So I decided to make this post because the other day I talked on the phone with a very special little girl in Costa Rica. She was so excited to tell me about her tooth that came out. Her whole premise for the excitement was the gift that she would receive from the famous Ratóncito Pérez. “Who is this?”, I asked. She was so surprised that I had not heard of this popular legend. I asked her to put her mother back on the phone. “You’re daughter was talking about some tooth mouse, what is that about?” “Duh, El Ratóncito Pérez, you know- when a child loses a tooth they put it under the pillow and El Ratóncito will come in the middle of the night and take the tooth and put a small gift there,” she responded. Hmmm This was strange to me. I told her that in my country, we are more accustomed to the tooth fairy. She had no idea what the word fairy meant in english, and I don’t know the word in spanish, so I described her as a tinker belle-ish type of being. “Well that’s stupid! Why would it be a fairy, they don’t even exist,” she tells me-as if there is some species of mouse that is realistically so generous that he would actually collect the tooth from under your pillow to give you gifts. Now that we both understood that in our different cultures there exist two different tales for children to look forward to losing teeth. I would like to get to the bottom of the origin of this new phenomenon, which I found exists in almost every country in Latin America.
So you guys know that I am always on the quest for historical knowledge. Apparently there had already been a little mouse named Pèrez as early as 1877 in spanish literature, however it wasn’t about a tooth collector. It wasn’t until the 1890’s when the then child king of Spain Alfonso XIII lost his tooth. (Alfonso XIII’s father died the previous year, making him a King at birth. His mother Maria Christina, who was actually of Austrian origin became the queen until the young ruler came of age. She was the subsequent ruler during the Spanish-American War of 1898 where Spain lost Cuba Puerto Rico and The Philippines.) A writer named Luis Coloma was contracted to write a story for the young King who was about eight years old at the time, after he lost that tooth. The story became a big legend in Spain and later spread throughout the entire Latin America.
There is even a high budget-Argentine 3D Movie about the little mouse! Click the link below to watch the trailer