Pronunciation: \sə-ˈkā-də, -ˈkä-; sī-ˈkā-\
Inflected Form(s): plural ci·ca·das also ci·ca·dae \-ˈkā-(ˌ)dē, -ˈkä-\
Etymology: New Latin, genus name, from Latin, cicada
Date: 14th century
: any of a family (Cicadidae) of homopterous insects which have a stout body, wide blunt head, and large transparent wings and the males of which produce a loud buzzing noise usually by stridulation
My grandmother, Francisca, used to tell me that you could attract a "chicharra" by moving your leather sole sandals or shoes back and forth loudly over the wooden floor until the little bug appeared at your feet. Rubber sole sandals and sneakers became popular when I was a kid, so I never tried her trick. Also I didn't want to think about what would happen next if the little creature showed up at my feet. Could it be that my little, frail, blue eyed and braided long haired "mamá" would be so cruel as to step on that innocent although loud little bug... well, the thought just ruins my poetic concept of "Mamá Sica".
I have to admit that bugs can really bug you. I especially hated as a kid, and still do, the winged ants that invade our houses at night in the tropic. They always come in bunches, on certain damp nights, and huddle around the light that is right above you when you are trying to read and relax. I don't feel too cruel when I swap a few of these aimlessly.
But the chicharras are special to me. They became special in 1996, when I was building the little country house where I live now.
It was mid October at about 6:30 PM when I “met” them, as they broke the quietness of my future hidden paradise with the loudest choir of chicharras I ever heard… I was overwhelmed with the worrisome thought of how I could live permanently in this place. My trauma lasted about 4 minutes because all of the sudden the choir stopped… what happened? Silence returned, only broken by a single song of a loner chicharra here and there in the familiar puertorrican nightly song, performed also by some crickets accompanying the main song of the coquí. This was fine: I could live with this!
And I have for 12 ½ years. I learned, since that first encounter, that I would experience this 4-or-so-minutes choir each night, at the same time, without missing a beat! Except that I noticed, when the days became shorter as we approached the Christmas season, that the choir of chicharras would be a little earlier… as if they knew (or announced) the beginning of the night each night. By the time we actually moved to our “casita” in January of 1997, the chicharras were performing their nightly song at 6 PM. But then one night they didn’t perform, and I missed them. I was so accustomed to them; I could set my watch by their song. But they didn’t sing the next night either, nor the following nights, or weeks or months! Maybe we had disturbed their paradise and they had left us, probably breaking the ecological equilibrium of the universe.
My guilt lasted until the middle of May, when one night, unexpectedly: I heard my friends’ choir again! I couldn’t believe my ears, but how couldn’t I … they were so marvelously loud!! It was about 7 PM, so I was alert the next night, and they didn’t disappoint me. I concluded that maybe they were mating during those spring nights so I accepted the situation as something positive now. That first summer in my casita I understood that the chicharras were definitely announcing the beginning of the night, as their song was heard as late as 7:20 PM, when our longest day ended at about 7:30 PM. And they continued, imperceptibly earlier each night throughout the rest of the year until mid January when their song was at about 6 PM and then stopped again. I couldn’t find anything in my books that would tell me about what I had discovered, and everyone I shared it with had not noticed this pattern. But when mid May came, my friends returned; and I knew everything in the universe was still ok.
Twelve years later I still listen to them and celebrate their faithfulness in doing what was designed by the Creator for them to do. Today, July 24, 2008, I made this little video in my back yard, at 7:12 PM, so I’m sharing with you my beloved chicharra choir at Barrio Rosario of Mayagüez. Puerto Rico.
CHECK THIS SITE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicadidae#Cicada_song