Tag Archives: animales

Dogs and Politics: Bolívar, Nevado, and Chávez

Because of my experience with Angostura bitters I’ve been looking into other nooks and crannies of Simón Bolívar’s life. One of the more interesting parts of his legacy is the history of  his dog Nevado (Snowy). Like most things related to Bolívar, the story is connected to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Statue of Bolívar's two companions, Nevado and the Indian Tinjaca. Plaza Bolívar de Mucuchíes, Mérida, Venezuela.

Nevado was a Mucuchí. Mucuchíes are fluffy white Andean dogs that sometimes have a little splash of black, tan, or gray; and they’re pretty much localized to the Mérida region of Venezuela. The breed was started 400 years ago when Augustine missionaries first brought Pyrenean Mastiffs with them to the Andes. Apparently those friars were surprised to find a Andean dog of similar temperament and looks already there when they arrived, so they did the obvious—they breed the two together. (That’s the obvious thing to do, right?) The end result was the Mucuchíes, which are popularly known as a lovable breed of hard-working dogs. They are also the national dog of Venezuela and a kind of national symbol for the country.

Bolívar’s Mucuchí pup Nevado was given to him by the people of Mérida during the leader’s fight for the liberation of Venezuela from Spanish control. Legend has it that Nevado was a faithful companion to Bolívar and even ran alongside Bolívar’s horse when he went into battle. Ultimately the poor thing was killed during the Battle of Carabobo in 1821, which was a decisive win for Bolívar and a key victory leading to Venezuela’s independence. Many memorials exist today in Venezuela dedicated to Nevado and his roll in the liberation of the country, and the dog’s story is a rich part of Venezuelan history. But the Mucuchíes as a whole have seen better days. More and more the breed has been bred with larger dogs such as St. Bernards, making it harder and harder to find a purebred Mucuchí these days. Enter Hugo Chávez.

Recently Chávez gave government backing and funding to the Nevado Foundation (named after Bolívar’s dog of course), an organization that has been trying to bring the breed back from the brink of extinction. Chávez is crazy for all things Bolívar. He sees himself as the ideological son of the liberator. He changed the official title of the country to the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” in 1999. And he even likes to give a copy of Bolívar’s sword as gift to distinguished guests, as he recently did for Russian Tzar Godfather President Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. So backing a group named after Bolívar’s dog was probably a no brainer for the South American leader.

While the Nevado Foundation, which operates a breeding kennel for the dogs just outside of Caracas, only has about a dozen pups at the moment, now with the backing of Chávez’ government, they have high hopes. According to Nevado Foundation President Walter de Mendoza…

We want [Mucuchíes] to be known all around the country as a breed and as its historical legacy. We would like to have Mucuchíes even outside Venezuela. One of the plans we have is to have at least a couple of them in each embassy around the world as a symbol of our country.

source: PRI

And I’ll be the first in line to pet one!

La guerra contra las hormigas

I survived my finals this week only to face a battle with a ruthless bunch of hormigas (ants) pouring into our kitchen through a crack near a garden-level window that happens to lead right into the space behind our sink. While I generally find insects a fascinating lot, I don’t take well to them getting into our cabinets, counters, and food. So I did what any red-blooded American would do…I bought a big can of Raid® (sitio en español).

It still amazes me how much Spanish appears on consumer products and in the commercial world these days. Our local Trader Joe’s grocery store, for instance, just added Spanish translations to all their store signage. And Lowe’s® has been doing the Spanish signage thing for some time—what a great way to build vocabulary!  But the impression of this dilettante is that insecticides have led the way in bilingual packaging for years now, and my big can of Raid® gives equal time to Spanish and English on its label. ¡Mata al contacto!

