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In this Spanish lesson we are going to practice choosing when to use Spanish Indicative or Subjunctive when expressing opinion. As usual, first we will review some relevant grammar and vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short listening.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

This lesson is part of a Spanish course that practices the grammar and vocabulary first introduced in my Intermediate Spanish course posted here on the Transparent Language blog. Let’s test your listening comprehension and see if you can understand a short audio in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

Use the following link to watch the corresponding video lesson of the original course:

Intermediate Spanish Lesson – When to use Spanish Indicative or Subjunctive when expressing opinion

Now play the audio to listen a conversation between between two flat mates. Can you understand what they are saying? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Transcript:

Clara: Tom, ¿por qué no lavas nunca tus platos? Es obvio que nadie los va a lavar por ti.
Tom: Es probable que no comprendas la razón por la que no lavo los platos.
Clara: ¿Cuál es?
Tom: Tengo alergia al jabón. Me sale un sarpullido en las manos.
Clara: Por favor…. Es vergonzoso que pongas una excusa tan absurda. ¿No puedes ponerte guantes? ¿O comprar un jabón diferente?
Tom: Es una pena que no me creas. No es una excusa, es la verdad. He probado todos los jabones en el mercado y todos me dan alergia.
Clara: Está claro que no has usado tu cerebro adecuadamente ¿No puedes ponerte guantes?
Tom: Clara, es injusto que me hables así. Es una falta de respeto. Y no, no puedo usar guantes. Me dan alergia.
Clara: Vale, es verdad que he sido un poco maleducada, pero es increíble que todos los jabones y todos los guantes te den alergia, la verdad.
Tom: Es evidente que no me crees, pero no puedo hacer nada para convencerte.
Clara: Bueno, tengo una idea. Yo lavo tus platos y tú recoges mi habitación todos los días.
Tom: ¿Qué dices? ¡Tu habitación es una pocilga!
Clara: Tom, es importante que lleguemos a un acuerdo.
Tom: Bueno, lo voy a pensar.

So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

Want to hear more? Sign up for one of our newsletters!

For more language learning advice, free resources, and information about how we can help you reach your language goals, select the most relevant newsletter(s) for you and sign up below.

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If you have ever flown into Mexico City, you have unfortunately seen the ugly thick layer of smog that covers it. Air pollution is something that has been plaguing Mexico City for many years now, and while there have been some efforts to diminish it, the air is just filthy. This week, the pollution levels were so high that the Department of Education (SEP) recommended canceling outdoor recess and limiting any activity outdoors.

Photo taken by Gordon Bell found on Flickr.com with license CC BY-ND 2.0

Population and Geography

Pollution or contaminación in Mexico City began in the 1970s and 1980s. Mexican culture and government has been set up in a way that everything goes through the capital, whether you are talking about food and goods, government offices, headquarters of major companies, etc. Everything is centered around la Ciudad de México making it a magnet for people, cars and cargo. Because of this, the city has seen incredible growth with an estimated 25 million inhabitants with expected growth each year.

In addition to the high population, the city is also surrounded by mountains and dormant volcanoes such as the Popocatépetl and the Iztaccíhuatl. This creates a pot effect in Mexico City making it difficult for the air to flow and keeping the pollution concentrated in the valley. The combination of the geography and the growing población, make pollution a real problem for the inhabitants.

How is pollution measured?

The Índice de Calidad del Aire or the quality of air index is the way the quality of air in the city is measured. Each day measurements are taken to determine the status of the quality of air measuring five different contaminants. Using the measurement, the city is given a score on a scale of 0 to 500, 0 being the cleanest and 500 being the most polluted. With this number, the government can inform the population of the quality and decisions can be made.

A regular day in Mexico City equals a measurement of 51-100 and the only type of population that it warns are those at-risk. A bad day is from levels 101-150 and susceptible people such as babies, children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illnesses should limit the time they are outdoors.

On Monday May 13, the air levels surpassed 150 putting it in the very bad range which warns that everyone (susceptible or not) can feel the effects of the pollution. In my personal experience, you feel very very tired, almost lethargic with dolor de cabeza (headache), nariz y  boca seca (dry nose and mouth) and just an overall sense of being unwell. People from susceptible groups will naturally feel worse.

