By Isabel Martinez

las mananitas mexican culture isabel martinez juanofwords

I’ve always wondered how two people who grew up in the same house could be so different.

For the longest time people thought my brother and I were twins.  But no, that is not the case.  In fact, my brother is all of 14 months and 10 days older than me.  Still, even having been born at such a close proximity to one another my brother and I could not be more opposite from one another if we tried.  He likes dressing up like a zombie when he goes out, for example.  Me, I’m just more comfortable in my “normal” clothes.  We’re even different culturally, if you can believe that.

It’s like I got all the Mexican from our family and he got all the American.

He’s light-skinned with colored eyes.  I’m morena with, can you believe it, brown eyes.  I like mole and arroz.  He likes spaghetti and meatballs.  He speaks Spanish as a second language.  I speak it as if it were the only language I know.  Speaking  of that, my mom used to tell us that when my brother was little she would try to teach him how to talk in Spanish.  He never uttered a word until she changed the language.  Once she started talking to him in English he caught on almost immediately.  Go figure?  Then, when I was 4 and he was 5 I started translating for him and our babysitter who only spoke Spanish.  I think that’s where I developed my knack for translating.

So, of course, what happened today should not have surprised me at all.

Today was my brother’s birthday.  My dad and I wanted to wish him a happy birthday.  To do so my dad began to play his ranchera music of a lady singing on his phone.  He then turned and walked away with the music playing in the background.  At that point my brother turned to me and said: “My dad is so crazy.  What song is that anyway?”

I was shocked in disbelief.

This was MY BROTHER asking me this question!

We have only heard this song COUNTLESS times, on Mother’s Day, birthdays, Valentine’s Day….and almost every other celebratory holiday a Mexican can think of.  The better question would probably be, when do we not play this song?  We use any occasion as a simple excuse to play it.  Me, on the other hand, as soon as the accordion and trumpet hit their first notes I immediately knew which song we were listening to.

Yet there was my brother, still totally and honestly clueless.  I couldn’t believe it.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, this song is one you probably have sung or at least have heard other mexicanos sing before.

I’m talking about Las Mañanitas.

Yes, that song!

So like any good Chicana I immediately began singing along, and once I started, that was all the encouragement my dad needed to join right in.  As we “serenaded” my brother, I couldn’t help but think of all the countless ways me and my brother are different.  And all the reasons why I couldn’t be any happier that we are and with who he is.  Those contrasts are what make our friendship so awesome.  It made me realize that I don’t want my brother to change at all.

I love my brother, the zombie!

las mananitas mexican culture isabel martinez juanofwords

Isabel Martinez is getting her Master’s degree in Theology. When she’s not working or studying she loves cooking, and discovering new things to do in Houston. Follow her on Twitter @shilohgirl_mop