No, Cuco No!

Why Latino children are scared of Donald Trump, plus another Sophie Maletsky video.

In Trials of Apartment Living, I talked about things like abusive landords and plumbers who never show — though as you would expect, I also digressed into things Whovian, Scottish, and Sockpuppetrian. (Now there’s a Scrabble word for ya…)

I’m blessed to live in a building with few bugs, and I don’t leave food or crumbs around, so they should have to fast if ever they became visitors. Still, with a long, hot, humid, endless summer, some were bound to crawl out of the woodwork. I found myself having to spray repeatedly until Old Man Winter finally arrived and the bugs hitched rides to Florida or wherever they get to.

But at the height of summer I would spray in the early morning, then go out for a few hours so as not to inhale the fumes. Still, on returning I wondered if I was not in fact fumigating myself, while the bugs put out their lawn chairs and sipped piña coladas. So I can definitely relate to the sentiment expressed by songwriter and children’s entertainer Sophie Maletsky of Sophie’s World when she sings:

Brava! Now, I’m not sure how much Ms. Maletsky knows about the Spanish language. (Maybe she knows more than she lets on.) The cockroach is la cucaracha, but there is another entity known as El Cuco:

You don’t really need to grok Spanish to know that El Cuco is one scary dude. In a 2011 piece on “Scary Latino Myths,” Grace Bastidas writes:

Disobedient kids all over Latin America have always feared El Cuco. The mystery boogeyman is a dark, shapeless monster that appears out of nowhere to kidnap and eat children that don’t obey their parents. There’s even a classic rhyme that warns the kiddies that El Cuco will eat them if they don’t fall asleep early. He’s mom and dad’s best ally!

At least, he was mom and dad’s best ally. Writing more recently in The New York Times, Héctor Tobar pointed out the connection between such scary legends and Latino children’s fears of Donald Trump:

Now we can add a new boogeyman to the repertoire of scary Latino bedtime stories. His name is The Donald. Ever since he began his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination with a vicious screed against Mexican immigrants, Donald J. Trump has become a figure of dread and comic-book meanness to the Latino community. He’s a villain in a flaccid pompadour, spewing threats and insults that have filtered down into the bosom of many a Latino family, to be heard by children gathered by the television set or at the dinner table. … Mr. Trump’s campaign speaks to a child’s greatest fear: the possibility that he might be separated from his parents.

donald-trump-el-cucoSo what’s the differencia between la cucaracha and El Cuco? The first scares you for a minute, the second might scare you for a lifetime or an Age of Man.

I won’t obsessively ransack every line of Sophie Maletsky’s song for political significance, but it’s easy to picture Michelle Obama singing the part that goes:

I don’t mind if you live outside,
But please don’t come into my House;
It makes me feel all icky inside,
And it scares me much more than a mouse. (Eek!)

No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
Cuco, cuco no.

Sophie Maletsky is a woman of many talents who can also teach you how to make a panda purse out of ingredients you might find lying around the set of The Sopranos, like black duct tape. But I think her tender refrain of “No, cuco, no!” will make a lasting contribution to political discourse in the era of Trump. It’s easy to picture Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi joining hands and singing a few choruses of “No, cuco, no!” when asked to privatize Medicare, deregulate Wall Steet, allow fracking in Central Park, or make Taiwan the 51st state. (I like Taiwan, but it would be impractical.)

Based on the original melody, I think I could add a couple of verses to this already excellent ditty:

Mr. Trump, I was oh so wrong
To think you were just a goober,
Filling our minds with hate,
And playing the fake news tuber.

Now you are in our House
With all your infernal relations;
You’ve proven that you’re the King
Of pestilent infestations!

No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
Cuco, cuco no.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization. (Seriously, don’t blame anyone but me for this.)


For Further Reading

“No One Ever Told Me That Grief Felt So Like Fear” on The Impractical Cogitator blog

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