants to know wnen we are going to start playing chess. I don't think I am quite ready for that. I told him that we won't play chess until he bearts me at checkers. Looks like I better start figuring out how I am going to make the chess pieces.


09 March 2012

Coronal Mass Ejaculation

In the last day or so there has been a very large sun spot called "active region 1429" that is producing a coronal mass ejection (CME). It is sending out all kinds of energy waves from the Sun directly towards the Earth. I am not too worried about it because I have so many other things to worry about right now and the first one on the priority list is the usual "What's for dinner?".

Nevertheless I decided to have some fun and this morning I fashioned a solar protection helmet for myself out of aluminum foil in the style of the hat worn by Jughead in the Archie comics. I put it on before I left the house and when my wife saw it she looked very worried and asked me what the heck it was. I told her about the solar flare and that I was wearing the helmet for protection against brain damage. She said that it was probably too late and that I looked so stupid in the hat that probably my brain was already damaged. I put on a very stern face and told her that I was serious. Then she asked me if I had made one for her too and I told her that unfortunately I had already used up all of the aluminum foil (which was true). Then she asked me what she was supposed to do and I suggested that when she went out that all she needed to do was wear an aluminum pot over her head and then I kissed her quickly and ran out the door. I was laughing so hard that I could hardly drive the car.

When I got to work the shop dogs took one look at me and started barking like I was some kind of Martian or something. The people in my office said that I was nuts but I made up some bogus physics and my story improved with each telling. One person asked me how I knew when the solar rays were beaming down and I said that when I am wearing the hat in the presence of harmful solar radiation I can hear our local radio station XEWE Irapuato AM 1420 ("La Estación Familiar"). I had some of them half convinced but when my boss saw me he knew exactly what I was doing because he is a jolly joker himself and we had a wonderful time laughing about it. There is just nothing like a good belly laugh, especially when you have the belly for it. My friend Luis said that I looked just like a little kid. Yup...and that is just how I felt!

When you leave the house tomorrow don't forget your hat!

01 March 2012

Come fly with me.

Recently I wrote about two boys named Pichicuás and Cupertino playing marbles. I theorized that the boy named Cupertino was in one way or another named after Saint Joseph of Cupertino who was born in 1603 in the Italian town of Cupertino which is located in the southern part of Italy in a region named Apulia near the heel of the Italian "boot".  He was said to have been fairly ordinary Franciscan friar, but he had the miraculous ability to fly without any aid whatsoever except for his own mental efforts and God's grace. Upon hearing the names of Jesus or Mary, or the singing of hymns, or during the feast of St. Francis, or while praying at Mass, he would go into dazed state and soar into the air, remaining there until the head friar of the religious community bid him to come down. For this reason he is considered to be the patron saint of of air travelers, aviators, and astronauts. That sounds pretty cool to me. I noticed that there was no mention of blimps or zeppelins among his patronage duties so I am thinking that there might be an opening. Someday perhaps I could be the patron saint of the Goodyear Blimp. I just need to pray for the ability to fly without an airship. That would be the miracle I need to complete my application for canonization. Hmmm...I wonder what my holy picture will look like? That's something I probably need to work on. Anyway, the feast day of Saint Francis Cupertino is on September 18th which is the day that he died in 1663. The feast days of all the saints except for the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist are celebrated on the day that they die because that is the day that they are born again into Heaven. For that reason I have no idea what my feast day might be since that is something that only God knows but I sure would like to have a catchy saint's name. How about San Roberto de Gordo Blimpy"? Whadaya tink?

29 February 2012

About losing your marbles...

Losing your marbles...

Everyone who knows me knows that I like to sing and whenever I am singing, then people know that I am happy. I strive to be happy as much as I can and there is nothing better than a song in my heart or on my lips to make me feel that way. It just so happens that the first half of the last century was rich in Mexican composers of the type of songs that are wonderful for singing. There were two composers of that time whose songs I like the best because they relate to children and families and the adventures of growing up. The first of these composers is Francisco Gabilondo Soler who is lovingly known as Cri-Crí. I have already written about him and you can access the page by clicking on this link; Cri-Crí - El Grillo Cantor.

