Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Twas the Noche before Christmas

'Twas the noche before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring — ¡Caramba! ¿Que pasa?
Los niños were tucked away in their camas,
Some in long underwear, some in pijamas,

While hanging the stockings with mucho cuidado
In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado
To bring all children, both buenos and malos,
A nice batch of dulces and other 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 and looked out afuera,
And who in the world do you think that it ¿era?

Saint Nick 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 burros approaching volados.

I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:
"¡Ay Pancho! ¡Ay Pepe! ¡Ay Cuco! ¡Ay Berto!
¡Ay Chato! ¡Ay Chopo! ¡Macuco y Nieto!"

Then standing erect with his hands on his 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 chiminea,

Then huffing and puffing at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his real suit de gala,
He filled all the stockings with lovely regalos
For none of the niños had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud, seeming muy contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.
And I heard him exclaim, and this is verdad,
Merry Christmas to all, and ¡Feliz Navidad!

'Twas the Noche Before Christmas riffs on Henry Livingston Jr.'s classic Christmas tale, A Visit from St. Nicholas. With a few choice lyrics in Spanish added by musician Eduardo "Lalo" Guerrero (1916-2005) in 1956, Pancho Claus was born.

A native of Arizona, Guerrero had a string of hit parody songs in the 1950s beginning with Pancho López (The Ballad Of Davy Crockett), Tacos For Two (Cocktails For Two) and There's No Tortillas (O Sole Mio). Coincidentally, Eduardo Guerrero was born on Christmas Eve.

Parody hits aside, Guerrero was an accomplished musician and his band Los Carlistas represented Arizona at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Known as the "Father of the Chicano Music," Guerrero continued to perform and record throughout his long and illustrious career. He appeared as a guest performer on three cuts from Ry Cooder's classic 2005 disc Chavez Ravine.

Teachers have since used 'Twas the Noche Before Christmas as a learning tool to help students learn Spanish vocabulary. Owing to years of email sharing, internet postings and, additions and deletions to text, 'Twas the Noche Before Christmas is almost unrecognizable from the Pancho Claus version recorded by Guerrero. We tip our fur-rimmed red cap to Guerrero as a reminder that Santa Claus is whatever color a child wants him to be.

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