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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The cicada ain’t [just] a bug

My contemporaries, am sure, will have made the association right away.  
So will all those familiar with Argentine filmmaking.
Released 50 years ago, the feature film La cigarra no es un bicho was at the time a bold production.  
Is not necessarily a great movie. The film director, Daniel Tinayre, is quoted in this blog ranking it as, “My worst movie, and the most imitated one.”    
La Cigale
Not a bug either
Sex, of course, is the main ingredient.    
This short with the cast and a longer part two available in youtube will give you a chance to appreciate the film. Little can be gained from reading the mistranslated title: The Dragonfly Is Not An Insect or the one given to the U.S. release, The Games Men Play.        
More memorable in terms of Argentine filmmaking — per the above hyperlink and also this other blog — appears to be this: La cigarra no es un bicho is credited as being the first domestic production ever where a “bad word” was said on the big screen by an Argentine actor. The term is “pelotudo”, roughly translated as “a _ _ hole.”
Go figure.    
As It happened around springtime both 34 and 17 years ago, cicadas [or chicharras, as we call them in my native country] are again very much in the news here in the USA.  
Cicadas 2013! Whatever number you pick in one of the hyperlinks below, we are talking about a humongous invasion: they'll either outnumber humans 600 to 1 or total anywhere from 30 billion to a trillion. How about that?        

You may have read newspaper stories like this one in the Washington Post or this online article which also leads you to a National Geographic video about how it all sounds.    
You can also read this story if you want numbers about the invasion or this other one, case you are wondering whether to have one of the critters as a snack.  
The attention is well deserved.  
Those of us more familiar with cicadas as an annual happening couldn’t be more thrilled at the hullaballoo around the humble, often maligned insect.  
For us cicadas are more than just an odd-looking, chirpy, strident bug.  
They are memories of childhood fables read by our mothers or older siblings.    
In English, Aesop’s  fable stars the ant and the grasshopper. In France, says wikipedia, the cicada "became the proverbial example of improvidence ... so much so that  Jules-Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911) could paint a picture of a female nude biting one of her nails among the falling leaves and be sure viewers would understand the point by giving it the title  La Cigale".    
Children stories, we all know, don’t actually have to make sense.    
The 17-year cycle now in the news makes it clear why the grasshopper has preempted the cicada in the English fable.  
Kinda hard, don’t you think, to talk about an insect that only comes around every 17 years.  

Cicadas are also love songs, like the mournful huapango belted by Mexican mariachi songstress María de Lourdes in this 1965 movie featuring the better known work of Mexican composer Ray Pérez y Soto — who in the early 60s also composed the Corrido a John F. Kennedy featured in the LP whose cover you can see in this website [my translation for La Cigarra lyrics.]
       
Perez y Soto’s huapango dates from the 1940s and an earlier version was recorded by the Trío Calaveras in the huasteco version of the huapango.
             

It is quite likely that most non-Spanish speaking people in the U.S. and other countries will be more familiar with the widely known hit of Linda Ronstadt from the mid 1980s.      
Humble and often maligned, I said of cicadas before.
But well known.        

They also figure in poems, like in this one from Salvadoran David Escobar Galindo [again, my translation]:

   

EL MADRECACAO                                    THE MADRECACAO


Amaneció vestido de rapsoda         Woke up dressed in rhapsodist garb
—soñando con la Iliada rosada—   — dreaming of the Illiad in pink.
Pero su canto fue tan solo               Its song however was just
un fuego triste de chicharras.           a sorrowful bonfire of cicadas.

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