By Leeny Del (del Castillo) Seamonds

Story Summary:

After years of being bullied in school and teased, especially by her sister, Leeny’s Cuban grandmother teaches her a song and a Spanish phrase that changes Leeny’s perspective on beauty and, therefore, on her life.

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here:  Cielito Lindo Lovely Piece of Heaven

Discussion Questions:

    1. Have you ever been bullied? If so, for what reason? (race, religion, gender, beliefs, heredity, looks or others)
    2. How did that make you feel?
    3. How did you handle being bullied? Did you respond?
    4. Have you ever acted as a bully? Why do you think a person acts like a bully?
    5. Who are your heroes and family members who helped shape your life?

Resources:

Themes:

  • Bullying
  • Family and Childhood
  • Latino Americans/Latinos

Full Transcript:

Hola! I’m Leeny del Castillo Seamonds. When I was young, my mother often said, “Life isn’t easy honey. Growing up is hard. Kids can be mean.” She was right.

I’ve always been rather vertically challenged and left handed. All through Tatum Elementary School and Collingswood, New Jersey whenever the teacher would say, “line up class” well, it always seemed to be by height or maybe age. Well, it didn’t matter, because I was the shortest and the youngest in my class. So I stood in the back of the line right behind Mark Ditz. That was his real name. Mark Ditz was the only other left handed kid and he was just a smidge taller than I was, so we stood at the back.

We thought we had to stand in the back of the line because of our handedness. All the kids teased us all the time about writing really weird, but that didn’t bother me too much. Nah, I eventually looked at things from a different perspective and learned how to survive in a right-handed and much taller world.

I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a raving beauty either. I had these short choppy bangs that I cut myself right to the top of my forehead and I wore my hair into ponytails – three to be exact. I had two that hung right off the top and the sides like this and the third one just popped out of the top. I loved my ponytails especially the way they bounced when I moved. But this hairdo had a drawback, ’cause it exposed my ears which stick out quite a bit. No, I’m not gonna show you!

The Morrison boys, all five of them, across the street. They used to say, “Hey, cheeta, cheeta” after Tarzan’s chimpanzee.  oooa, oooa [makes chimpanzee noises].

But that didn’t bother me. Not really.

I also had to wear glasses. You know the pointed ones with rhinestones. Well the doctor said that I had a lazy eye and the glasses would correct the situation. So every year the prescription changed and so did the color of my spectacles. One year they were white, then pink, then blue, then clear, then back to white again.

Paul Welham next door, he used to call, “Hey, four eyes, four eyes.” Hahaha.

He was, he was a pain.

But the worst teasing of all came from my own sister, Alicita who teased me for not only looking like a geek, but because I have moles. I have moles everywhere. Me Papa said that that was typical of being a Cubana, but I have two moles. One at the top of my eye – here [points to the corner of her eye] and one by the side of my mouth.

Well their color has faded through the years, but when I was young, these things were dark brown and very prominent. And I began to believe that they were muy feo, ugly and so was I. Whenever someone took a picture of me I would turn my head as far as I could to the right before the shutter would snap.

My mother tried to console me, “Ah, Leeny don’t think of them as moles. No dear. Think of them as beauty marks.”

But Alicita had convinced me that these things were ugly and so was I, because kids can be mean.

Now all this mole teasing to a sensitive, gullible, short, left handed, big eared, glasses wearing nine year old finally took its toll. One family vacation while visiting my Cuban relatives, mi Abuelita, my grandmother who we called Mama, she caught wind of the situation. You see mama had overheard Alicita’s mockery and later she found me crumpled up in a bed in tears.

Mama scooped me up in her arms and she said, [in Cuban accent] “Ay, Leenycita, don’t cry, no llores. You do not have ugly moles – no, no, no. You have Cielito Lindos. You are especial, just like de song.” [end Cuban accent]

And then Mama sang this song,

Ay!  Ay!  Ay!  Ay!
Canta  y  no  llores
Por  qué  cantando
Se  alegran,  Cielito  Lindo,  los  corazónes.

Ese  lunar  que  tienes,  Cielito  Lindo,
Junto  a  la  boca.
No  se  lo  dés  a  nadie,  Cielito  Lindo,
Que  a  mi  me  toca.

Oh, it was such a pretty song!

Now I’d, I’d heard it before, but I wasn’t sure what all the words meant. So Mama explained that this is una cancion de amor, a love song. And Cielito Lindo means lovely piece of heaven and then Mama went to explain what the rest of the lyrics mean.

Oh oh oh oh oh! Sing and don’t cry;

Because singing makes the heart happy.

This little mole that you have next to your mouth.

Don’t you give it away to anyone else, because I take it for myself.

Wow! Mama had sung a love song to me, about me. I was her Cielito Lindo. Her lovely piece of heaven. And not only that, she wanted to take and keep my moles. Well all of a sudden, I wasn’t feeling short and left handed and big eared and glasses wearing or being teased.

I thought maybe these are what make me special and Latino. I figured that if so many people in Cuba and all around the world enjoyed singing a love song about facial moles – maybe mine aren’t so bad after all.

Ay!  Ay!  Ay!  Ay!
Canta  y  no  llores
Por  qué  cantando
Se  alegran,  Cielito  Lindo,  los  corazónes.

Ese  lunar  que  tienes,  Cielito  Lindo,
Junto  a  la  boca.
No  se  lo  dés  a  nadie,  Cielito  Lindo,
Que  a  mi  me  toca.

Ay!  Ay!  Ay!  Ay!
Canta  y  no  llores
Por  qué  cantando
Se  alegran,  Cielito  Lindo,  los  corazónes.

 

Cielito Lindo, Lovely Piece of Heaven: A Bully Tale