This is one of those moments where, if you don’t speak Spanish, you will not understand the literal meaning of what is said; but don’t worry: laugh along with everyone else and enjoy the moment.
Of Spanish origin, these pleasant verses adopted in Yucatán, as well as other parts of the Gulf of México and the world, are spoken by the man to his dance partner in a flirtatious way, with a romantic or spicy connotation, but never offensive or disrespectful. The woman almost always responds to her partner, and a lengthy dialog may begin between them!
They used to be spoken in Maya, because the jarana originated as a popular dance at the vaquerías, which were grand fiestas held to celebrate the branding of the cattle at the haciendas (to read more about the vaquería and the jarana, visit yucatantoday.com/en/topics/yucatecan-traditions-vaquer-and-jarana); today they are recited in Spanish.
Although originally the intention of the “bombas” was merely romantic and followed couple-related topics, today they have evolved to the point where they may include political, social, or cultural themes, possibly criticizing some event, past or present.
Here is an example of a “bomba” written in Maya, with its respective translation, followed by some popular “bombas” of recent times. Note: when translated from Spanish to English, the rhyming and the double meanings will mostly be lost; but this gives you an idea of the subject matter which might be touched upon.
In yakumech bey u tuklel in nekich
tumen a kichpanil bey u sasil kine
bali wa ka yakumen kichpan sakpakal
hebix in yakumech tu tsu in puksikale
I love you as the pupils of my eyes
Because your beauty is like the light of the sun
If only you could love me, my precious dove,
As I love you from the bottom of my heart.
In the tiny mouth of the flower
Which God has given you
There is no lower (inferior) lip
Only two upper (superior) ones.
With this precious terno (Mestiza dress)
As beautiful as it is
From now on you will be
My eternal love.
Tell your mother
That I must be her son-in-law (“yerno”, which rhymes with “terno”).
You say I have a large head
And your frankness is also large
As if my head could be as large
As my heart will be.
Him: My pretty little Mestiza
May I tell you something?
Her: Yes, tell me my love,
That I look like a rose.
Him: No, Mestiza, I’m not trying
To say you are beautiful
I’m not sure I understand myself,
You see I’d like to ask you something “else”.
Him: I’d like to become the floor
That your heel walks upon
And thereby see what I think
Is not seen even in Heaven.
Her: You are crazy or nearly so
Why would you want to be the floor?
What you want to see, silly,
Is covered with a mask.
Sources: Ayuntamiento de Mérida, Bailes y Danzas tradicionales de Yucatán.
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