I don’t usually start my posts by talking about an earlier draft. In this case, though, it’s relevant. As soon as I had written the above sentences explaining the significance of Noche Buena, I thought I’d better consult with Puerto Rican friends and family. I got a stunning reality check. Reactions ranged from “... the relative importance of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is now, even in Puerto Rico, not that different ...” to “... the real distinction in Puerto Rico is between rural and urban areas ...” to “...the real difference is between how Catholics and Pentecostals celebrate Christmas Eve ...” to “...what’s up with this Noche Buena stuff? It’s Christmas Eve!” That’s when I realized that, in addressing Puerto Rican culture, I was once again caught in an identity maelstrom.
This is why, when I came across the following poem, Chihuahuas y La Noche Buena, it answered a present need. It showcased, by its use of Spanglish, the cultural reality of predominantly English-speaking individuals with roots in the Spanish-speaking world. While this was written by someone of Mexican-American background, it struck a nerve with this Boricamericana. This last term, by the way, a conflation of Boricua and Americana, is one which apparently I just made up because a Google search produced no results. Like the poem, it illustrates the point that, with cultural boundaries increasingly permeable, one of the results is a hybridized language and experience.
Here's the poem. I apologize to those who don't read Spanish, but translating this seems to defeat the purpose. I'll answer any questions you have, though.
Adapted by Río Lara-Bellon.
'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the casa
Ni un ratón se movía. ¡Caramba! ¿Qué pasa?
Los niños were all tucked away en sus camas,
Some in long underwear, some in pijamas.
While Mamá worked late in her little cocina
El viejo was down at the corner cantina
Living it up with amigos, ¡carajo!
Muy contento y un poco borracho.
While hanging the stockings with mucho cuidado,
In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado
To bring a los niños both buenos y malos,
A nice batch of dulces y otros regalos.
Outside in the yard there arose such a grito
That I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.
I ran to the window y miré afuera
And who in the world do you think that it era?
Santo Nikos in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!
And pulling his sleigh, instead of venados,
Were eight little chihuahuas, approaching volados.
I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:
¡Ay Milo! ¡Ay Tobee! ¡Ay Frida y Sasha!
¡Ay Todo! ¡Ay Pepe! ¡Ay Paco y Nacho!
Then standing erect with hand en su pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.
Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his traje de gala,
He filled all the stockings with bonitos regalos
For none of the niños had been muy malos.
Then chuckling aloud, seeming muy contento,
He turned like a flash y voló como el viento.
And I heard him exclaim (¡ay, es la verdad!)
“¡MERRY CHRISTMAS A TODOS! ¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!”
I now bid you so long for the remainder of the holiday season. I will be posting again on January 9, 2010. Have a Happy New Year!