Tag Archives: #Mexico #games #rhymes #children

“Zapatito Blanco, Zapatito Azul”- Mexican Children’s Game

Description (From transcript): “It’s like a game I guess “Zapatito Blanco, zapatito azul”. The literal translation is “White shoe, blue shoe” but it’s like the equivalent of “Bubblegum, bubblegum, in a dish” where you put in your feet and you count around the circle. We as kids would use it like before an actual game to see would start or who would be first or who would be ‘it’.  It’s like “Zapatito blanco, zapatito azul, dime cuántos años tienes tu” and whoever it would land on they would say how old they are and that number is how many times you would go around and tap each person’s shoe and whoever it would land on you would take out their foot… And you just kind of keep repeating that until you get to the last person and that’s who’s it. I remember playing it before playing tag and that’s who would be “it”. Or like hide and seek. And sometimes we would play it as a game itself just to play that. And “dime cuántos años tienes tú” is “tell me how old you are” and you would say how old you are but after a while if you’re playing with the same people, it gets repetitive to keep saying your age so you would just say a number like in “bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?”, you just pick a random number.”

Context: The informant (LV) is a first generation Mexican American woman residing in Denver, Colorado. Her mom taught her this game. She would play it with all the kids at parties so it was popular. She remembers playing this at school, as well. Mostly kids of any gender play this game. She does not see it as a gendered game. She thinks that children no longer play these types of games (hide and seek or tag). The game is in Spanish and belonged to Latin America. She would be interested in asking her friends from places other than Mexico in Latin America if they’ve ever heard of this. She said that as a kid you don’t really question the origin, but at parties, it is a part of Mexican culture. It takes her back to her childhood, which was very different than kids today. 

My Interpretation: Based on both the informant’s thoughts as well as the annotation listed below, I think that this game is very telling of generational and cultural change. It was originally a kinesthetic reliant form of play that required children to be physically in spatial proximity of each other, a characteristic that is no longer as popular with young children today, most likely because of internet culture and the social distancing that came with the pandemic. Furthermore, Mexican American children were also forced to use their native language each time they played this game, strengthening their connections to their ethnic heritage. Without games in Spanish such as these, Mexican American children are no longer maintaining linguistic and cultural practices that are crucial to their ethnic American identities and the politics that said identities entail. More can be said about the connection between these childhood games and socio-political implications in the further reading attached below. 

For further reading on this game, see: 

Anonymous. “Zapatito Blanco: Acknowledging Old Rules and Agreeing to New Ones.” Unbound, 18 Nov. 2019, justiceunbound.org/zapatito-blanco-acknowledging-old-rules-and-agreeing-to-new-ones/.