Spanish is the lovin’ tongue

Hora tras hora, día tras día,
entre el cielo y la tierra que quedan
eternos vigías,
como torrente que se despeña
pasa la vida.
Hour after hour, day after day,
those eternal sentinels
heaven and earth –
being ever-vigilant –
watch life pass
as if it were a plunging stream.
Devolvedle a la flor su perfume
después de marchita;
de las ondas que besan la playa
y que una tras otra besándola expiran
recoged los rumores, las quejas,
y en planchas de bronce grabad su armonía.
Return the: flower’s perfume
after it’s withered;
the waves that one after another
expired after having kissed the beach;
Scoop the rumors, the complaints,
and record their harmony on a brass plate.
Tiempos que fueron, llantos y risas,
negros tormentos, dulces mentiras,
¡ay!, ¿en dónde su rastro dejaron,
en dónde, alma mía?.
 Times and tears and laughs, that were,
black torments, sweet lies,
Ay! Where is your abandoned trail,
where, my heart?

Rosalía de Castro, Hora tras hora, dia tras dia

 mexico city bodice ripper071Evidently an American retailer named one of its sandals for what they thought was the Russian word for “peace,” and the same letters in Spanish spell the word  “urine.” The story is reminiscent of Chevrolet’s introduction of the Nova to Mexico where “no va” means “it doesn’t go.” So I’m not the only one struggling.

I’ve reached the point where I can decipher some hand-written messages such as “No tirer basura. No sea puerco.” to “Don’t dump your garbage here. Don’t be a pig.”

However, some time ago I stopped practicing my Spanish. I stopped listening to Destinos on the web although I finished Mi Vida Loca. I have been coasting, boosted by those seeking propinas (like cab drivers) into thinking I had a modicum of language that would get me through my time here. I knew differently, of course, but laziness is so much easier – although less becoming – than effort.

I was demotivated, too, by my ambivalence about staying in San Miguel, and if I weren’t going to stay in Mexico there was little point in devoting hours to practice. As time has moved on, I’ve come to two realizations:  the first is that each and every time I look at housing options in the States I have a diminishing enthusiasm for a return, and, secondly, I may have learned just enough Spanish so that a different Mexican locale (such as Guadalajara or Mexico City) where the lack of language skills would prove more formidable, is now possible.

The Song

Based on the poem A Border Affair written by Charles Badges Clark around 1910, there are many recording and versions, mostly by male singers. Ronnie Gilbert, who recorded three albums with Holly Near, was an original member of The Weavers with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman during the 1940s and 50s; she sings one of the few versions recorded by a female.


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