Programs in Place

One of the most known methods to control pollution levels in Mexico City is the car verification system. Every so often, all cars that circulate in Mexico City need to be taken to a Centro de Verificación to be checked for emission levels. Depending on the results of this test, your car will be allowed to either circulate every day or have 1 or 2 mandatory rest days. This is meant to limit how many polluting cars are out and about and to encourage people to buy newer cars. Cars with out of state license plates are required to rest one day unless they do a voluntary verification to test emissions.

The car’s resting day is determined by the last number of the car plate. Números 5 y 6 rest on Monday, 7 y 8 on Tuesday, 3 y 4 on Wednesday, 1 y 2 on Thursday, and 9 y 0 on Friday. On Saturday, it alternates between pares e impares or even and odd numbers. Using your car on days when you are not allowed can result in very high multas or fines not to mention your car being towed and all the costs and hassle related to that. When pollution levels are significantly higher than “normal,” police tend to be more vigilant.

The city government also offers a reduction in property tax for buildings with certain ecological projects such as azoteas verdes or green roofs. There is also a push to make the city more bike friendly so that people will be less inclined to use their cars. There is a city-sponsored renta de bici or bike rental project throughout the city that lets you rent a bike at a very affordable price. Many private bike-rental companies have also popped up.

What is happening now?

Spring is always a difficult time for those who live in Mexico City. The air quality is at its worse and the heat just adds to the overall feeling of being unwell. Currently, there are several forest fires going on in Mexico and the toxins from that fire have reached the city. There were also a few fires within the city increasing the ash content in the air and raising all alarms. Because of the high levels of pollution, the city government activated what is called Contingencia Ambiental Atmosférica Extraordinaria or an extraordinary contingency with levels reaching 140 points. Police are on high alert checking that vehicles that do not have authorization are not on the roads, and the public is advised to limit outdoor activities as well as to report any signs of fire to authorities. The Secretaría de Educación Pública (education department) canceled classes for Thursday May 16 due to the unhealthy air quality.

Below is a video with some shocking footage of what the pollution looked like this past week.

Registran incendios, calor y más contaminación en la Ciudad de México - YouTube

How does your city tackle pollution? If you have been in Mexico City, did you feel the effects of the pollution?

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In this Spanish lesson we are going to practice ordering in a Spanish bar or restaurant. As usual, first we will review some relevant grammar and vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short listening.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

This lesson is part of a Spanish course that practices the grammar and vocabulary first introduced in my Intermediate Spanish course posted here on the Transparent Language blog. Let’s test your listening comprehension and see if you can understand a short audio in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

Use the following link to watch the corresponding video lesson of the original course:

Intermediate Spanish Lesson – How to order in a Spanish bar or restaurant

Now play the audio to listen a conversation between between Alan and a bar waitress. Can you understand what they are saying? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Transcript:

Alan: Oye, por favor.
Camarera: Sí, dígame.
Alan: ¿Nos pones dos cañas y algo para picar?
Camarera: Sí, por supuesto. ¿Qué quieren para picar? Tenemos aceitunas, cacahuetes, patatas fritas,… ¿Igual prefieren unas tapas?
Alan: ¿Qué tapas tenéis?
Camarera: Tenemos calamares a la romana, patatas bravas, croquetas y ensaladilla rusa.
Alan: Mmm… ponnos unas aceitunas y unos calamares a la romana.
Camarera: Muy bien. Aceitunas, calamares a la romana y dos cañas.
Alan: Eso es.
Camarera: ¿La cañas rubias o tostadas?
Alan: Tostadas por favor.
Camarera: Muy bien. Enseguida les traigo todo.
Alan: Muchas gracias. Oye perdona.
Camarera: Dígame.
Alan: ¿Nos puedes traer también un poco de pan?
Camarera: Sí, claro.
Alan: Gracias.

So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

Want to hear more? Sign up for one of our newsletters!

For more language learning advice, free resources, and information about how we can help you reach your language goals, select the most relevant newsletter(s) for you and sign up below.

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When I started doing research before our move to Latin America a few years ago, I had a list of things I really wanted to experience. Visiting Machu Picchu, hiking in Patagonia, seeing lucha libre in Mexico, and experiencing Holy Week in Guatemala were all high up on my list. A few weeks ago, I finally got to cross that last item off the list after spending some time in both Antigua and Lake Atitlan. Here’s a bit about my time celebrating Semana Santa en Guatemala.

