Smithsonian Institution
Fall 2011: Dispatches from Latin America



The online, multimedia magazine of Smithsonian Folkways

The long, winding, and confusingly numbered road to La India Canela’s house

By Sydney Hutchinson

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Something was in the air that Tuesday. I was having my first organizational meeting with La India Canela to discuss plans for the Folkways album we’d be recording in just two months, but I was clearly not meant to get there on time. I’d already paid a visit to the mechanic because the headlights and blinker on my ramshackle car, dubbed the “Millennium Falcon,” had burnt out. Then, on the way to La India’s house, I lost my way and was sideswiped by an SUV. I couldn’t find her street, and then I couldn’t find number three, either. There was no house between two and five. But then I finally identified it—right between 11 and 6, naturally—and parked my battered car, a half hour late.

An unfamiliar teenage girl answered my ring. “Is La India here?” I asked. “Yes, yes, come on in,” she told me, showing me to a seat at the dining room table.

She looked at me expectantly. I smiled.

She continued to wait. Another girl, younger than the first, came in and sat down, too. I smiled at her.

I pulled out my notebook, attempting to look professional and ready for the meeting to which I’d arrived so late. Another minute passed. What were they waiting for? I wondered. No one looked like they were making any move to fetch the accordionist, and the house was quiet.

“Umm… so, where exactly is La India?” I tried again.

“La India?” the first one said in a puzzled tone. “There’s no one by that name here.”

“What?! But that’s why I asked you when I got here!” I jumped out of my chair, startled that I was sitting in a strange house, with people that must have been off their rockers to bring me in off the street. Losing my way, suffering a traffic accident, and then being shown into a stranger’s house was out of the ordinary, even for me. In fact, I was still lost, I remembered.

“Ah. You’re looking for La India Canela, aren’t you?” the younger girl guessed.

“Yes, I am! My notes say Ninth Street, #3—isn’t this number three?”

 “Yes, but there’s another three, around the corner,” she explained.

But of course. I should have known.

“Around the corner—but is it still the same street, then? Ninth?”

“Yes, yes. Just go around the corner and you’ll see the other number three. It’s two stories,” she elaborated.

“Well, thank you,” I said uncertainly, moving rapidly towards the door.

“But wait! Stay a while!” the first girl insisted.

I burst out laughing. This was too much. I hurriedly explained that I was late for a meeting and really had to be going.

The second number three turned out to have no one home. I gave up –my map seemed to be of no use here, since I was starting to believe “here” was actually the Twilight Zone.  I had to try the phone, the instrument of last resort.

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La India Canela

Merengue Típico from the Dominican Republic
by La India Canela

recording details