Tag Spanish

The joys and perils of overlapping reading

cc Shutterhacks/flickr

There are many reasons why I was never able to finish reading Crime and Punishment—the type was a bit on the small side, the names and the chapters were a little too long, the plot reminded me of a bad experience I had in high school—but, in hindsight, I’d say the blame falls heaviest at the feet of two men. I am speaking, of course, of Gandhi and Hitler.

Allow me to explain.

My charango

Bolivian Charango


A few months ago, around my thirty-fourth birthday, I decided what I really needed was a smaller guitar. A man reaches a certain age, I guess, and after spending most of my life figuring out tunes on a classical guitar, I figured I’d gotten as good at “Wayfaring Stranger” as I was going to get. I thought something smaller might enliven the mix.

There aren’t really any standard guitars more diminutive than my Yamaha classical—I toyed with the idea of a Martin 000-series like Woody Guthrie painted up and played (“This Machine Kills Fascists“). But I realized that my desire to tweak Guthrie’s proto-punk motto into something more comfortably charitable (“This Machine Loves Fascists”? Wait, that doesn’t sound right) would probably make the 000 a not-quite-satisfying axe. Besides, other musical cultures—and more importantly, more-fun-to-say instrument names—beckoned.

Salvaje de Corazon

Yet another reminder that we have little control over how our cultural creations will be used once we push them out into the world. The Onion-esque headline on this article would be hilarious if it weren’t so chilling.

La Familia is a notorious drug cartel founded in 2006 in Michoacan, Mexico, and is known for its brutal slayings of detractors.

Mexican authorities have issued a report on the group, which includes the finding that Eldredge’s 2001 book, ”Wild at Heart,” is required reading for gang members. Spanish translations of the book have been discoverd in La Familia residences by police authorities conducting raids, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

Eldredge leads Ransomed Heart, a Springs ministry dedicated to helping men regain their masculinity and become adventurers in life. In “Wild at Heart,” he writes approvingly of men’s innate love of weapons, combat and hunting.

Originally published at culture-making.com.


Still from Fellini’s (1963). Not the movie I’ve been talking about, but you get the idea.

One Friday night in the early 1990s, my family rented an old black-and-white foreign film for our weekend’s entertainment. I don’t recall the movie’s title, let alone what any of us thought of it when we viewed it, but I remember very clearly a bit of promotional copy on the front of the VHS cassette’s cardboard slipcase, in the space usually reserved for Siskel and Ebert’s thumbs: NOW WITH YELLOW SUBTITLES!

If you can’t control your moustache …

From a searchable collection of over 15,000 proverbs about women from cultures around the world. Many of them sexist far beyond the point of gender differentiation, but I suppose that’s the point. It’s fascinating to enter different metaphors and see the range of proverbs that pop up: these are the first few results from the hundreds of proverbs about women and soup.

The clever cooking pot! It loses meat and keeps the soup [said the husband: his wife ate the meat while cooking; ironically blaming a thing for the misdeeds of a person]. / Oromo, Ethiopia

A child who remains in his mother’s house believes her soup the best. / Efik, Nigeria

A good wife and a strengthening cabbage soup, you should not want more. / Russian

A hen’s soup and a girl’s laugh bode no good. / German

A woman who follows the fashion will never boil a good soup. / English, Jamaica

An old hen makes a good soup. / Spanish, Central America and the Caribbean

Asking [a neighbour] for salt does not yet make soup. [You have to depend on your own efforts.] / Krio, Sierra Leone

Beauty will not season your soup. / Polish

If you can’t control your moustache, don’t eat lentil soup. [If saddled with a jealous wife, to lead a peaceful married life, in her presence play no game that involves a sportive dame.] / Burmese

from “Never Marry a Women with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs Around the World,” by Mineke Schipper, Universiteit Leiden :: via MetaFilter

Originally published at culture-making.com.

A graphical analysis of national anthem lyrics

With attention to religious expression, Olympic performance,
and general bloodthirstiness

One of my 2010 New Year’s resolutions was simple: I wanted to learn the words to the French national anthem. My reasons for memorizing “La Marseillaise” were twofold: first, I’d always wanted to sing along with that climactic scene in Casablanca where Bogart, Bergman, and the whole gang at Rick’s Café Américain join together to drown out an annoying chorus of Nazi officers. And second, for the past few years I’ve undertaken an unsuccessful effort to teach myself the language of Voltaire and Hulot, largely by watching Le 20 Heures, the French national broadcaster’s nightly newscast.

Hot dogs of Latin America

I love how even standardized American-cum-global cuisine can still go off in its own condiment-slathered local direction wherever it lands. This list makes me simultaneously very hungry and just a little bit queasy.

Guatemala Generally called “shucos”, are cooked in a carbon grill. They’re served with the classic boiled sausage, guacamole, mustard, mayonnaise,boiled cabbage. If you want you can add ketchup, bacon, pepperoni, salami, Spanish chorizo, longaniza or meat. They cost around $0.50 in all Guatemalan cities. You may order the famous “mixto” who brings all the toppings already mentioned, but its price may rise to $2.00 or $3.00.