A procession in the Central Park of Antigua.

An Intro to Semana Santa en Guatemala

Semana Santa (Holy Week) refers to the week preceding Pascua (Easter). La Semana Santa es la conmemoración de la pasión, la crucifixión y la resurrección de Cristo (Holy Week is the commemoration of the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ). This is a very important time in Latin America, where about 90% of the population are Christian.

Muchas personas viajan durante la Semana Santa en América Latina (Many people travel during Holy Week in Latin America). As a matter of fact, this is probably the busiest travel week of the year all across the region. One place that many people flock to is the city of Antigua, Guatemala.

The tradition of Holy Week came to Guatemala when the Spanish arrived there in 1524. Many centuries later, there’s perhaps no place on Earth that celebrates Semana Santa quite like Guatemala, specifically the colonial city of Antigua. The festivities actually begin much earlier on Miércoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday) at the start of the period known as Prestado (Lent).

Throughout Lent, all of the churches in Antigua host different vigils and processions. The vigils take place on Fridays and the processions on Sundays. Sometimes there are also children’s processions on Saturdays. During the vigil, the church will stay open all day so people can come see the sacred sculptures and pray. Believe it or not, many of these sculptures have been in Antigua for centuries, dating back to colonial times.

An alfombra in the La Merced church.

Each church will also make a very colorful alfombra (carpet) out of sawdust, pine needles, flowers, vegetables, and fruit. These are very meticulously arranged and can take many hours to finish. It’s not only the churches that put together the alfombras, as people all over town dedicate a lot of time and energy to making their own. Seeing the intricate alfombras around town is one of the best parts about celebrating Semana Santa in Antigua.

The highlight of Semana Santa in Antigua is without a doubt the amazing processions that take the town over. Las procesiones de Semana Santa en Antigua son las más grandes del mundo (The Holy Week processions in Antigua are the largest in the world).

During these processions, large groups of people known as las hermandades (religious brotherhood/sisterhood) carry massive andas (altars) depicting scenes from the Bible around town. The biggest ones can weigh several tons and take upwards of 100 men to carry. It really is an impressive sight to behold!

It takes up to 100 men to carry one of these!

At the front of the procession there are people waving incense, filling the streets with the smoke and aroma that billows out of them. The men carrying the larger altars are known as cucurruchos, while the women who carry the smaller ones are called cargadoras. For most of Lent, they wear purple robes until they change into black on Good Friday to mark the death of Christ.

Being in the processions is definitely hard work, but the people who help to carry those massive floats actually pay to do so. It’s considered a big honor to be involved in the processions, and thousands of people contribute in order to be a part of them.

One of the massive andas that are carried.

Los procesiones van acompañados durante todo el recorrido por orquestas musicales (The processions are accompanied throughout the tour by musical orchestras). They even have helpers dragging along the drums, lights, and generators to keep the procession moving.

Even though those alfombras take several hours to complete, the processions trample right over them. In an instant, the detailed design is nothing but colorful dust in the cobblestone street. Once the procession has passed, men with shovels swoop in and toss everything into a dump truck. At the tail-end of the procession, you’ll find vendors selling balloons, snacks, and even little figurines of the cucurruchos.

The front of a procession through Antigua.

Celebrating Semana Santa in Antigua

Semana Santa actually kicks off quite early in Antigua, but the action really picks up around Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was welcomed by the people with branches of palm leaves. From here on out, there are processions and vigils every day for the remainder of Semana Santa.

The biggest day of the week is definitely Viernes Santo (Good Friday). In the late hours of Thursday, participants dressed as Roman soldiers parade through the city on horseback as they reenact the trial and sentencing of Jesus. Crowds begin to form at the La Merced church around midnight, and there are plenty of vendors working late to keep them fed.

Around 3AM, the famous Good Friday processions begin and continue for a staggering 18 hours or so. The floats that are used in these processions are the biggest and most impressive. One of them depicts Jesus carrying the cross and another the grieving Virgin Mary. The streets are packed full of people who stay up all night just to get a glimpse of the processions.

Around 3AM on Good Friday.

On Saturday, all of the floats depict a mourning Mary and are carried by women. It’s a very somber time as black robes replace the bright purple ones used in the other processions. That evening, people begin to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The last day is a festive one, with colorful flags, fireworks, and a carnival-like atmosphere in the city’s Central Park.

