Just finished my intensive summer course in Beginning Spanish 1A the week before last, and next week Spanish 1B is already looming. Thank Jobs for iTunes and iPods, because I wouldn’t have even squeeked out the B+ I got without access to iTunes Latino. Specifically, downloads of the wonderful Pop and Cumbia star Selena Quintanilla. Yes, she was tragically assassinated in 1995, only 23 and on the verge of her big Pop mainstream breakthrough, but go into the Mission here in San Francisco. If airplay is any indication, Selena lives!
Perhaps you know a little about Selena from Jennifer Lopez’s breakthrough role in the movie of the same name. Or you can refresh yourself on her story here. But you probably haven’t heard a lot of her music. As they used to say on the old American Bandstand “It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it.” That is if the Cumbia is your dance of choice.
But the best thing about Selena, from a beginning Spanish student’s perspective: she sings clearly, pronounces every syllable and you can understand the lyrics which are mostly in the present tense. Honestly, her greatest hits album should be issued along with Spanish textbooks.
In the interest of full disclosure, studying with Selena wasn’t my idea. It came from Dube our Guatemalan (or Guatamalteca, I should say) cleaning lady. She was very excited that I was learning Spanish. Less so when I tried to practice it on her. I explained that, while I found the course determination to expose us to all the different “Spanishes” of the New World laudatory, in practice it was a nightmare. Part of the course included hours and hours of audio study where we listened to native speakers and had to write (in Spanish) answers to questions about what we’d heard. Fine if the speaker is Mexican. That dialect I can get. Colombian, not so easy. Cuban and Puerto Rican, absolutely beyond me. As a Berkeleyite of a certain age, our professor had also assigned us to learn the words to some of Joan Baez’s Spanish folk songs. I like Joan, all right, but I wasn’t really feeling the Spanish stuff.
That’s when Dube stepped in with the Selena suggestion. “You should listen to Selena records. She was a Tejano and she didn’t even speak Spanish. She learned it to sing in Spanish. So she sings just like you would, with an American accent.” Hmmmm. Gringo Pop. Intriguing. So off to iTunes Latino I go to download her greatest hits. Fantastic. Easy words. Lots of repeated choruses. And it has a great beat and you can dance to it.
I was hooked. Some called Selena “The Mexican Madonna”, which I think is wildly inaccurate. Sure she was sexy and she was in constant dancing motion during her concerts. But she was American born and bred. Her Mexican father convinced her to learn Spanish and sing to that constituency. But even less Madonna-like, she always projected what she was, a very nice, sweet Tejano girl. Not rebelling against anything, just singing great music that you could dance to. Instead of rebelling against her heritage, as Madonna did against Catholicism, Selena embraced her background, although sometimes with a twist. The costumes of her bandmates and herself, all her own designs, often took playful license with her Hispanic heritage. There were bolero jackets, matador pants, ponyskin chaps and vests, Senorita ruffles. I wonder how many invitations she got to be the headliner at various Hispanic or Latino Heritage Festivals. She would have been perfect.
Selena became my refuge after too many hours trying to unravel long audio discussions of Puerto Rican history in rapid, incomprehensible dialect. When all seemed lost, I could fire up a Selena song and feel as if I was learning something.
Then came the final exam, part of which required a 500 word essay on the topic of something we enjoyed doing. First panic. I didn’t think I’d learned 500 words of Spanish in the intensive six week course. Then the inspiration: I’ll write about listening to Selena. Do you know how many Spanish words you can get out of the way just by listing the names of four of your favorite Selena songs?
So thanks, Selena. I’ve got you uppermost on my iPod in a Playlist called “Learning Spanish”. You and Los Lobos and Santana, some Tish Hinojosa, a bit of Joan Baez. But mostly you. Thanks again for the study help. It all has a good beat and I can dance to it.
For the rest of you, the available video of Selena doesn’t have the best audio, but this should give you an idea of her talent. Watch it, then download Selena’s greatest hits.
Ready for more? La Carcacha or “The Jalopy” is one of my favorites and on a subject some of my old car aficionado friends can get behind. It’s about a girl whose boyfriend drives an old beat up car, her friends laugh at him, but she doesn’t care, she loves him still because he “treats her like a Queen”. As Selena says, “Saborcito…manos arriba!” Give it a little flavor, put your hands up!
Dube is a genius!! What a fun way to learn the language. I didn’t know much about Selena until I heard about her assassination years ago at the hands of her jealous assistant…quite a drama…
and you wisely point out that she was far from a “Madonna” – no sex book from Selena!
BTW, glad to hear you have been traveling out and about with the cheeseballs. Looking forward to the photos 😀
Give these a listen:
Linda Ronstadt – Jardin Azul: Las Canciones Favoritas. My favorite is La Charreada. That gal has pipes!
Los Lobos – for some East LA sounds.
Los Lonely Boys – these guys are great.
Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan – WOW! How can you help being happy when you listen to this?
Vincente Fernandez – Ay Chihuahua! Just ask Dube.
Thanks for setting the tone for the weekend.
Linda Ronstadt. Check. Got it.
Los Lobos. Check. Got it.
Mariachi Vargas de Tecatitlan and Mariachi Garibaldi. Check. Got it.
Plus some Mexican rap that Dube’s son recommended for me and is surprisingly enjoyable. Even though I don’t like rap. (But rap with mariachi and cumbia backing is great.)
The others I’ll have to hunt up.
every day or so blogger has a blog of note. on thursday, it was this woman from arkansas. make sure you read the box in the righthand corner of her blog.
I love Selena’s music, and I speak no Spanish whatsoever.
Now, I want to hunt down my Selena VHS!
Can I just say what a relief to discover a person that really knows
what they are discussing on the net. You definitely understand how to bring a
problem to light and make it important. More people ought to look at this and understand this side of the story.
It’s surprising you aren’t more popular given that you surely possess the gift.
Hello, its nice post regarding media print, we all be familiar with media is a great
source of data.
Great work! This is the type of info that should be shared around the
net. Disgrace on the seek engines for no longer positioning this post higher!
Come on over and consult with my site . Thanks =)
This article is in fact a fastidious one it assists
new the web viewers, who are wishing for blogging.
Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard work
due to no back up. Do you have any solutions to protect against hackers?
I’ve learn a few excellent stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
I wonder how a lot attempt you place to create such a great informative website.
Quality content is the important to be a focus for the users to visit the
site, that’s what this site is providing.
Hello Dear, are you truly visiting this web site on a regular basis, if
so afterward you will without doubt obtain good knowledge.
Hey there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the
images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I
think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.