The second of my favorite composers is Salvador Flores Rivera who people fondly call Chava Flores because "Chava" is the "hipocoristic" (diminutive) of Salvador. He is considered by many to be the
musical chronicle composer of Mexico City where he grew up and his songs are drawn from real life experiences. Don Chava was born in Mexico City on January 14, 1920 and he eventually devoted his life and work to portraying the personality of the inhabitants of this populous and diverse place. He, more than anyone else, left a chronicle of life in the barrios in the form of songs to document the customs and preferences of his fellow citizens. His father died when he was only eight years old and at thirteen he went to work in a tie factory sewing ties to help his mother support his brothers, Trinidad y Enrique. He started out by sewing the labels on the ties and he received five centavos per dozen ties which was only enough money to buy a couple bread rolls. Little by little he moved up the ladder, first by ironing ties, and then by cutting the cloth, and then by sewing shirts, et cetera. Finally, after years of work, he got to the point where he owned his own clothing store. He wasn't a good businessman, however, and he went through a succession of businesses before he entered the entertainment business. There he found his home.

Before you can really sing a song you have to understand the words and with a song that tells a story you also need to know the history and the related culture. For me, as a non native speaker of Mexican Spanish, this is a real challenge. It has taken me thirteen years of study to come to the point where I could tackle something like this and even then I couldn't do it without the help of my Mexican friends. I suppose this effort is a bit presumptuous of me but nevertheless I found the task to be very rewarding. I intend to translate a number of Don Chavas songs into English and try to explain what they mean because direct translation makes no sense at all without something to guide you. The first song is called "Pichicuás" (pee-chee-KWAHZ) and it is about some boys playing an unruly game of marbles. I translated the lyrics as well as I could and added some notes of my own as you will see below. Remember, these are boys who are playing a game and are bantering back and forth in slang and the song was written well over a half century ago. At the end of this post there is a video that will add the music to the lyrics.

by  Chava Flores

Pichicuás y Cupertino 
Nicknames of two boys in the barrio. The name Pichicuás may have come from a nearby tienda del barrio (small neighborhood grocery) called “El Pichicuás” and the name "Cupertino" may have come from San José Cupertino who supposedly had a gaping mouth.and a habitual blank stare or perhaps the boy was born on September 18th which is the feast day of San José de Cupertino. In real life the boy named Pichicuás was the best friend of Chava Flores and his name was Raúl Mercado.
Se pusieron con canicas a jugar.
They began to play a game of marbles (Chava Flores is the narrator).
Pichicuás que pide mano; 
Pichicuás called out to go first (In English we would say he called out "first dibs")
Cupertino, rin tin cola, cola y tras' 
Cupertino didn't call it in time so he went second.

Una raya y un hoyito
The "raya" is the line from where the players shoot their marbles and the "hoyito" is the circle that contains the target marbles.
Que pintaron en el suelo del solar.
That they marked out on the ground of the schoolyard. (Note: A "solar" could mean anything from a back alley lot  to a patio where laundry is hung to dry, et cetera.)
Se advirtió que “Tres y el fuerte” 
It was called out that whoever knocked three of the other fellow's marbles from the ring would be the winner.
Que “prohibido comer mano” 
That it was forbidden for the shooter to move beyond the line. (Note: In English we would say "no hunching")
Y que “Al quede no tirar” 
That whoever has no clear shot and "passes" loses his turn.
Que “las chiras son al tiro” 
That a glancing blow is considerd a shot. (Note: A "chira" is the sound made by one marble glancing off another)
Que “hay calacas y palomas” 
That there a dead ones an live ones  
Y “El ahogado muerto está” 
And if your shooter fails to leave the circle you are dead (Note: literally "The drowned one is a goner)

Mi Pichicuás, te sigue Cupertino. 
My Pichicuás Cupertinno follows you
Mi Pichicuás, te quiere calaquear.  
My Pichicuás he wants to do you in.
Si ya las traes, apuntale con tino. 
If you have already had success then aim carefully
Mi Pichicuás, lo tienes que ponchar.
My Pichicuás you need to do him in.

