Wicked Spanish

While recently unpacking old boxes I found my student ID from the Colegio de Espana (1984!) as well as my boarding pass and itinerary. That was an hilarious summer, which I have started writing down, and one for which I have also found the photos and study materials, and for which I received 9 credits in college. Among my language books, I also found “Wicked Spanish for the Traveler”. This is a very helpful guide which includes pre-fab conversations and helpful advice for the brave traveler to various Spanish-speaking cultures, although – I suspect it centers on Mexico, and so my guest host is The Art of Diego Rivera.

“Baile en Tehauntepec”, Diego Rivera

“Baile en Tehauntepec”, Diego Rivera

From Wicked Spanish by Howard Tomb, 1991, reproduced without permission  (but with link to amazon listing):

“Travel in Spanish-speaking countries means more than cheap hotels and quick suntans – one must adapt to foreign customs and attitudes. To the uninitiated, Hispanic culture can be confusing and frustrating.

Our forms of logic, efficiency, and refrigeration are rare or nonexistent, including clearly marked prices, paved roads, and college-educated waitresses.

We may be startled by pigs as they run through the streets or hang over the sidewalk. We may be terrified by blind taxi drivers. We may be confused when locals fail to respond to wads of cash waved in the air.

Naive, unprepared travelers feel angry and humiliated. But Wicked Travelers never seem to suffer. They are always relaxed. They have an intuitive understanding of life abroad and a special sensitivity for alien cultures and ideas. Not with gold cards, loud voices, or idle threats in English, but with warm smiles. patient attitudes, and a variety of verbal weapons that natives understand.”

Excerpts from Wicked Spanish, without translations, below.

Emiliano Zapata, the Agrarian Leader, lithograph by Diego Rivera, 1932.

Emiliano Zapata, the Agrarian Leader, lithograph by Diego Rivera, 1932.

THE OLD MAN AND THE CHEVY
This car is amazing. I never knew chicken wire had so many uses. When did the brakes go out? In the Eisenhower years? Please give us helmets/blindfolds. Look, if you don’t slow down, I won’t pay you. That’s much better, thanks.

STOP BUS!
Yours is the prettiest piglet, miss. but it has shat in my lap. The cliffs are very steep. Do I smell an enchilada? Please lend me your hat.

TIPPING POLICEMEN
What seems to be the problem officer? The light was green, actually. No, I am not calling you a liar. Here are my papers. Would these green papers help? Do you need so many of them? Do the handcuffs have to be so tight?

SURVIVING THE HOTEL
Could I see a couple of rooms please? I understand this building is 400 years old. Is that the original paint/maid? I don’t mind the spiders much. But I’d prefer a room without scorpions. Is there a room that does not face the bus station/mescal bar/slaughterhouse? Is there a room with a window/bathroom? Is there another hotel in this town?

WHEN IN RUINS
What is depicted in that carving? What happened to his heart/head/genitals? You’re hired.

Muchacha con Girasoles, Diego Rivera

Muchacha con Girasoles, Diego Rivera

RESTAURANT SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES
I feel faint! My blood pressure is dropping! Help! Emergency! Are you a waiter/waitress? Thank God! Forget the menu! Just show me to the kitchen. I’ll help myself. But you might as well take my breakfast order now. What lies motionless under the spicy chocolate sauce? What oozes from the depths of the stuffed pepper. What stares at me with glassy eyes? Ah, I had that last night. That is an unusually large octopus. Is it the same on that was on display yesterday? Perhaps it is by now ripe. How are the rice and beans this evening?

Good day, sir. Whats is that? I can see that it is meat. But what species? I can’t find that in my dictionary. Give me one anyway. No lettuce, for God’s sake! Can’t you see I’m a gringo?

PERFECTING THE HAGGLE
These look well-made/delicious/Martian. How much for one/two/half kilo? If I had money like that, I would be vacationing in France. Would you consider three cents? No need for shouting. I’ll buy it next door. Good-bye. That’s more like it. Done. Thank you madam. I’m thrilled to have saved four cents.

REPORTING THEFTS
I’d like to report a mugging/burglary/pickpocket/car theft. Wait! Let me explain, please. I don’t expect you to solve the crime. I do not expect to see my camera/passport/money/car again. All I need is a piece of paper from you. It is for the insurance company. Here is a little something for your trouble. That’s ok. Don’t get up. Thank you for your kind attention, sir.

Autorretrato. (1941), Diego Rivera

Autorretrato. (1941), Diego Rivera

THE INEVITABLE THANK YOU NOTE
Dear General Hernandez, Thank you for the wonderful evening. The liquor was certainly strong! I am sorry I mentioned politics/your wife’s enormity. I admire military rule/300 lb women. Thank you for canceling the death squad/duel at dawn. best regards,

GRINGO-MATIC EMERGENCY DICTIONARY
attorney
bacteria
bathroom
bribe
cramps
death
dysentary
embassy
innocent
pardon (as in judicial)
phone call
human rights
scorpion

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