Just like that, the Semana Santa celebrations come to an end. The streets are clogged full of people catching a ride on Guatemala’s famous chicken buses back to their hometowns, and things go back to normal in this quaint colonial city.

My Experience in Antigua

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I had been wanting to celebrate Semana Santa in Antigua for a few years. Last year we were fortunate enough to see the processions in Cusco, Peru, and this year we finally made it to Guatemala.

We decided to spend a few weeks in Antigua before Semana Santa started. This allowed us to take part in some of the vigils and processions minus the massive crowds that show up during Holy Week. It was a lot easier to get up close to them and take photos during those first two weekends!

One of the smaller processions before Semana Santa.

After visiting Lake Atitlan for a couple of weeks, we headed back to Antigua to catch the end of the Semana Santa festivities. The procession on Wednesday night passed right by our hostel, so I was easily able to jump in and follow it for a while.

On Maudy Thursday, we walked around town admiring the alfombras. It was really amazing seeing how much effort and detail goes into making these. If you make it to Antigua for Semana Santa, be sure to carve out some time just to walk around town and find the alfombras before they’re trampled.

Carefully making the alfombras.

Even though we were exhausted, we managed to make it through the night to watch the Good Friday processions as they began at La Merced. I’m glad we did, because it was an experience I’ll never forget! I’ve seen a lot of interesting things in my travels, but the Holy Week processions in Antigua really are something special.

Unfortunately, we had to get out of town on Saturday so I could make it back to my hometown for a wedding. We had a great experience, though, and I’m just happy we finally got to be a part of Semana Santa en Guatemala.

If you have any questions, comments, or thoughts about the Holy Week processions in Antigua, please drop a line below!

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In this Spanish lesson we are going to practice the correlation between Spanish Indicativo and Subjuntivo. As usual, first we will review some relevant grammar and vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short listening.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

This lesson is part of a Spanish course that practices the grammar and vocabulary first introduced in my Intermediate Spanish course posted here on the Transparent Language blog. Let’s test your listening comprehension and see if you can understand a short audio in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

Use the following link to watch the corresponding video lesson of the original course:

Intermediate Spanish Lesson – The correlation between Spanish Indicativo and Subjuntivo

Now play the audio to listen a conversation between two friends. Can you understand what they are saying? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Transcript:

Patrick: ¿Qué te pasa Elena? Pareces preocupada.
Elena: Sí, estoy un poco preocupada. Creo que no voy a aprobar mi examen oral de inglés. No hablo muy bien.
Patrick:¿Has hablado con tu profesor?
Elena: Sí, mi profesor siempre me dice que esté tranquila, que vea películas en inglés para mejorar mi comprensión y que hable con personas nativas.
Patrick: ¡Perfecto! Yo soy inglés. Shall we speak in English?
Elena: No, no. Esta mañana he visto cuatro películas en inglés y ya no puedo más. Mi profesor me dijo ayer que no me obsesione y que me tome descansos.
Patrick: Si yo fuera tu profesor te aconsejaría que hablaras un poco en inglés todos los días. También te aconsejaría que vieras series de televisión en inglés, que son más cortas que las películas.
Elena: Antes tenía una profesora que me decía que escuchara la radio, pero me parece muy difícil.
Patrick: Yo te diría que escucharas canciones en inglés. ¿Tienes alguna canción en inglés favorita?
Elena: Mmmmm no sé. Me gusta el grupo Abba.
Patrick: ¿Abba? Bueno vale. Puedes escuchar sus canciones y luego mirar la letra. Es fácil encontrar todas las letras en internet.
Elena: Muchas gracias por tus consejos Patrick.
Patrick: De nada. Y cuando quieras hablamos en inglés ¿vale?
Elena: Vale.

So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

Want to hear more? Sign up for one of our newsletters!

For more language learning advice, free resources, and information about how we can help you reach your language goals, select the most relevant newsletter(s) for you and sign up below.

