Tag: La Cucaracha

It’s About Branding

There I was, ready to enjoy some enchiladas suizas and a generous helping of tequila, when I saw them.

But first, let me be clear about the Mexican restaurant in which I was dining. Years ago, I saw Brad Pitt in the place. He wasn’t around on this night, so I don’t want to implicate him. The point is that this is a popular LA site that teeters on the edge of authenticity (good food in a simple setting) and hipster irony (the kid of place where Brad Pitt walks in to show off his bona fides).

So I shouldn’t have been too surprised to see a large table of yuppies (tangent: do yuppies still exist?) hooting and hollering nearby. It was a birthday party apparently, and they had their own wait staff.

Now, the waiters and waitresses for our area were dressed casually, in jeans and polo shirts. The wait staff for the private party, however, was dressed, well, more colorfully.

The waitresses had frilly dresses and Carmen Miranda-style headpieces, and the waiters were decked out in campesino attire, complete with huge sombreros.

Sombrero-mexicain-adulte_4

 

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Stumped by the bitca

On occasion, the Bitca will interrupt me at work (or more likely, interrupt my own self-imposed interruption of work) to ask me a stray question or make a unique observation or confide her hatred of a co-worker. The other day, she approached me with the earnestness of a Buddhist monk in training, looking like she sought answers to the big questions on life and existence.

“Hey,” she said. “Doesn’t ‘cucaracha’ mean cockroach?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Why would anyone sing about a cockroach? And isn’t it insulting to Mexicans to be associated with cockroaches?”

I had to admit that I had never given the subject much thought. Now that she mentioned it, why would Mexicans be happy that one of their most famous pop-culture contributions refers to a loathsome, disease-carrying insect? As I pondered this, the Bitca went on.

“I hope you know that I asked you that question, not because you’re Hispanic, but because you carry a lot of useless trivia in your head,” she said.

“Of course,” I said.

“I don’t want to be prosecuted for hate crimes.”

“Who does?”

The she punched me on the arm, announced that she had just committed assault after first provoking me with racial hate speech, and stated that the incident should be noted on my blog.

I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction, but she had piqued my curiosity. So I looked into the matter. Five minutes of internet research revealed that “La Cucaracha” has murky origins.

It could have originated as a drinking song, much like the melody for our national anthem (it’s true). The tune may have been a coded reference for drugs (“roach” is slang for marijuana even in the United States), which makes sense when you consider how many oh-so-witty musicians have written odes to that perennial dream girl, Mary Jane. Or the song may have been a political allegory, which is a much deeper genesis than I expected. My favorite theory of this annoying tune’s meaning is that it was a result of “the great Mexican cockroach scare of 1827,” which we can all agree would be an excellent title for a direct-to-DVD horror movie or punk-rock anthem.

In any case, the Bitca has gotten her way again, and we are all just the slightest bit wiser because of it. 


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