I work as a lecturer, a programmer, a DJ in a latin club, and a salsa teacher, in descending order of pay per hour. "¿Habla español?" "Como un idiota." On Friday night, a Cuban lady came to my DJ box, during a Los Van Van song, asking for Cuban music. I asked her which country she thought Los Van Van was from (they're Cuban; as far as I know, the second most popular band in Cuba). She didn't understand me. I got the message through via her friend, but she didn't seem to recognise the band as Cuban, and pulled a face like she'd just found out that some meat she was eating belonged to the rattus genus. I asked her which band she'd like to hear. Sometimes this is interesting - I hear a name I've never heard of before, can't work out how to spell it, pull out a pad and a pen, and the requester writes it down. Usually, at this point, I recognise the name, but couldn't understand the requester's flavour of spoken Spanish, partly because I speak Spanish like an idiot, and partly because there are just too many decibels around. At times it's tempting to forget about the other 200 people in the room and turn the music down just so that I can hear someone speak. Anyway, this time; Blank expression, prolonged, then "Celia Cruz". Celia died a few years back, but will forever be known as the Queen of salsa, with a huge number of platinum albums. She is also the only Cuban female artist that many Westerners have actually heard of, apart from Gloria Estefan, who, according to my sources, doesn't count. My suspicion was aroused - was she really Cuban? I'd only seen her speak bad English, and look confused, which doesn't necessarily make one Cuban, though it probably helps. It probably didn't help that I mistook her for a Colombian lady who had made repeated attempts to steal my beer a year prior. Anyway, I'd already played 2 tracks in the last hour by Celia Cruz, so I wasn't too keen on playing another so soon. I did oblige, and played another, about half an hour later, during which she shrugged her shoulders as if I'd ignored her request. I shrugged mine in response, ironically. I'm not sure how well irony works without speech. One reason to learn Spanish is so that I can give sarcastic answers, like "Cuban? Where do you think this track's from, Alaska?". I can speak enough Spanish to say "Where's this song from?", but I don't know how to make it sound sarcastic. I've checked, and latinos do use sarcasm. On the same night, during the third reggaetón track in a row, someone came and asked if I was going to play any reggaetón tonight. It's hardly as if the tracks weren't clearly reggaetón - the dancers nearby made it very, ahem, clear. I'd only heard about this kind of idiocy from other DJs, I'd never seen it actually happen. But two in one night? On the plus side I got a lot of compliments about the music that night, and the night after. Another reason to learn Spanish is the small fact that my girlfriend is Argentinian. I wish I had heard her speak before I'd learned any Spanish though. In theory, the different accent from Argentina should be beautiful, but to me, it sounds almost as strange as Texan English. She sometimes laughs at my Spanish, but in a friendly way, and I do the same for her English, though I do correct her if she repeats a mistake, because she has exams in English soon.
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