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In this Spanish lesson we are going to practice the Spanish grammar tense El Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo. As usual, first we will review some relevant grammar and vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short listening.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

This lesson is part of a Spanish course that practices the grammar and vocabulary first introduced in my Intermediate Spanish course posted here on the Transparent Language blog. Let’s test your listening comprehension and see if you can understand a short audio in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

Use the following link to watch the corresponding video lesson of the original course:

Intermediate Spanish Lesson – El Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo

Now play the audio to listen a conversation between two friends. Can you understand what they are saying? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Transcript:

Silvia: Hola Matt ¿Qué tal?
Matt: Bien ¿Y tú?
Silvia: Muy bien. Vi tu hermana ayer. Me dijo que hablara contigo, que estabas muy estresado y necesitabas hablar con un amigo.
Matt: No, estoy bien. Estoy super tranquilo. ¿Tomamos algo?
Silvia: Vale pero ¿seguro que estás bien? No esperaba que estuvieras tan tranquilo.
Matt: Sí, de verdad estoy bien. ¿Qué vas a tomar?
Silvia: Quería tomar algo que tuviera cafeína, estoy un poco dormida, pero igual me tomo una cerveza.
Matt: Buena idea. Yo también. ¿Va a venir Jose?
Silvia: Sí, me dijo que me llamaría cuando llegara. Pero es un poco tarde.
Matt: A mí me dijo que cuando terminara el trabajo iba a pasar por el supermercado.
Silvia: Ah, por eso tarda tanto.
Matt: Sí, me dijo que le esperásemos aquí, que vendrá enseguida.
Silvia: Vale perfecto.

So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

Want to hear more? Sign up for one of our newsletters!

For more language learning advice, free resources, and information about how we can help you reach your language goals, select the most relevant newsletter(s) for you and sign up below.

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Like any other language, Spanish is rich in dichos, or sayings. Sayings represent one of the most charming ways to impart sabiduría (wisdom) to future generations.

Sayings are great when learning new vocabulary, getting to know a new culture, and accessing basic truths to be applied in any kind of situation. Additionally, they make you sound more natural and let you spice up your repertorio lingüístico (linguistic repertoire).

For all these reasons and more, a language learning process should never be complete without learning them. So, let’s take a look at these nine common Spanish sayings.

Photo taken from Pixabay.

1) A caballo regalado no se le mira el colmillo

Literal translation: Don’t look at the tooth of a gift horse.

English equivalent: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Meaning: Don’t ever look for flaws in something given as a present or donation.

2) A cada cochino le llega su sábado

Literal translation: Every pig has its Saturday.

English equivalent: Every turkey has its thanksgiving.

Meaning: In the end, you will get what you deserve.

3) Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda

Literal translation: Even if the monkey dresses in silk, she will still be a monkey.

English equivalent: You can put lipstick on a pig, put it is still a pig.

Meaning: Changing your appearance doesn’t change who you are at all.

4) Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente

Literal translation: The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current.

English equivalent: You snooze, you lose.

Meaning: Circumstances may completely overwhelm you if you stop being careful or alert.

5) Cuando el río suena, agua lleva (alternatively, piedras trae)

Literal translation: When the river makes noise, water (alternatively, stones) it carries.

English equivalent: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Meaning: When rumors are heard, there’s probably a figment of truth behind them.

6) Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres

Literal translation: Tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are.

English equivalent: Birds of a feather flock together.

Meaning: Who you choose to spend time with may reflect who you are.

7) Guerra avisada no mata soldado… Y si lo mata es por descuidado

Literal translation: A war noticed won’t kill a soldier… And if it does, then he was careless.

English equivalent: Forewarned is forearmed; a danger foreseen is half avoided.

Meaning: It is always wise to be cautious and take measures before a perceived risk.

8) Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente

Literal translation: Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel.

English equivalent: Out of sight, out of mind.

Meaning: If you don’t see what’s happening, then you don’t think about it; what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

9) Quien se fue a Sevilla perdió su silla

Literal translation: Whoever went to Seville lost his seat.

English equivalent: Move your feet, lose your seat.

Meaning: Don’t let go of either an opportunity or a good situation, as it may be taken away by someone else.

Next time you hang out with your Spanish-speaking counterparts, make sure you include these sayings and wow them with your fluent Spanish skills.

Is there any equivalent of these sayings in your native language? Let me know in the comments below.

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It’s no secret that me encanta México (I love Mexico). I’ve been living there on and off for the last two years now, and I’m about to go back for round three in a few days. Whenever people ask me why I love living in Mexico so much, I always mention la cultura Mexicana (Mexican culture). Mexico has such a vibrant, fascinating culture, and it’s a huge reason why I enjoy living there. We have a lot of excellent posts on Mexican culture, so I’d like to share some of the best ones with you today!

