Monday, December 15, 2008

La Cucaracha

At my house yesterday somebody brought up the song "La Cucaracha" and how it is about a cockroach. I don't speak a word of Spanish and wondered what the cockroach is up to in that song...

Once, on the mission, we were teaching Nqopisa (that's pronounced nn-*click*-oo-pee-sah in case you were wondering), and sitting in a cockroach laden compound in the middle of a ghetto in Joburg. I tried to concentrate on what I was teaching, but the little creatures kept scampering across the floor, walls, and couch.

I did fairly well until one decided to crawl down the back of my shirt. At this point I became very quiet, subtly turned the teaching over to my companion, and spent the next fifteen minutes as still as I have ever sat in my life, with an overly stoic expression on my face while tiny little legs attached to a molting exoskeleton tickled my back. It eventually crawled out.

Having that experience made me think perhaps the song could be about a cockroach crawling around in someone's shirt, which caused them to squirm-dance. It was the only explanation I could think of for such an upbeat tune related to such an odious creature. I decided to look up the lyrics. I was wrong!

Here is the English translation (according to Wikipedia).

The original version.

The cockroach, the cockroach,
Can't walk anymore
Because it doesn't have, because it's lacking
Marijuana to smoke

Okay, I wouldn't have guessed that.

There are a variety of other versions that has the cockroach missing legs or feet, like this one:

The cockroach, the cockroach,
Can't walk anymore
Because it doesn't have, because it's lacking
Its two back feet

Some consider the song political, as certain government figures in the mid to late 1800s were sometimes referred to as cockroaches. Very possible.

One of the verses goes like this:

When a man loves a woman
but she doesn't love him back
it's like a bald man
finding a comb in the street

I bet I could write a book of similes and metaphors used in literature and song to describe the condition of unreturned love. I think it would sell. Don't take my idea! Maybe I will just collect a few and blog about the top 20.

1 comment:

Gabe said...

At first I thought that you were referring to different varieties of translations and I was confused as to what word translates into both "marijuana" and "two back feet." I don't believe a word exists. And if it did, it would concern me.

I like your blog:-). I'm your biggest fan.