Whistle Speakers of the Chinantec Language

whistle-language

While it’s only anecdotal, I can say in my own experience I’ve noticed the Latin Americans I know use whistling a lot more than any other group. There are whistles to get people’s attention, whistles of appreciation, and whistles the equivalent of cursing someone out, just to name a few. And Carlos, for example, is able to whistle through his lips, through his teeth, or with his first two fingers in his mouth to produce different pitches and tones.

Over the years I’ve recognized the usefulness of these whistles to get each other’s attention in crowds where shouting might be too harsh. Sometimes when we grocery shop and Carlos goes off to get an item, I’ll have moved on to another aisle before he gets back. I can see him from a distance looking around for me, but he doesn’t see me – so I whistle, and just like that, he’s able to locate me. It’s interesting to note that just like one’s voice is unique, so too is their whistle. Carlos has whistled in a crowd and instantly I knew it was him because of the tone, just as if he had called my name.

So, when I learned that there are actual whistled languages, I was fascinated, but not surprised. Whistle languages can be found around the world, and many exist or existed in Latin America. In the foggy, mountainous terrain of San Pedro Sochiapam in Oaxaca, Mexico, the male speakers of Chinantec speak a whistled version of the language.

The sad thing about this language, like many indigenous languages, is that it’s in danger of dying. While women understand it, and some children speak a little of it, most of the people of the town don’t use the language like the older generation did. Reasons for declining use of whistled Chinantec range from the fact that children learn Spanish in school and they don’t work in the fields, to advancements in technology such as walkie talkies, megaphones, and telephones. According to Dr. Mark Sicoli, Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University, the whistled language “may be gone from this community within ten years.”

Watch this interesting and beautiful episode of “In the Americas with David Yetman” called “Chiflidos en la neblina” [Whistles in the mist] to learn more about the whistle speakers of the Chinantec language in Oaxaca, Mexico.

And here’s another, shorter video on the same town which ends on a happier note, as it seems some of the younger generation have taken it upon themselves to not only learn the language and use it, but are planning to teach it to others.

Related Links

Other episodes of In The Americas with David Yetman are just as great. The website is here, which includes video highlights of each season.

Hat tip: OpenCulture.com

Learn more about other whistled languages on Wikipedia

In a Remote Mexican Town People Can Communicate by Whistling on Fusion.net

Hispanic Heritage Month 2015 Round-up

Photographer: Jorge Quinteros

Photographer: Jorge Quinteros

As most of you are aware, September 15th to October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month, and that means plenty of great new content to check out around the internet related to latinidad, Latin American culture, Latino history and heroes, and the Latino experience here in the United States. Here I’m going to share links to some of my favorite Hispanic Heritage Month content. Feel free to check back as I may update it within the next week or two.

● The “Our Latino Heritage” series on NBC News Latino.

● The “Habla” series on HBO. (Some of the videos available on YouTube too.)

● “The Latino Americans” series (as well as other great documentaries) on PBS.

● Instagram And Voto Latino’s #HispanicHeritageHero Celebrates Latino Leaders on BuzzFeed.

● Multicultural Kid Blogs Hispanic Heritage Month series and giveaway – (Tons of great links there.)

● Test Yourself! Take Our First 2015 Hispanic Heritage Month Quiz via NBC Latino.

When Hispanic Heritage Month Is a Time to Grieve via HuffPost Latino Voices.

Kids activities, printables, and links for Hispanic Heritage Month from Modern Mami.

Archive of Hispanic literature on tape via The Library of Congress.

Hispanic Heritage virtual tour via The Smithsonian.

How do you feel about Hispanic Heritage Month? on NPR’s Latino USA.

● Hispanic News Online’s Hispanic Heritage Month podcast series featuring a different Latino/a each day.

How to Celebrate Hispandering Heritage Month via Latino Rebels.