Now while I don’t like hormigas traipsing around my kitchen and I’ll quickly rush out to buy insecticide to stop them from doing so, I’m pretty paranoid about spraying poisonous chemicals all over mi cocina. My OCD immediately kicks in after applying the stuff—I wash my hands over and over after using it. I also tend to avoid the sprayed areas for days after laying down the lethal justice. So I was shocked when I went looking around YouTube for old Raid® commercials and found that people used to be encouraged to spray the poison like air freshener in the past. Take this ad for instance…

Am I crazy? Or is this señora inviting some form of cancer with her liberal use of the stuff?

juegos del fútbol americano

Gerald Erichsen already has a great list of football terms here. So to make this guy really happy (don’t click through the link if you are easily angered by raging morons), I thought I’d just give a list of this weekend’s playoff match-ups in the NFL. Next week, los Potros de Indianápolis, los Cargadores de San Diego, los Santos de Nueva Orleáns y los Vikingos de Minnesota return to action.

los Jets de Nueva York vs. los Bengalíes de Cincinnati

las Águilas de Filadelfia vs. los Vaqueros de Dallas

los Cuervos de Baltimore vs. los Patriotas de Nueva Inglaterra

los Empacadores de Green Bay vs. los Cardenales de Arizona

Immigration by Accident

When I lived in Pittsburgh, it seemed to me that no place in the United States could possibly be less touched by Hispanic culture than that city. The few Mexican restaurants there were tucked in remote, faceless strip malls. Ketchup appeared to still outpace salsa in condiment sales. And, at least when I was living there, the largest Hispanic enclave was in Beechview and numbered a whopping 147 people (according to the 2000 Census). Then this fall I went to Hawaii, which usually ranks at or near the bottom of all states for percentage of Hispanic residents, and I found a world where even Taco Bells are scarce. However, there is one large immigrant population from the Spanish-speaking world in the state, and it draws ire from the locals of course. That would be the infamous Puerto Rican coquí frog, which made its way to the islands probably in ornamental plant shipments sometime in the mid-1990s.

Friend or Foe?

Now coquís are cute little guys, and they have one very distinct feature: their vocal endowment. The males of the species spend evenings, nights, and early mornings belting out a repetitive onomatopoeic co-QUI, co-QUI, co-QUI over and over and over again. And let me tell you, size means nothing. Apparently they’ve been measured at 100 dB. The frogs are adored in their native Puerto Rico. They are a kind of unofficial state animal of the territory, and you can easily find toys, CDs, T-shirts, stickers, buttons, and whatnot featuring them there. Locals claim to find their call soothing and an integral part of Caribbean nights. In Hawaii, it’s a different story. Most people there think they’re irritating pests. They’re loud, they’re changing the ecosystem, and…gulp…they might affect tourism! Some take this “pest” problem into their own hands, which usually hold a hammer of some sort. Others have grown to love them.

Dolphin Bay Hotel: Site of Future Immigration Sting?

I encountered their choruses while spending a pleasant few nights at the Dolphin Bay Hotel in Hilo on the Big Island (a great place to stay, by the way). Apparently the hotel has gotten plenty of complaints from folks in the past–each room is stocked with ear plugs. (Never seen that before!) While I understand the threat that coquís present, especially for forest birds, it seems to me that they are permanent residents now. And personally, I found their night songs incredibly peaceful and easy to sleep by. Judge for yourself…

Elephant Ballerinas, Crabby Ducks, and Sleepy Birds : The World of Pocoyo

Just because the excellent Pocoyo kid’s show wasn’t around when I was young doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it now. It’s wonderful! Beautiful 3-D animation, great writing, and a whole lot of creativity go into each program. The short episodes (about 6-10 minutes each) feature an amazingly imaginative kid named Pocoyo, who wears a sweet blue outfit and loves to dance. His friends include a grouchy duck named Pato, a graceful elephant named Elly, and his dog Loula. All of them love to dance and play, except for their friend Pajaroto (or “Pájaro Dormilón”), a sleepy bird who sits on a nest all day snoozing. Best of all, if you watch the Spanish-language versions of the episodes, you’ll pick up new vocabulary quite quickly. So I suggest you watch. The following is Episode 31 from Season 1: Pocoyo fancies himself a superhero…who can super annoy his friends. Episodes are easily found on YouTube, the show’s website, Netflix, and the on-demand-video section of Spain’s public tv station TVE.

