-14 Days to 9th Anniversary: El Mariachi

Rudy Giron: Antigua Guatemala &emdash; El Mariachi, Antigua Guatemala © Rudy Giron

Oh Guatemalans, we are a weird, confused bunch. How do we celebrate a birthday, well instead of playing marimba music, we hire mariachis and instead of singing “Feliz cumpleaños a ti, feliz cumpleaños a ti” like they do in many countries in Latin America, we sing “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” that’s right we sing in English, even though English is not the official language and most people do not even speak it. That’s Guatemalans for you.

Guatemalans want to be anything but Guatemalans. That’s crazy, I know, but it is what it is. Of course, many chapines would deny this, but I just call it as I see it. That’s especially so of ladinos or mestizos, the mutts pues, we are everything and nothing. If it wasn’t for the strong resistance of the Maya population, Guatemala would be a country full of people in denial.

What better song to serve as soundtrack for this entry than a mariachi loco in denial. Enjoy!

© 2015, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • Mercutio57

    This is one of the curious things about the culture that I have never gotten around to asking my Guatemalan friends about. Hearing them sing it in English here was, I assumed, a measure of assimiliation. But then of course I began to hear it sung over there by people who don’t speak the language, and wondered why. After all, all the other Latinos I know always sing the Spanish version.

    Does your theory apply to the naming of children? I have met a number of Guatemalans with names that are not traditionally Spanish, such as Kevin, Ryan or Brian.

    • Yes Mercutio, this theory also applies to naming children such as Rudy, Walter, Erwin, Shelly, Kassandra, Joanne, etc.

  • NYChapin

    I disagree with you Rudy, Guatemalans are most authentic when they choose, and have the freedom, to be who they want to be.
    Who is or what makes one a Guatemalan anyway ? Why are you pushing the marimba on us, you hate it. In my house we sing the Sapo Verde To You version. Bet you did not know that.

    • Sure NYChapin, I have heard it. I believe Guatemalans are more authentically Guatemalan when they live abroad, as yourself. By the way, I’m not pushing marimba music, I’m just saying, one expect to hear mostly marimba music around birthdays and other celebrations.

      • NYChapin

        I see it the opposite. There is nothing more Guatemalan than a person who lives in Guate and despite all the problems in the country moves forward with a positive attitude, like yourself and most of my family.
        I give you two examples: during a walk following a procession in Guatemala City, I stumbled into a comic book and used action figure shop. The owner was a tall, long haired, soft spoken young man dressed in goth. The shop was like entering into a different dimension, yet he was coming out to the door to admire the passing procession like any other Guatemalan. ( he has a modest selection of original vinyl and tried to sell me an Iron Maiden early record, $50 !)

        In the small town of San Lucas Toliman, I have befriended a young indigenous young man who is a punk rocker. He wears the uniform, long straight hair and Ramones t-shirt, sells pirated cd’s and draws portraits. Nothing new right ? but he is doing it in the highlands and his shop is a stall in the outdoor market, across from a lady who sells hand-woven indigenous textiles. What is more Guatemalan than that ?

        • Great NYChapin, you have the captions, now I want to see the pictures and posts on GuatemalaDailyPhoto.com 😉 Thanks for sharing these wonderful stories and points of view. We all grow and expand our horizons when everyone shares stories like these.

  • Elí Orozco

    I’ve mingled with Guatemala’s upper middle class for at least four birthdays and I’ve engaged on discussions about the birthday song sung in English. One time a person told me: “es que muy shumo cantarlo en español. , another time some one said: “ay no que shumo”, often the lower economic classes (the uneducated if you would), or the people living on rural communities would sing it completely in Spanish.
    Singing it half English half Spanish seems to be an attemt to differentiate themselves from them “shumos”.
    Rest my case. ; )