5 Must-Listen Podcasts for Latinos via latinamom.me.

Donate to an organization that benefits Latinos and/or Latin Americans.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2015 Photo Challenge: Day #4

I’ll be participating in the “15 Days of Hispanic Heritage” photo challenge over on Instagram hosted by ¿Qué Means What? and The Nueva Latina. If you want to participate, just use the hashtag #HHM15Foto and take a photo for the given theme on each day! Here’s my photo and caption from Instagram for Day #4: Hogar/Home

hhm-day-4-latinaish

#HHM15FOTO challenge day #4: Hogar/Home … The first time I went to El Salvador, I admired this wall hanging in Carlos’s childhood home. My suegra insisted I take it, so for many years it has hung near our front door. “Dios bendiga este hogar” means “God bless this home.” To be honest, I’m not really religious and at times the words seem a little ironic since life isn’t perfect, (like the fact that my suegra no longer speaks to me and moved out of our home on bad terms), but most days I just try to be thankful for the blessings we do have, even if it’s as basic to human survival as a roof over our heads and clean water to drink, because some in this world, in my own city even, don’t have even that.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2015 Photo Challenge: Day #2

I’ll be participating in the “15 Days of Hispanic Heritage” photo challenge over on Instagram hosted by ¿Qué Means What? and The Nueva Latina. If you want to participate, just use the hashtag #HHM15Foto and take a photo for the given theme on each day! Here’s my photo and caption from Instagram for Day #2: Bebida/Drink

hhm-day-2-latinaish

This is #Salvadoran #horchata de morro, which is different from the more commonly known Mexican horchata made from rice. If you’ve never tried it, please do so at your first opportunity. This one is from a local pupusería, but I always have horchata mix on hand from the mercado Latino to make it myself at home too. I’ve often said if there existed a Salvadoran horchata perfume, I would wear it. The powder mix smells like heaven. The ingredients are morro seed, rice, cocoa, cinnamon, peanut, sesame seed, vanilla, milk, and sugar. #HispanicHeritageMonth #salvadoreños

Hispanic Heritage Month 2015 Photo Challenge: Day #1

hhm15foto

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! And Happy Independence Day to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua today, as well as an early feliz día de independencia to Mexico and Chile.

I’ll be participating in the “15 Days of Hispanic Heritage” photo challenge over on Instagram hosted by ¿Qué Means What? and The Nueva Latina. If you want to participate, just use the hashtag #HHM15Foto and take a photo for the given theme on each day! Here’s my photo and caption from Instagram for Day #1: Yo/Me

hhm-day-1-latinaish

It’s the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, and the first day of the #HHM15FOTO challenge! Today’s challlenge is yo/me, so aquí estoy. I am not Latina by birth, but by corazón. I love my Salvadoran husband’s culture almost as much as I love him, and I love mis dos hijos who are orgullosamente 1/2 Salvadoran. I support #HispanicHeritageMonth because I don’t want my husband or my sons to ever forget their roots… (and also, I’m here for the free pupusas. #kiddingnotkidding)

Flor de Toloache

flor

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Durante el último par de años Jenny Schweitzer ha trabajado en la creación de Rhythm in Motion, una serie documental en 10 partes cortas que retrata a músicos del metro de Nueva York en colaboración con la Autoridad Metropolitana de Transporte. Las películas están siendo publicadas en The Atlantic. La primera película, Flor de Toloache, cuenta con una banda de mariachis exclusivamente femenina que desafía las normas tradicionales del género. Me encanta!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

For the past couple of years Jenny Schweitzer has worked on creating Rhythm in Motion, a 10-part short documentary series portraying NYC’s subway musicians in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The films are now being published on The Atlantic. The first film, Flor de Toloache, features an all-female mariachi band that challenges traditional gender norms. I love this so much!

The Magic That is The Latino Community

n-suit

This week I’m giving thanks for community, and the Latino community specifically. Let me tell you a story about something that happened last weekend.

Carlos and I had just returned from grocery shopping, literally still in the driveway with bags in the trunk to unload. My 16 year old son, who hadn’t seen me since leaving for school early that morning, greeted us and then launched into a “Mami, I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to need some money…”

This is a good moment for me to dispel a myth for some of you. Young parents have a tendency to believe that kids get less expensive as they get older — it isn’t true. Maybe this feels true for a few years after the diaper days, but there comes a point where your children out-grow the kid’s menu at restaurants and it’s downhill from there, financially speaking. Soon they start needing things they never needed before – cellphones, deodorant, face scrubs, and all manner of personal hygiene products.