Pichicuás y Cupertino
Las canicas se empezaron a ganar. 
Pichicuás y Cupertino began to win marbles from one another.
Como se jugó de a devis
Because they were playing honestly 
Buenos tiros se cambiaron de lugar. 
Both of them took turns winning.

Cupertino que hace trampas
Y hartos dengues pa' ciscar al Pichicuás. 
Cupertino began playing tricks on Pichicuás wnen it was his turn to shoot by saying things to distract him and throw him off his game.
Pichicuás que se lo poncha, 
Pichicúas trounced his opponent,
Cupertino que hace concha 
Cupertino started goofing off
Y no le quiere ya pagar.
And he didn't want to pay to pay up.

Mis canicas me las pagas,
Pay me my marbles
y que empiezan las trompadas, 
And they beagan to fight and beat each other up
¡Ay, mamá¡, que feo es jugar!
Oh Mama, playing games is ugly business!

Mi Pichicuás, de a devis nunca juegues.
My Pichicuás never play fair and square.
Mi Pichicuás, de a mentis es mejor. 
My Pichicuás it is better to cheat.
Pos no esta bien que ganes y les pegues, 
Well it isn't right that you win and you throw punches
¿Que va a decir de ti tu profesor? 
What will your teacher say about you?

Yo, como tu, también fui pelionero. 
I was also a fighter like you.
Yo, como tu, también fui re hablador.
I, like you, also used to brag about how I was the best
Pero una vez me puse con el “güero” 
But then one time I came up against the light haired fellow. 
Y ya lo ves: ¡se me acabó el rencor!
And now you see?, I don't act nasty any more!

There is a sad story associated with this song. The song is actually a tribute to Raúl Mercado, the boy named Pichicuás. Almost every day the boys played marbles after school in the lot behind their grammar school to see who had the greatest prowess. Pichicuás lived the farthest from the school and when he saw the bus coming he always ran to catch it. The buses were invariably jam packed with people hanging on every which way. Pichicuás would wait until someone jumped out and he would jump in to take their place as best he could. One day they were playing marbles and Chava Flores was the shooter and he was hot dogging it and winning all the marbles. Pichicuás became upset and threw his marbles down at the feet of Chava Flores and ran for the bus but as he jumped for an opening he fell to the pavement and the bus ran over him and killed him. Chava Flores and the other boys were devastated and were traumatized for life by this incident. You see, this is both a happy song and a sad song at the same time. I guess the moral of the story is "Always play fair, keep your cool, and don't lose your marbles."

15 February 2012

Heaven on Earth

Today we are celebrating the 465th anniversary of the founding of the City of Irapuato where I live in the State of Guanajuato in Central México. I love this city and her people and for me this is a happy day. This is without a doubt the best place that I have ever lived and I feel blessed to be a proud member of the community. May God bless the City of Irapuato and her inhabitants.

Thank you God, and thanks also to Irapuato, Guanajuato, and México.

¡Viva Irapuato!
¡Viva Guanajuato!
¡Viva México!

12 February 2012

Take care of Yourself

Every now and then we get a winter season here in Guanajuato that includes a week of clouds, low temperatures, and rain. When this happens everyone suffers because even northerners like me can get very attached to sunshine and mild winters, and when it turns cold we whimper a lot. It is also a dangerous time for the poor people, especially those that are very young and very old, and those with dirt floors and leaky roofs. When I was a little boy we had what we called "feetsie pajamas" to keep us warm but it has been many moons since I could find a pair that would fit me. I am  thinking that to get a pair now I would have to visit Omar the tent maker and have them custom made. But...as hope springs eternal and Spring is right around the corner, I probably won't need them until next year anyway so there is no rush. In Spanish, "feetsie pajamas" are called "mameluco". This reminds me of one of my favorite little stories which I think is worthy of repetition.

Un niño, de rodillas y vestido con su mameluco de niño, rezaba con dulce voz sus oraciones de la noche: "Diosito: cuida a mi papá. Cuida a mi mamá. Cuida a mis hermanos. Cuida a mi abuela. Cuida a mi perro. Y cuídate Tú también, Diosito, porque supongo que si algo Te pasa a Ti a todos nos lleva la fregada...

