I have always been obsessed with rhythm. From my saxophone days to marching band, cadence and beats have dominated my life and influenced all aspect of my musings. Including, of course, my philosophy of the beautiful game.
Any player can dribble and run and beat a defender. But to do it with style, that is the highest art form. When the Robinho-to-Barcelona rumors swirled about, the predictable Madrid media went in feeding frenzy mode. But not me. I harbor no hard feelings towards the Brazilian – if Zidane played the cello to a delicate crescendo, Robinho wailed on the trumpet to a 5/4 beat. May they both be blessed eternally for having done so in a white shirt.
Which brings me to Junito.
He still has not kicked a ball yet. I’m not worried – he may be the savior of Real Madrid, but I am no carpenter. I am a gardener, and his love and skills must develop organically. I know that with the proper influences in his life, he will do the merengues proud in due time. In the meantime, I have discovered the ultimate skills development alternative: dance.
The mental block towards dance in the United States runs rampant among the anglo male population. The vicious cycle starts with shrugged shoulders and declined invitations, but ultimately culminates in half-joking “sprinkler dances” that will scar some poor girl’s Prom night memories for a lifetime. I am working hard to prevent this neuroses from taking hold in Junito’s delicate and developing cabecita. In this vain, I have sought experienced help.
Who do I trust to teach Junito the dark art of the bachata? One of the most energetic and skilled dancers I know: my suegra (mother in law).
Common stereotypes persist about Latin America that “women occupy an inferior place.” When you set foot into the matriarchal mansion of my suegra, you realize a simple fact: the amazons aren’t myth, they are latinas. Fear, love, and respect merge as you prostrate before the rocking chair, sipping an orange Fanta and soaking in the sagacious advice. If you did not know the phrase hacer caso, you will. The suegra has taught Junito a bit of dance, and a heavy dose of discipline and toughness.
Bomb a job interview? It’s okay – it’s not like guerilleros are storming the capital city and you have to eat cold caldo for a few weeks. Couldn’t refinance your mortgage? No sweat – at least a corrupt dictadura is not robbing foreign aid after a disastrous earthquake. For all the footballers talk of injections and whining about pain, my suegra gave birth ten times with nary a pill in sight. Tough? As nails. In sum, she makes Fabio Capello look like a second grade art instructor.
And when Eddie Herrera tunes come on at family funcions, she inevitably is the last one dancing. Stamina? By the boatloads.
While she may at times take too firm a hand to Junito, I know that my suegra loves him profoundly and merely demands perfection. P-E-R-F-E-C-C-I-O-N. It’s that simple. And as for Junito? Well, he seems to have taken to her tough love…and reggaeton.
“No Robinho, you cannot cut in. Scram!”
Song Credit: “Muchacho Malo” by Olga Tanon