Colombia In Bogotá and practically all the country, the hot dog is eaten with an unusually great amount and variety of condiments and fixings. In a single hot dog, is normal to find mashed potato chips, cheese, strings of ham or bacon, ketchup, mayo, mustard, pineapple sauce, and chopped onion.

from “Hot dog variations,” Wikipedia :: via Global Voices Online

Originally published at culture-making.com.

On a human plane

A Spanish novelist’s prescription for his fear of flying: learn to love airplanes as individuals. The humanizing touch is hardly absent from the history of flight: think of Howard Hawks’ classic film Only Angels Have Wings or all those pin-up models painted onto the noses of WWII bombers. And it lives on in the work of a few contemporary writers—William Langewiesche in particular—even in the serial-number world of today’s commercial aviation.

We live in an age that tends to depersonalize even people and is, in principle, averse to anthropomorphism. Indeed, such a tendency is often criticized, erroneously and foolishly in my view, since that ‘rapprochement’ between the human and the non-human is quite natural and spontaneous, and far from being an attempt to deprive animals, plants and objects of their respective selves, it places them in the category of the ‘humanizable’, which is, for us, the highest and most respectable of categories.

I know people who talk to, question, spoil, threaten or even quarrel with their computers, saying things like: ‘Right now, you behave yourself,’ or thanking them for their help. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s perfectly understandable. In fact, given how often we travel in planes, the odd thing about our relationship with them – those complex machines endowed with movement to which we surrender ourselves and that transport us through the air – is that it isn’t more ‘personal’, or more ‘animal’, or more ‘sailor-like’, if you prefer. Perhaps those who crew them haven’t known how to communicate this to us. I’ve never seen them pat a plane, as you might pat a horse to calm or reward it; I’ve never seen planes being groomed and cleaned and tidied, except very hurriedly and impatiently; I’ve never seen them loved as Conrad’s captain loved his sunken brig; I’ve never seen air hostesses – who spend a lot of time on-board – treat them with the respect and care, at once fatherly and comradely, enjoyed by ships.

from “Airships,” by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, Granta 107, Summer 2009 :: via The Morning News

Originally published at culture-making.com.

One hand, one heart, two tongues

A revival of West Side Story, directed by the 90-year-old author of the 1957 musical’s book, aims to redress the original’s anti-Puerto Rican bias (or just plain inaccuracy). I hope at least one of the gangs will hold on to the dorky-cool ballet swagger. But even if not, it’d be worth it to hear the songs in Spanish.

Added excitement comes from the bilingual reworking of the libretto. When Maria sings I Feel Pretty it comes out as: “Hoy me siento/Tan Hermosa/Tan preciosa que puedo volar/Y no hay diosa, en el mundo, que me va a alcanzar.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the recent hit musical In The Heights, which focuses on a poor neighbourhood of Manhattan’s Washington Heights faced with gentrification, was recruited to rewrite the lyrics. The Sharks sing in Spanish, with English surtitles, while the delinquent Jets sing in English.

Laurents was given the idea of a bi-lingual show after his companion, Tom Hatcher, who died two years ago, saw an all-Spanish staging of the musical in Colombia in which the Sharks – the Capulets of Shakespeare’s play – were transformed into heroes, the Jets into villains.

Laurents intends to make the new version darker and more threatening than previous stagings, certainly more so than the film, of which he is disparaging. “I thought the whole thing was terrible. Day-Glo costumes and fake accents!” he told the Washington Post.

Originally published at culture-making.com.

The first assimilation

A cultural adaption strategy for those who find themselves doubly in the minority (although, in parts of LA I suppose people of Mexican ancestry may qualify, at least in terms of numbers, for majority-culture status).

Juan Carlos Rivera knew that if he wanted to get a dishwashing job at the MacArthur Park hamburger stand, he would have to pretend to be Mexican. But the thought of lying made the Salvadoran anxious. He paced outside the restaurant, worried that his melodic Spanish accent, his use of the Central American vos, instead of the Mexican tú, would give him away. Resolving to say as little as possible, Rivera remembers steeling himself and stepping inside—into the world of Mexicanization.

In his best Mexican Spanish, the Salvadoran asked: ¿Tienen trabajo? (Do you have work?) When asked where he was born, he swallowed his pride and answered: Puebla, Mexico. The job was his. For three days, Rivera scrubbed plates in conspicuous silence. He knew the Mexican cooks were onto him. Especially the one from Puebla. “I would stay up late wondering, ‘What if they discover me? What if they take my job away? What if they beat me up?’“ Rivera said.

Twenty years later, those fears have vanished but the 35-year-old continues to pretend. Life in Southern California is just less complicated as a Mexican, he says. Fitting in is easier. He introduces himself as Mexican. He says his closest friends are from Mexico and he eats nothing but Mexican food. Rivera and thousands of other Central and South American immigrants have left their native countries only to arrive in an American city dominated by Mexicans, who comprise L.A.’s largest Latino group and have access to most of the jobs sought by immigrants. The metropolis drives many to Mexicanize, to degrees big and small, often before they start to Americanize.

from “Central American immigrants adopt Mexican ways in U.S.,” by Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times, 3 November 2008

Originally published at culture-making.com.