We the People Follow All the Other People : Commentary: Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No. 5’ is like the ‘Macarena’ craze, joining the trend of making an ethnicity a novelty.


We the people of these United States, being of a mind to adore professional wrestling and to believe the George Foreman Grill will make us thin, declare ourselves incapable of distinguishing reality from overly hyped fiction.

In this spirit, we the people also declare that a Lou Bega recording called “Mambo No. 5” is the new “Macarena,” the 1996 monster hit by Los del Rio. We believe this because we read it in the news, and heard it on the Regis and Kathie Lee show.

Because these sources have educated us about “Mambo No. 5,” we the people of these United States will turn up the volume when the single comes on the radio, even though--if we think about it--it’s a really lame song. We’re even thrilled to learn that it’s the most added single on Top 40 radio in the whole wide country.


You may recall from high school, when we raised our hands and asked, “Is this going to be on the test?” that we the people don’t like to think more than we have to.

If we happen to be in a bar with a bunch of frat boys when “Mambo No. 5” comes on, we the people promise we will begin to bellow like elephant seals, because nothing makes us happier than a new “Macarena”--except maybe a new “Lambada,” which is what the “Macarena” was, right? We the people are shaky on history.

We the people do not mind that the “Mambo”-”Macarena” comparison is being made everywhere because a crafty press release declaring “Mambo No. 5” the “next Macarena” was sent by truckloads to the media by RCA Records.

We do not even mind that some of our nation’s “news” reporters have begun practicing the rather fine art of rewriting optimistic press releases, the journalistic equivalent to drive-through dinner--fast, easy and Really Bad for You.

We the people believe what the media reports is fact because we are too busy watching kick-boxing infomercials to make our own decisions.

We the people appear to have learned nothing from the “Macarena” and therefore love “Mambo No. 5,” a song that has nothing to do with mambo.


We the people do not understand that this song is not a mambo, and therefore we don’t mind when record companies try to convince us that we Americans are afflicted with Mambo Mania, because we already believe this is true.

That is because we the people in 1999 have decided to adore anything that can be bought in the Latin Lite section of the local super-duper gigantic discount cultural department store. If there was a LatinoLand ride at Disneyland, we would go on it. Twice.

We do not care that a non-Latino named Lou Bega (he is Italian and Ugandan) has sampled Perez Prado’s original “Mambo No. 5,” turning it into a non-mambo, and we have eaten it up like a Spam and Velveeta taco smothered in catsup.

See, we the people believe that Everything Latin Is Really Cool, from highbrow Ry Cooder Cubamania to lowbrow drooling Rickymania. Latin Lite is an adorable mania for us, and we the people are maniacs.

We the people know for sure that faux Latinos like Lou Bega are as hot and trendy as the “real” ones in red bandannas mugging people on television.

We the people just learned on MTV that “Mambo No. 5” is the No. 1 song in 15 countries around the world, all of them in Europe, where mambo did not come from.

We don’t care where mambo came from. We feel very international and cosmopolitan because everyone knows that really hip people live in Europe, and if Europeans like “Mambo No. 5,” then it must be good.

The Germans are even more into Latin Lite than we are. They have bought more than 1 million copies of “Mambo No. 5.”

We remember hearing once that the most popular singer in German pop history is David Hasselhoff. Some of us have not heard his music, but we the people are certain it is just as good as John Tesh, who we also love because he plays that pretty music in the desert while that real Indian dances in the background.

Indians used to be almost as cool as Latinos, when those movies “Dances With Wolves” and “Pocahontas” came out.

Shh. Quiet. We the people can’t talk right now because we are mesmerized in front of the television, watching the video for “Mambo No. 5.”

Bega wears a white suit, polka dot handkerchief and white Borsalino hat, kinda like Desi Arnaz, who is a Really Cool Latino Archetype.

We can’t be sure, but we think Bega is looking right at us when he wiggles his eyebrows like Louis Armstrong.

Lou Bega is cute because he is a Macho Latin Lover stereotype and we the people like stereotypes because they are easy to understand.

We don’t even mind that Latinos have had it up to here with that outdated macho stereotype stuff.

We the people like it most when Lou Bega “sings” a list of the many women he has slept with--Just Like a Real Latin Lover!

We the people don’t care much that the only problem with making a whole ethnicity a trend is that the ethnicity then goes out of style.

We the people don’t remember how much we hated the “Macarena” after we loved it, and so we are not horrified that Latin Lite has descended in full force, meaning Everything Latin Will Soon Be Despised.

We the people don’t care that the signs of the demise of Latin hip are all around us. We are too busy waiting for Puff Daddy to release his Spanish single.

While we wait, we will pass the time watching that new video with Gloria Estefan singing in duet with that boy band, ‘N Sync.

We the people wonder if you have some aspirin handy. This is because we have just tried to follow the dance instructions in the “Mambo No. 5” song, which ask us to put our hands on the floor and then take a step.

We the people do not care that these directions more closely resemble a bad game of Twister than the mambo.

We will be fine in a minute, as soon as the cramping goes away.

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