“And what does the black person have that caused her to get married right away? Margo got married with Julio. She was a beautiful blond with long hair and she got married to a dark guy the color of my shoes. And I asked her, ‘Margarita, what happened?’ and she said, ‘Well, black matches with everything!’”
And they go on to mention tons of places where black things are the cool or right thing: the president’s car, a tuxedo, the FBI, etc. And more or less it’s just a fun song that’s a play on words. I think there’s nothing wrong with the punchline, what I think is wrong is the premise. Why does a beautiful, blond woman need a reason to marry a black guy? Why is everyone shocked that she did it? I know it’s somewhat needed to setup the premise, but they could have just said Margo got married to this black guy right away – why is it important that she’s blond and so on? I have a hard time believing this song could get on the radio if translated to English.
Another song that always makes Danielle wonder what the heck is going on with Spanish music is the song “El Africano”. Here are the lyrics:
“Mom, the black guy is rabid – he wants to dance with me and tell my father. Mom, I lay quietly in bed, tucked in from head to toe and the black guy comes and uncovers me. Mom, what does the black guy want?”
And then there’s a bunch of either nonsense chanting or maybe authentic chanting in an african language. Again, it’s a song that could never come out in English, but I remember hearing it on the radio all the time as a kid and at family parties.
And, lest you think these songs only are about people of African descent, there’s this song called “Ojos Chinos” – Chinese eyes by El Gran Combo. Just like the first song, this song could have just been a nice, fun song to dance to. The bulk of the lyrics are about how the singer is mesmerized by this girl’s asian features, especialy her eyes and so he wants to marry her.
But it starts out (and repeats some time in the middle) with “The little Chinese wants very tasty fried rice from Puetro Rico.” Which, on its own is just mildly racist. What makes it pretty insane is that the guy does it in a stereotypical Chinese voice AND replaces all the ‘r’s with ‘l’s. (Which must be a Chinese thing in Spanish, because I’d only heard of that in English with the Japanese) This song could maybe get on the radio here because the US isn’t quite as sensitive to Asian stuff just yet (I saw a horribly racist Superbowl commercial last year or the year before that would have never been made against black people), but it would still probably be pretty controversial.
The question still remains. Are these songs racist within the context of the countries of origin of the singers? All of Latin America also had african slaves and Chinese indentured servitude. But did they end up with the same amounts of animosity towards those people as we did in the USA with our Jim Crow laws and Chinese Exclusion Act? I don’t know enough about those other countries to be sure. I just know that these songs sound weird to me (although since I heard the second one since I was a little kid, before I could understand the lyrics, it’s one of my favorite Spanish songs) and they certainly raise questions with my wife who didn’t grow up with these songs. If anyone who grew up in Latin America comes across this blog post, I’d love to hear what you have to say.