Rama Rama

Rama Rama

8 December 2005 CULTURE, Art & Local Culture, COMMUNITY 15

These words used to conjure up visions of Hare Krishna, orange robes and George Harrison for us, but now they mean something totally different.

In the rest of Mexico, they have posadas, ritual walks through the streets with candles and song, children dressed up like Mary & Joseph, visiting neighborhood houses and being "refused a place at the inn" in remembrance of the journey so long ago in Bethlehem.

Here in the Yucatan, this ritual has a little trickster twist to it. Here in the Yucatan, they have Las Ramas. Ramas means "branches" and the little visitors all hold branches, so that must be where they get their name.

Each night during Advent (the 24 days leading up to Christmas), children of the neighborhood travel from door to door singing a song and collecting money. With them they carry las ramas as well as a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, somehow set up with a candle. In the case of our young visitors the other night, it was a little box, with flowers and candles in front of the Virgin. Our employee Fernando who is 24 years old tells us that he used to take big empty cans and cut out both ends. On one end he would put a picture of the Virgen and then he would stick a candle in the other end to make a sort of light box. He has promised to have his sobrinos (cousins) make one for us.

In this tradition, the children go door to door in their neighborhood, singing this song. They sing or shout it very quickly so that its almost impossible to tell what they are saying (to these gringos, anyway), so we had Fernando write it down for us:

Me paro en la puerta (I stand in the door)
Me quito el sombrero (I take off my hat)
Porque en esta casa (Because in this house...)
Vive un caballero (lives a gentleman.)

Vive un caballero, (Here lives a gentleman)
Vive un general (Here lives a general)
Si nos da permiso (If you give us permission)
Para comenzar. (We will begin)

(change of cadence....certainly there's no melody that we can hear)
Naranjas y limas (oranges and limes)
Limas y limones (limes and lemons)
Aqui esta la Virgen (here is the Virgin)
De todos las flores (of all the flowers)
En un jacalito (in a little shack)
De cal y de arena (of "cal" (the type of paint used here) and sand)
Nacio Jesucristo (Jesus was born)
Para Noche Buena (For Christmas Eve)
A la media noche (at midnight)
Un gallo canto (a rooster crowed)
Y ese gallo dijo: (and that rooster said)
"Cristo ya nacio!" (Christ is born!)

(another change of cadence)
La calaca tiene un diente (The skeleton has a tooth)
Tiene un diente.
Topogigio tiene dos (Topo Gigio...yes, the little mouse on Ed Sullivan....has two)
Si me da un aguinaldo (If you give me an "aguinaldo"....a bit of money or a Christmas bonus)
un aguinaldo,
Se lo pagará el Señor (You will pay it to the Lord)
Se lo pagará el Señor.

If you give them a little money (which of course we did...), they sing:
Ya se va la rama (The rama is going now...)
Muy agradecida (very grateful)
Porque en esta casa (because in this house)
Fue bien recibida (it was well received.)
Pases buenas noches (Have a good night)
Esta le deseamos (this we hope for)
Pase buenas noches
Nosotros nos vamos (we're going)

If you don't give them money, we hear they yell at you:
Ya se va la rama (The rama is going now...)
Muy desconsolada (very desconsolate)
Porque en esta casa (because in this house)
No la dieron nada (they didn't give anything).

Fernando also tells us they hurl insults at you, and possibly limones, at that point.

The first night, these three adorable girls came to call. The next night, they came again, and another group from across the street (all brothers and sisters) also came. They come about 7 pm and we aren't always here at the office that late. But Fernando tells us they will be back every night until Christmas Day. So we're saving our coins. On reflection, this tradition seems to combine Christmas and Halloween. The kids go to the effort of putting together a little show (very little, in the case of our second group...) and performing a song. If they get their treat, everybody wins. But if not, tricks and insults and limones start flying.

Where does the money go, you ask? To buy firecrackers and candy, of course!!


  • Working Gringos 16 years ago

    We stand corrected. Thank you!

  • Christel 16 years ago

    Just a short note to say that "sobrinos" doesn't mean cousins, it means nephews (and nieces). Otherwise I enjoyed your article very much.

  • Ruthie 16 years ago

    Bueno a mi me gusta esta pagina piorke ensena mucho de nuestra cultura!!! Gracias

  • You Know Me 17 years ago

    Thanks for the explanation. I wondered what that ritual was all about. I gave the children money of course, as the piggy bank they were holding made the objective obvious.

  • Anonymous 17 years ago

    Your writing is great - more please!

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