Our family saw the most interesting play last Friday. It was called Las Nuevas Tamaleras (The New Tamale-Makers). What was so interesting about it?
1) It was bilingual. One character spoke all Spanish; another spoke a mix of Spanish and English (probably what one would call Spanglish); the other three spoke English with some Spanish words thrown in here and there. The person who invited us (my husband's assistant at work, who was one of the actresses) told us that we would be able to figure out what was being said in Spanish from the context and gestures and stuff. Not quite. We got the gist of what was going on, but we surmised from the audience's laughs that a lot of the funniest lines came from Spanish-speaking Doña Mercedes, and we missed them.
2) At first, I didn't like the delivery of the actresses. They seemed to be speaking so slowly, it all felt very over-acted. And maybe it was. But it occurred to me later: even with my very limited Spanish vocabulary, I was picking up on a lot of it, and I think that was because the Spanish-speakers were speaking slowly, not rattling it all off like so many Spanish-speakers do. (Or like it sounds to us English-speakers -- I suppose to those who don't speak English, it sounds like we're talking fast, also.) Maybe the actresses were told to speak slowly -- Spanish and English -- so the native speakers of each in the audience would more easily understand the other. So, okay. I can appreciate that.
3) It was about a Mexican tradition of making tamales for Christmas, one we are aware of but unfamiliar with. A couple of elderly Mexican ladies, who have been in heaven bemoaning the fact that they can't make tamales in heaven, get sent down to help three clueless young Latinas at their first attempt at the task.
As I said, this was a new cultural thing for us, the tamale business, but the audience was loving it. In fact, this is a play they perform at this theater every December, and it has apparently become a family tradition for many in San Antonio to see it every year. I can imagine why; if this is a part of your culture, there was a lot here to appreciate. We appreciated it, even from the outside.
And wouldn't you know, we seemed to be inundated with tamales for the rest of the weekend! The church we visited on Sunday had a strong bilingual ministry (in fact, the associate pastor who preached at our service was from Mexico). They had a "tamalada" scheduled for the next day -- an open cooking class for anyone wanting to learn how to make tamales. And many of the tamales made there were apparently going to be served at a Posada Dinner later in the month.
Then our youngest picked Mamacita's for lunch after church (our favorite Mexican place we've found in town so far). The furious appetite we all had for some Mexican food after we left the play may have contributed to that choice. I decided to be adventurous and try the tamales. None of us had ever had them before (well, hubby might have tasted one). I thought they were fine. Hubby and youngest were kind of, "meh". Eldest almost gagged. I'm not sure why, although she's not a big Mexican food fan anyway. I guess it's just as well I didn't go to the tamalada and bring home more tamales -- I'd have been eating them all myself.
All in all, a fascinating cultural weekend for us. And it got me psyched to start learning my Spanish again. Still looking for a Latina friend who will talk Español with me . . .