Category Archives: slang

Black in Latin America

With a little break in the school year, I finally sat down and watched all of Henry Louis Gates’ Black in Latin America PBS series this weekend. There are four 50-minute episodes, and each is worth your time. Luckily, they are all free to view on show’s website.

There are quite a few aha moments to be had in the series. For instance, I had no idea that Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for 22 years in the mid-19th century (episode 1)—an event that really began the shaping of Dominicans’ conception of “blackness,” as well as their feelings towards Haitians. I also learned about the racially charged character Negro Mama (episode 4)—a bumbling blackface thief played by comedian Jorge Benavides on Peruvian TV.

There is also quite a bit in the series about food, which meant that I was constantly hungry while watching it. At one point, Gates is having a discussion with a Mexican historian about fufu (episode 4), which is a popular savory dish in the Caribbean that has its roots in the cuisine of West Africa. Their discussion made me think of an entertaining episode of Internets Celebrities from a couple of weeks back about mofongo (just another word for the same dish) in Corona, Queens, NYC.

Gates himself seems most taken with the country of Brazil (episode 3), which has over 75 million people of African descent and was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery. Personally, I was  most interested in the complicated path of racial identity in Cuba (episode 2). But I got a ton out of each and every episode. Check it out!

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Mi chanchito : Art museum patron is sucker for adorable pig

So I was down in Forest Park yesterday to check out Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea at the St. Louis Art Museum, and it was great. The show includes dozens of pieces of Mayan art related to the sea, rain, animals, and the gods that have never been shown in the United States before.

There are crocodile sculptures, funerary statues, duck-head vases, a pelican head…frankly it was a bit overwhelming because almost every piece has a rich mythic backstory and is executed with fine and complicated detailing. The whole time I was mesmerized by geometric configurations, stories of gods emerging from sharks, the idea of a cosmic turtle, and just how lovely a bloodletting ritual could be. Honestly, I need to go back to take it all in more fully. But I’m running out of time because the show is only in St. Louis until May 8…and then the world ends in 2012.

But it wasn’t until I hit the show’s gift shop that I became a true sucker. Usually I fly right past all the goodies laid out to tempt museum goers, but not this time. Delicately placed on a pedestal at the front of the store was a basket of adorable three-legged ceramic pigs from Chile called chanchitos. The name comes from the diminutive of chancho, which is a word in parts of Latin America for “pig” (both the four-legged version and the guy who your mother always warned you about). Normally the word chanchito refers to a piggy bank, but the chanchitos at the art museum were ceramic art obejects made in Pomaire, Chile that are exchanged between family and friends as good luck symbols. I was smitten and had to have one. And personally, I don’t think there is a luckier or more attractive swine than the one my wife and I picked out of that sales basket. (Though this Facebook page would take issue with us.)

Chanchito con sus nuevos amigos

Bringing our chanchito home made me do a little more investigation into Pomaire. The village is about 60 km west of Santiago and is home to some really amazing potters and pottery studios. It is also famous for its almost two-pound empanadas. My goodness, it’s almost lunch time and I’m ready to book a flight to Chile right now! (Here’s a great blog about the cuisine of the village and how to cure any cooking vessels you might buy there on a future trip.)

(Five-minute video en español on pottery arts in Pomaire).

Los Hermanos Oritz : Superman es ilegal

Here is the original version of the song I discovered through La misma luna. Good stuff!

¡Es un pájaro! ¡Es un avión!
No, hombre, ¡es un mojado!

Llegó del cielo y no es un avión.
Venía en su nave, desde Criptón,
y por lo visto, no es un Americano
sino otro igual como yo, indocumentado.
Así es que migra, él no debe de trabajar
porque aunque duela, Superman es ilegal.

Es periodista, también yo soy
y no fue el Army, a que camión.
Y aquel es güero, ojos azules, bien formado
y yo prietito, gordiflón y muy chaparro.
Pero yo al menos en mi patria ya marché
con el coyote que pagué cuando cruzé.

No cumplió con el servicio militar,
no paga impuestos y le hace al judicial.
No tiene mica ni permiso pa’ volar.
Y les apuesto que ni seguro social.

Hay que hechar a Superman se esta región
y si se puede, regresarlo pa’ Criptón.
¿Dónde está esa autoridad de emigración?
¿Qué hay de nuevo, don Racismo, en la nación?

De que yo sepa no lo multan por volar
sino al contrario, lo declaran Superman.
No cumplió con el servicio militar,
no paga impuestos y le hace al judicial.
No tiene mica ni permiso pa’ volar.
Y les apuesto que ni seguro social.

Hay que hechar a Superman se esta región
y si se puede, regresarlo pa’ Criptón.
¿Dónde está esa autoridad de emigración?
¿Qué hay de nuevo, don Racismo, en la nación?

UTA’s Spanish Proficiency Exercises are my new favorite toy

I was looking for some resources to help a classmate of mine with listening skills this weekend when I came across a great site run by the University of Texas at Austin’s Spanish and Portuguese language department. The site, which is labeled “Spanish Proficiency Exercises,” is clearly meant as a resource for the students at the school, but it can help anyone learning Spanish at any level.

The site is a collection of tons of short videos, each featuring a native speaker talking on a particular topic. They range from things as basic as counting and listing the contents of your backpack to describing a desert mirage or talking about stereotypes. The videos are grouped by topic and arranged by difficultly. For each topic, there is a scripted video in which the speaker uses clear annunciation and no slang. But then that video is followed by several off-the-cuff pieces in which the speakers use slang and show off their dialects. Each topic has about five or six speakers, and they come from all over the Spanish-speaking world: Mexico, Spain, South America, and so on.

Spanish transcription, English translation, and vocab and phrase help are available for each video as well.

Links:

*University of Texas at Austin Department of Spanish and Portuguese

*Spanish Proficiency Exercises Welcome Page