Me encanta México.

Las Fiestas

Bring up Mexican holidays to most westerners, and their first response will be “Cinco de Mayo!” While many think of Cinco de Mayo as a big holiday in Mexico, it really isn’t! The only city that really celebrates it is Puebla. Here it is known as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla). It commemorates the day when the Mexican army defeated the French in battle, and it really has nothing to do with tequila and sombreros.

Chiles en nogada

Many people mistakenly think of Cinco de Mayo as Mexico’s Independence Day. As a matter of fact, the holiday known as Día de la Independencia is celebrated on September 15th. On this day, people eat chiles en nogada – a green pepper stuffed with minced meat and topped with a creamy walnut-based sauce and pomegranate seeds. With green, red, and white, it has all the colors of la bandera Mexicana (the Mexican flag).

Viva México!

The biggest part of the holiday is reenacting Miguel Hidalgo’s famous Grito de Independencia (Cry of Independence). Wherever you are in Mexico, the whole town seems to turn out to join in chanting “Viva México! Viva México! Viva México!” I got to celebrate Independence Day in Puerto Vallarta this past year and it was a great experience. If you find yourself in Mexico in September, I highly recommend taking part in the festivities!

Another holiday we absolutely have to mention is Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos). This goes back thousands of years to an Aztec festival dedicated to Mictecacihuatl. She was the goddess of the underworld, with a name meaning “Lady of the Dead.” It may seem like a somber day, but it’s actually very festive. You can read all about it in my post, and be sure to check out Karoly’s interesting article on the commercialization of the holiday while you’re at it.

Los Deportes

Of course, el fútbol is number one in Mexico. People go wild for their local teams as well as the national one. It seems like there’s always a football game on TV or on the radio in Mexico. I was fortunate enough last year to travel to Russia for La Copa del Mundo (the World Cup) where I saw Mexico beat Germany. You can read all about my experience there in this post.

Mexican wrestling in DF and Guadalajara!

When it comes to uniquely Mexican sports, there’s nothing better than lucha libre. This high-flying style of professional wrestling is incredibly exciting to watch. I’ve gone to the shows several times in both Mexico City and Guadalajara and always have a blast. You can read all about lucha libre in my post, which includes some useful vocabulary for talking about this popular sport.

La Comida

La comida mexicana es famosa en todo el mundo (Mexican food is famous all around the world). Of course, the most famous dish from Mexico is the almighty taco. I don’t know about you, but I love tacos. Tacos al pastor, tacos de pescado, tacos dorados – I love them all!

Mmmm… tacos.

Mexican food is about way more than just tacos, though. Have a tasty plate of chilaquiles for breakfast, hit up a comida corrida spot for lunch, and feast on some birria for dinner. You can learn a lot about la comida Mexicana (Mexican food) in this post, which includes a lot of useful Spanish vocabulary.

La Música

A large mariachi group performs in Guadalajara.

As far as Mexican music goes, the most famous style is definitely mariachi. This traditional Mexican music is so well-known that it has even been recognized on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Listening to a mariachi group in a place like Plaza Garibaldi should definitely be high on your list when traveling to Mexico. If you’d like to learn more about mariachi, be sure to check out my recent post about it.

We’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to Mexican culture. As I’m getting ready to go back to Mexico for several months, I’d love to hear some suggestions from our readers. What kinds of posts would you like to read about Mexico in the next few months? Drop a comment below and let me know!

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Have you ever wondered why the banderas (flags) of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela are so alike? In this blog I’ll dust off the history books to tell you why.

Back in the 18th century, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela (as well as certain parts of today’s Peru, Guyana, and Brazil) were unificados into one huge nation during the reformas borbónicas, aimed at benefiting the Spanish Crown’s economy and making the South American colonies easier to govern. The new territory was then known as the Viceroyalty of New Granada.

New Granada was supposed to have a positive impact on Spain and its colonies, but it ended up causing frustration among criollos. And, to make long history short (and not to annoy you with details), after much warfare and bloodshed, the New World countries became Estados independientes.

