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Who's El Raton and WHY is He in My Kid's Room??

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Meet the Latin American version of the Tooth Fairy.

baby with two bottom teeth

Christina Montoya Fiedler: Joseph has teeth! Two beautiful, sharp, bottom teeth that give a goofy quality to his drooly little smile.

In a few years he will lose them, along with his other baby teeth, and the Tooth Fairy will come, take them, and leave money.

I told this to my mother, and she introduced me to El Raton, the Latin American version of the Tooth Fairy. He's a little ratoncito (mouse) that comes to your house (much like the tooth fairy), and leaves a gold coin. In some versions of this story, children will actually bury their teeth outside and dig it up in the morning only to find a gold coin in its place.

My mom is an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and her students, primarily Spanish speakers, talk of El Raton often and can't wait until he comes to visit.

This led me to wonder what the "tooth fairy" was like in other cultures. In Japan, there is no tooth fairy to take away baby teeth. If it is a lower baby tooth, throw it up onto the roof; and if it is an upper tooth, throw it underneath the 'en-no-shita' (the lower portion below the floor of a Japanese house). It is done so that the upper tooth grows healthy downwards, while the lower tooth grows upwards.

In Mongolia, the tooth is given to a young dog. In this culture, dogs are very respected and are seen as guardian angels. If they take it, a strong tooth will grow in its place. In the United Kingdom, there is no tooth fairy; the tooth under the child's pillow simply turns into a coin during the night. And, in some European cultures, the tooth is placed in a jar of water, where it melts in two years' time.

As for the going rate for a tooth in the States -- it varies. To a small child losing her first tooth, a quarter can be a big deal. It may be more about the act of getting a special gift from the tooth fairy over how much is actually received. One mom told me her daughter started out with quarters. As she got older, her little girl decorated a match box with wrapping paper and glitter to receive the precious money. She also started adding small treasures in addition to the quarter: a small piece of jewelry or a hair barrette. The biggest hit, though, were the messages from the Tooth Fairy, written in genuine fairy language on tiny rolled-up scrolls; astrological symbols and made-up things will do. The mom would then translate the message, which usually stated that my daughter was a wonderful girl who was taking good care of her teeth. Another mom says her Tooth Fairy sprinkles fairy dust around her 'entry and exit' point sort of 'foot prints' of her visit. So cute!

But, back to El Raton. Even though he is not real, or at least I don't think he is, the idea of a hairy little creature crawling under my child's pillow and taking a tooth is a little much, so I think we'll stick with the Tooth Fairy for now.

I'm setting a trap just in case, though.

Join Christina in the momlogic community's Latina Mamas group!


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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jo August 20, 2009, 11:11 PM

My youngest just lost his tooth tonight and we will be visited by El Raton. A month or so ago we read the book “Throw Your Tooth On The Roof” and that is where my little guy learned that instead of a fufu fairy he could have a macho little mouse visit. lol.

hotel tuerkei February 21, 2010, 4:36 PM

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