A little boy, on his knees and dressed in child's feetsie pajamas, was saying his bedtime prayers in a sweet voice: "Dear God, take care of my papa, take care of my mama, take care of my brothers (and/or sisters). Take care of my grandma. Take care of my dog. And take care of Yourself too, dear God, because I suppose that if something ever happened to You then everything would go to hell...

11 February 2012

It's time to learn...

On many occasions when I am wandering through the market and I stop to chat with one of the vendors, in order to break the ice I say:

¿Puede hablar usted el Inglés?
Can you speak English?

Sometimes the answer will be "Yes, a little" and then we go on from there and I ask them where they learned English, et cetera, and the conversation that ensues is quite pleasant and we compliment each other on our abilities, they with English and me with Spanish. It is a nice bi-cultural exchange (especially when I buy something).

At other times, however, the answer is:

No señor no hablo Inglés.
No sir, I do not speak English.

Then I say:

Si, se puede hablar el Inglés..."pollito-chicken, ventana-window", ¿no?
Yes, you can speak English..."pollito-chicken, ventana-window", right?

This is generally rewarded with a chuckle and a smile and we go forward in Spanish with a polite conversation. In either case the ice is broken and we are friends.

The "pollito-chicken, ventana-window" thing refers to a song that Latin American children learn in kindergarten or in the first grade. I believe the song originated in Puerto Rico. After the Spanish American War in 1898 Puerto Rico became a U.S. dependency and in 1902 the U.S. declared Puerto Rico to be officially bilingual. Unfortunately, like many government declarations, that never became much of a reality, even after Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917. It wasn't until until 1947 when the U.S. granted Puerto Ricans the right to elect their own governor that bilingual education began somewhat in earnest. It was sometime after that when the "Pollito-Chicken" song came along although I don't know exactly what year and who actually wrote it. I was hoping someone who reads this might know and share it with us. In any case, it has been a standard song for teachers all over Latin America including Mexico for almost half a century. This song has been criticized as a form of teaching under the name "Pollito Chicken Bilingualism" but nevertheless the children love it and the grown-ups remember it with fondness.

"Pollito Chicken" (One variation of many)

Pollito chicken,
Gallina hen,
Lapiz pencil,
Y pluma pen.

Ventana window,
Puerta door,
Techo ceiling,
Y piso floor,

Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles.
Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles,
Si tu abres la mente podras comprender,
Y veras tu lo facil que es hablar ingles.

Almohada pillow,
Cama bed,
Mesa table,
Y silla chair.

Dedos fingers,
Cabeza head,
Brazos arms,
Y pierna leg.

Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles.
Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles,
Si tu abres la mente podras comprender,
Y veras tu lo facil que es hablar ingles.

Pollito chicken,
Gallina hen,
Lapiz pencil,
Y pluma pen.

Ventana window,
Puerta door,
Techo ceiling,
Y piso floor,

Pollito chicken,
Gallina hen,

Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles.
Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles,
Si tu abres la mente podras comprender,
Y veras tu lo facil que es hablar ingles.

Pollito chicken,
Gallina hen,
Lapiz pencil,
Y pluma pen.

Ventana window,
Puerta door,
Techo ceiling,
Y piso floor,

Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles.
Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles,
Si tu abres la mente podras comprender,
Y veras tu lo facil que es hablar ingles.

Esto ha sido todo,
Lo hicieron muy bien,
Y aqui terminan,
Las clases de ingles.

Esto ha sido todo,
This is the end,
Y aqui termina,
Good bye my friend.

Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles.
Ha llegado la hora de aprender ingles.

22 January 2012

Gong Xi Fa Cai

恭喜发财  (gōngxǐ fācái)

Happy Chinese New Year!

The Year of the Dragon.

In Mandarin it is "Gong Xi Fa Cai"  
(pronounced similar to "goong shee faa tsai")

In Cantonese it is "Gong Hey Fat Choy
(pronounced similar to "goong hey faat choy")

It means "wishing you prosperity in the coming year".

Since we are all hoping for prosperity in 2012, and since today is the eve of the Chinese Spring Festival which is known in the West as "Chinese New Year" I say to every person on Earth who believes in peace and good will...

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.