After the independence of the South American countries under Spanish rule, one of the main leaders of the movimientos emancipadores, Simon Bolívar, reunified the territory comprising present day Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and part of southern Central America under the name “Colombia” whose capital was the city of Bogotá.

The departments of Gran Colombia in 1820. Image taken from “Atlas geográfico e histórico de la República de Colombia” by Agostino Codazzi.

Today, that territory is known as “La Gran Colombia” to distinguish it from the Republic of Colombia. La Gran Colombia was the most prestigious nation in South America, widely admired by other countries. Its flag had the three primary colors that you can see in the current Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Venezuelan flags.

Nevertheless, due to political differences between those who opposed Bolívar’s centralist ambitions and supporters of centralismo, la Gran Colombia was dissolved after a few years.

Flag of Gran Colombia. Image created by Shadowxfox available on Wikipedia.

Now you know that these countries’ flags are the result of their history, that is, a common heritage of years past. But, what about the meaning of those colors? In a nutshell, amarillo (yellow) stands for the countries’ countless recursos naturales; azul (blue) for the sea that separates them from Spain; and rojo (red) for the blood of their many guerreros de la libertad who later became revered national heroes.

A final question remains: Is there a sure-fire way to recognize each of those flags? The answer is yes, and this is how:

Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Venezuelan flags. Images taken from Pixabay.

The three bands of Venezuela’s flag have the same width and eight stars in the middle of the blue band forming an arch. The yellow band of the Colombian and Ecuadorian flags is wider than the other bands. Ecuador’s features their national coat of arms at the center and the blue band is of a lighter shade of that color, while the Colombian flag hasn’t anything else on it.

What is the history behind your national flag? Could it be mistaken with another similar flag? Share it with us on the comments below.

 

Words to learn

Amarillo: yellow

Azul: blue

Bandera: flag

Centralismo: centralism

Criollos: South American-born descendants of Spanish settlers

Estados independientes: independent states

Guerreros de la libertad: freedom fighters

Movimientos emancipadores: emancipation movements

Recursos naturales: natural resources

Reformas Borbónicas: Bourbon Reforms

Rojo: red

Unificados: unified

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In this Spanish lesson we are going to look at how to express agreement or disagreement in Spanish. As usual, first we will review some relevant grammar and vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short listening.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

This lesson is part of a Spanish course that practices the grammar and vocabulary first introduced in my Intermediate Spanish course posted here on the Transparent Language blog. Let’s test your listening comprehension and see if you can understand a short audio in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

Use the following link to watch the corresponding video lesson of the original course:

Intermediate Spanish Lesson – How to express agreement or disagreement in Spanish

Please familiarise yourself with the following words and phrases before listening to the audio below:

Uniforme: uniform
Elegir: to choose

Now play the audio to listen a conversation between two parents. Can you understand what they are saying? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Transcript:

Lola: Oye Keith ¿Qué te parece que el uniforme sea opcional en el colegio? Yo no lo veo bien.
Keith: Pues yo estoy a favor. Me parece importante que los niños puedan elegir la ropa que quieren llevar al colegio. ¿Por qué te parece mal?
Lola: A ver, no es que lo vea mal, pero seguramente los padres acaben eligiendo si sus hijos llevan uniforme o no, no los niños.
Keith: Puede ser, pero los padres deberían dejar a sus hijos elegir siempre.
Lola: ¿Siempre? No estoy de acuerdo al cien por cien. Está bien que los niños tomen algunas decisiones, pero hay cosas que los padres deben decidir.
Keith: ¿Entonces tú vas a decir a tu hijo si tiene que llevar uniforme o no?
Lola: Sí, por supuesto. Andrés va a llevar uniforme al colegio todos los días. Soy la madre y yo decido.
Keith: Bueno, es tu opinión y es tu hijo. Pero yo eso no lo veo bien.
Lola: ¿Entonces tu hija Emily va a decidir qué ropa va a llevar todos los días?
Keith: Evidentemente. Cuando el colegio permita que los niños vayan a clase con o sin uniforme, Emily decidirá qué prefiere.
Lola: ¿Y si un día quiere llevar uniforme y otro día no quiere?
Keith: Es su decisión.
Lola: ¿Y si un día quiere llevar el uniforme de los niños?
Keith: Será su decisión.
Lola: Keith, estás mal de la cabeza.
Keith: Pues yo creo que tú eres muy estricta.

So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

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