On occasion, the Bitca will interrupt me at work (or more likely, interrupt my own self-imposed interruption of work) to ask me a stray question or make a unique observation or confide her hatred of a co-worker. The other day, she approached me with the earnestness of a Buddhist monk in training, looking like she sought answers to the big questions on life and existence.
“Hey,” she said. “Doesn’t ‘cucaracha’ mean cockroach?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Why would anyone sing about a cockroach? And isn’t it insulting to Mexicans to be associated with cockroaches?”
I had to admit that I had never given the subject much thought. Now that she mentioned it, why would Mexicans be happy that one of their most famous pop-culture contributions refers to a loathsome, disease-carrying insect? As I pondered this, the Bitca went on.
“I hope you know that I asked you that question, not because you’re Hispanic, but because you carry a lot of useless trivia in your head,” she said.
“Of course,” I said.
“I don’t want to be prosecuted for hate crimes.”
The she punched me on the arm, announced that she had just committed assault after first provoking me with racial hate speech, and stated that the incident should be noted on my blog.
I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction, but she had piqued my curiosity. So I looked into the matter. Five minutes of internet research revealed that “La Cucaracha” has murky origins.
It could have originated as a drinking song, much like the melody for our national anthem (it’s true). The tune may have been a coded reference for drugs (“roach” is slang for marijuana even in the United States), which makes sense when you consider how many oh-so-witty musicians have written odes to that perennial dream girl, Mary Jane. Or the song may have been a political allegory, which is a much deeper genesis than I expected. My favorite theory of this annoying tune’s meaning is that it was a result of “the great Mexican cockroach scare of 1827,” which we can all agree would be an excellent title for a direct-to-DVD horror movie or punk-rock anthem.
In any case, the Bitca has gotten her way again, and we are all just the slightest bit wiser because of it.