The Mexican Novelty That Strung My Life Together

The sound of the Mexican guitar is probably the most comforting to me. More than a prop in an Antonio Banderas movie and not just for it's presence in a marisco spot on a weekend out, with a plate of ceviche in front of me and a Michelada in one hand, as I sing along to El Rey (good times lol). No, the sound of the Mexican guitar is home, it's family, it's my dad serenading my mom while strumming his fingers on its cords. It's also my youngest memory of embarrassment. Let me explain.

My dad, hailing from Pueblo Nuevo, Guanajuato, used his guitar to remind himself of home and who he was working so hard for when times called for it. He is the oldest brother, of his 15 siblings and like many, he left Mexico to come to America and work, sending what he earned back home to his mother, brothers and sisters. His only companion for a long time was his guitar, and that buddy of his kept him at ease throughout a lonely and tough time here in the states.

Fast forward to his greatest co-creation ever, me! I joke, I joke--a little. But really, then comes my mom into his life and my older sister Monica, and me, Leticia. Still by his side, my dad's guitar. Only now, instead of playing for strength, he played and sang out his love for his 3 ladies: us. The romantic ballads and funny children songs my dad played us were around daily and it became a soundtrack for my youth. My dad has such a wit about him, but when he starts singing, the deep projection of his voice is as commanding as an army sergeant, yet still so smooth and warm. I admired his serenades, especially when directed at my mother. That was also my first example of love, a man singing his heart out for his wife. My daddy being so goo-goo-ga-ga over mommy and me in my piñata dress giggling at the sight of it.

I know you may be asking where the embarrassing part in all this is, well, here we go:

So there came a time when my dad wanted to serenade my mom with songs he knew she liked, only these Spanish guitar ballads were sung by a woman. He, being a man, with a deep voice, couldn't pull it off. He enlisted the help, or order, of his youngest daughter, to help surprise mom. I grew up in a bilingual household, both parents spoke to us in English but also taught us fluent Spanish. The learning the words part came easy--finding melody, performing, ummm natural! Needless to say, my mom was beyond happy when my dad started playing his guitar and in came me, belting out her favorite songs by Chelo Silva. They both loved it, so much so that they shared with the world what I could do. Why mom and dad, why? I was about 6 or 7 and embarrassed. Any family party or gathering I would go from once rushing to my dads side when he played the guitar, to now running to hide whenever I saw him pull it out of the car, knowing I would soon hear "Letty, come here and sing for everybody, they want to hear you". I became a local spectacle, the little girl that could sing like a mariachi alongside her dad. I ran through different forms of escape, like pretending sick or pretending sleep or straight out tantrums, none of them worked. They still found a way to get me dead and center in front of all the grown ups while my sis and friends and cousins played.

Reminiscing on those times, I laugh. Me being so bratty, my dad being so persistent and my mom being so proud. All brought together by those Mexican guitar strings.

So much time has passed since then. My parents split up, I stopped singing and my dad lost his guitar. Life changed drastically. But no matter what, as soon as I hear the sound of a guitara, the feelings and memories come back as vivid and vibrant as ever. I am reminded of home and who I work so hard for.

All thanks to you, papi and that Mexican guitar.