Earlier this month we were in Puerto Rico. My husband grew up there during his middle school and high school years, and I have spent a few Christmases there with his family. I’ve learned to love the traditional Puerto Rican foods, and the Christmas music. While we were there a few weeks ago, I was very happy to eat a few “pasteles” which are served at Christmas time.
Pasteles remind me of Mexican tamales because they are made of a dough, stuffed with goodies and meat, and then wrapped. In Mexico the dough is made of cornmeal and the wrapping is corn husks. In Puerto Rico a pastel is made of a dough from tropical tubers and bananas, and the wrapping is a banana leaf. Both tamales and pasteles are steamed or boiled. The inside can be vegetables, pork or chicken. Yum! I wish I could find some in New Hampshire! (The frozen Goya versions are OK, but nothing like homemade pasteles.)
This is a traditional song about pasteles. It is sung at Christmas, usually during an “asalto” or “parranda”, which is like caroling, but surprises someone who has to invite the singers in and feed them and give them drinks. The homeowners than join the “asalto” and move onto the next house. I suppose a song about the expected food for the revelers, pasteles, would be very popular! Of course the English translation seems silly, because it doesn’t rhyme like the original Spanish lyrics.
Si Me Dan Pasteles
Si me dan pasteles, denmelos calientes
Que pasteles frios se empacha la gente
Si me dan arroz, no me den cuchara
Que mama me dijo que me lo llevara
Dios guarde a esta casa y guarde la familia
Y los Santos Reyes tambien la bendigan
If you give me pasteles, give them to me hot
Because cold pasteles give people indigestion.
If you give me rice, don’t give me a spoon,
Because my mother told me to bring my own.
God guard this house and guard this family
And the Three Kings will bless them.
You can hear this Puerto Rican Christmas folk song at this link:
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Copyright (c) 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo