Thursday, July 23, 2009

When cultures clash

Speaking in a politically correct sort of way, that is.

Campanas de America has sung it for presidents, but they won't be singing “El Son de La Negra” on “Today.”

That popular folk song was the renowned mariachi's first choice for its performance Wednesday on the “Today” show. But the show's producers asked Campanas de America not to sing it when “Today” broadcasts from the Arneson River Theater next week.

“It's the mariachi national anthem,” said Belle Ortiz, manager of Campanas de America. “We always play ‘El Son de La Negra.' Everybody plays it.”

The reason for nixing it? “Because they didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings because of the name of the song,” Oritz said.

A “Today” show spokeswoman said this was not a case of political correctness.

“The song ‘El Son de La Negra' was by no means deemed too controversial for ‘Today,'” publicist Megan Kopf said via e-mail.

(from the Express-News)

Do you believe Ms. Kopf?

I'm not familiar with the song in particular, but I'm sure I've heard it before. Growing up in San Antonio gives you plenty of opportunities to hear mariachi music, and if that song is as popular as they say, I'm sure it's in the repertoire of any decent group. So I've probably heard it before, and I don't remember being offended.

Besides, if you don't have a good grasp of Spanish, I don't see how you could be offended, not unless you are hypersensitive and you can hear "negra" any time it is uttered in a loud, boisterous musical session. And then only if you had little knowledge about the Spanish language and assumed any time "negra" or "negro" were used they were meant to be insult. (Negro is the Spanish word for the color black, if you didn't already know.)

So, I tend to think the "Today" show is being a little too sensitive, and I don't believe Ms. Kopf when she says the song was "by no means deemed too controversial." I think it was entirely controversial in her mind or in the minds of her higher-ups. What do you think?

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