The Chick that goes pío pío & other Animal Sounds in Spanish

Onomatopoeia (onomatopeya) rocks. It’s the basis for a lot of my favorite words, particularly animal sounds. But the trouble is that we don’t all hear things the same way. Does a dog go “bow wow,” “woof woof,” “bark bark,” or what? So, of course Spanish speakers hear animals very differently than English speakers. Since I was on a kick with the vet book, I decided to look into animal sounds…and there are some awesome ones. Like a cabra (goat), which says “bee bee.” Even better, there’s a verb for it–balar. So actually, la cabra bala bee bee. ¿Entienden? (By the way, the infamous el chupacabra means “goatsucker.” Chupar means “to suck,” and we now know that cabra is a goat.) Not all animals are lucky enough to get verbs for their sounds. Hacer can be used for those, as well as generally for any animal. La cuco hace cúcu-cúcu (“The cuckoo says, “cuckoo.”).


(Like in English, the following can vary between regions and dialects.)

El burro (donkey) rebuzna/hace iii-aah.

La abeja (bee) zumba/hace bzzz. :: El búho (owl) ulula/hace uu uu.

El caballo (horse) relincha/hace jiiiiiii. :: El cerdo (pig) grune/hace oink-oink.

El cuervo (crow) hace cruaaac-cruaaac. :: El elefante (elephant) barrita/hace prraaahhh, prrraaaahhh.

La gallina (hen) cacarea/hace coc co co coc :: El gallo (rooster) canta/hace kikirikí.

El gato (cat) maulla/hace miau. :: El león (lion) ruge/hace grrrr.

La oveja (sheep) bala/hace mee. :: El mono (monkey) hace i-i-i.

La paloma (dove) arrulla/hace cu-curru-cu-cú. :: El pato (duck) hace cuá cuá.

El pavo (turkey) hace gluglú. :: El perro (dog) ladra/hace guau guau.

El pollito (chick) hace pío pío. :: La rana (frog) croa/hace croac.

El tigre (tiger) ruge/hace ggggrrrr. :: La vaca (cow) muge/hace mu.

Spanish for Veterinarians, Spanish for People with Sick Puppies

I was tooling around in Washington University‘s library the other day to see what kind of Spanish trouble I could get myself into when I came across Bonnie Frederick and Juan Mosqueda’s book Spanish for Veterinarians: A Practical Introduction. Even though I’m not a veterinarian nor a veterinary science student–in fact, I don’t even have a pet right now–I somehow thought this would be a good book to check out and peruse at home. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how to say “to examine the wing” (examinar el ala) or “to vaccinate the puppies” (vacunar los perritos) en español?


Blackwell Publishing 2008

The book has a fun set-up. There are two chapters on verbs, a couple on general situations–that have great titles like “How Long Has the Cow Had a Fever?”, “The Past and Accidents,” and “Telling People What to Do”–, and several on particular animals (horses, cattle, dogs, cats, etc.). But basically the book throws a lot of vocabulary at you with just a little bit about grammar. The idea is that between listening for key words and saying ¡Hable más despacio, por favor!, a vet will be just fine to deal with Spanish-speaking clients. (Good luck with that, folks!) I suppose that if the book is used in tandem with Spanish-language courses things might go okay…until la fiebre de las Montañas Rocallosas (Rocky Mountain Fever) kicks in. ¡Aye!


For me, I was just looking for some fun new words, like la tortuga de caja (box turtle), las pulgas (fleas), and el alpiste (birdseed). I think I’ll leave things like transmissible canine venereal tumor (el tumor venéro transmisible), feline urological syndrome (el síndrome urológico felino) , and intervertebral disk disease (la enfermedad del disco intervertebral) to the professionals using this book. And perhaps I should go back to a plain old picture dictionary for the time being.

Some other good words found inside:

el ala : wing :: cola : tail :: cuerno : horn :: hocico : muzzle

pata : paw :: pico : beak :: la ubre : udder :: pezuña/casco : hoof