They become increasingly conscious about the way they look, so your famous bowl haircuts will no longer suffice – now you must shell out for a trip to the barber for fancy Cristiano Ronaldo-style haircuts. (If you think you can recreate this look yourself with a pair of clippers, trust me that you probably can’t and your kid will hate you for a couple weeks.)

Then they start eating twice as much as you do. Groceries that used to last a week are gone within days. Just when you financially start to catch your breath and think you can make it work somehow, they start talking about getting their license. You can’t afford a car for them but you call your car insurance company to find out how much it will cost to insure them at the very least – You end that phone call sick in your gut, because you have to tell your kid that they have to wait for their license because you can’t afford to insure them. Meanwhile “all their friends” have their license already, and some of them were even gifted cars. You have a good kid though, and while disappointed, he understands. In a way, this makes you feel even worse because he’s a good kid and deserves things you can’t provide.

On top of these expenses, your kids’ free public school education is not so free after all. In addition to increasingly expensive school supplies, laptops, a printer, printer ink and paper to ensure your teen can type up and hand in presentable assignments, there are fees for everything imaginable. Dances, clubs, science projects, yearbooks, class trips, fancy calculators, musical instruments – God help you if they want to play a sport. And when you have an especially ambitious teen who wants to take advanced college-level classes, you pay even more.

When your child becomes a Junior in high school, it’s time to start seriously looking at the cost of college. There are days your brain just can’t take anymore. Your child will be talking about tuition, room and board, meal plans, books, and other expenses. With glazed eyes you will just nod your head while fantasizing about running away, except you don’t even have enough gas in your car to make it out of town, let alone enough money in the account to book a flight to Cancún.

So, back to the original scene – we had just grocery shopped, which is less and less fun the older I get. When I make it home, I’m just thankful the whole process is over – and then my son tells me he needs money.

What does he need money for? He needs to buy a suit. We’ve long put this off because of the expense but it was becoming unavoidable. His admittance into the National Honor Society and various other upcoming events would require it.

I felt panicked, frustrated, exhausted.

“I don’t know how we’ll find the money for a suit.” I sat at the dinner table surrounded by the bags of groceries and put my head in my hands.

My older son, thrift-minded thanks to his upbringing and the necessity of being so, offered, “We could look at Goodwill and Salvation Army?”

“Maybe,” I responded, but I wasn’t optimistic about the idea. I had looked for suits there before and even when I’ve been lucky enough to find the right size, they’re usually horribly outdated.

“What’s wrong?” Carlos asked, because apparently he had tuned out the whole conversation. So I explained that our son needed a suit within the next two weeks and I wasn’t sure how we’d afford one.

Carlos was uncharacteristically calm. (It seems we switch personalities every now and then.)

“A suit? Hmmm… Let me make a phone call.”

Carlos disappeared into the bedroom and came back 10 minutes later.

“I may have found a suit for you.”

Carlos had called a local Salvadoran woman who has been somewhat of a surrogate mother to him the past few years. She’s well-connected within the local Latino community so Carlos simply told her our older son would need a suit within the next two weeks and asked her if she could keep an eye out.

Her response?

“I have a closet full of suits. Come to my house with your son at six o’clock and we’ll see if any of them fit… And bring Tracy so she can make sure they look nice.”

At six o’clock we arrived at her house. She showed us into a bedroom with suits hung in the closet and some laid out on the bed. She later told me that she had actually had twice as many not long ago because a lawyer she knows had given them to her so that her visiting brother could take them back to El Salvador. These suits were just the remains of what he didn’t want or couldn’t fit in his suitcases.

It turned out two suits fit our son and she encouraged him to take them both. “If a suit fits you, too” she said to Carlos, “take it, please. You’re welcome to it.”

And so that’s the story of how Carlos procured not one, but two suits for our son, (plus one for himself) within just a few hours, thanks to our friend and the magic that is the Latino community.

carlos-suit-2