- Typical Spanish...Botellón
- Featured City...Valencia and the Cruces de Mayo
- Famous Person...Plácido Domingo
- Spanish recipe...Migas
- Popular Sayiing...“Hablando del Ray de Roma”
- Vocabulary...Words with Every Vowel in Them
- Word of the month...“Soporífero”
- Discovering Enforex...Seminar on the didactics of ELE
If you are in Spain and have friends here, you will sooner or later be invited to a “botellón”. Maybe the expression, -- literally meaning big bottle -- might startle you at first, but don’t worry: they are only inviting you to drink in a park or a square in the city. Of course, it implies you have to bring something to share with everybody else.
It is not very clear when or where this custom originated, but the most widely accepted theory says that it all began in the 1980s, when the prices of the drinks sold in bars and clubs experienced a sensitive rise. Most of the youngest lower-class population then chose to put all their money together, buy cheaper drinks in the supermarkets and share them in the street. Another theory, which has a dash more of glamour, says that botellón began during the “movida madrileña” (which is how we call the surge that Madrid’s nightlife experienced in the 1980s): since there were too many people inside the clubs, some clients preferred to simply drink outside, to avoid the noise.
The truth is those who engage in botellón practices don’t care too much about its origins. The point is to be with friends and enjoy quiet, warm nights without spending all your allowance in a bar or put up with noisy music.
However, not everyone likes this practice: a lot of people – specially those who live in areas where the botellón is more popular – often complain of the noise and the dirt it generates. Some people also think that this practice only encourages alcoholism. So in some cities, laws forbidding the consumption of alcoholic beverages in the street have been passed. In other cities, special areas called botellódromos have been reserved for those who want to drink outside.
As we can see, t is a controversial phenomenon. It has even been studied by sociologists. That’s how important it is. Of course, if you ever decide to do some on-field research about the matter, be responsible.
The Fallas may be Valencia’s best-known holiday, but they are not the only ones in the city. Ever since1925, the period May 3 and 8 is unmistakably known as the “cruces de mayo”. This is a tradition which roughly translates into the “crosses of May” and it commemorates the time when St. Helen, the daughter of the Roman Emperor Constantine, discovered the cross where Christ had died.
This attracts all kinds of Valencian associations – from schoolchildren to parishes to neighbourhood associations… They all erect monumental crosses of flowers which all compete in a contest organized by a senior association called “lo rato penat” (Valencian for “el murciégalo” – the bat is a reference to the community’s most iconic animal).
The rising of these crosses is easily explained but not as easy to do. Each association puts a cross-like structure on the street where they fastidiously start to tie all types of fragile yet fresh flowers. The jury then decides which one is the better cross – not only based on the design but also on the variety of the flowers, their quantity and quality, its symbology and even the way it is watered.
So now you know. If you saw Valencia wrapped in flames in March, you will see it bloom in May.
If you ask somebody to name three famous Spanish tenors, it will not matter if you are asking an opera expert or a layperson. The first or second one will always be Plácido Domingo.
He was born in Madrid in 1941 with art in his blood. Both his father, Plácido Domingo, and his mother, Pepita Embil, were noted performers of zarzuela (a light form of musical genre which had spoken sections) who, in 1949, migrated to Mexico.
As one might imagine, little Placido soon excelled in the National Music Conservatory and he was a consummated pianist with a knack for conducting an orchestra at only 16 years of age. By the end of the 1950s, his interests had spanned beyond classical music, as he sang in choirs and joined Mexican rocker Enrique Guzman’s band.
He returned to classical music in 1959, debuting as a baritone in the opera “Marina”, by Emilio Arrieta. He repeated this feat again in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and in Poluenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites”. He soon showed that he had more than enough talent for the stage and started pursuing a new career as a tenor with no less than Verdi’s “La Traviata”. In 1962, he left Mexico for Israel, where he joined the Tel Aviv opera house. He would work in 280 performances.
With his career somewhat established, he started to combine his role as a singer with the role of orchestra conductor. His first time was in 1873, again with “La Traviata” and in the prestigious New York City Opera.
Since then, Domingo’s life has been noted for his multiple occupations: he has participated in the shooting of operas, he has been the art director in the Washington Nati0onal Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, where he has been a general director since 2003.
Another important aspect of Plácido Domingo’s life has been his work spreading opera around the world. In 1990 he founded the famous “The Three Tenors” along with José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. He has recorded with artists like Carlos Santana o Caetano Veloso. He has chosen to sing Real Madrid’s anthem in its centenary ceremony – Plácido is no less than a honorary fellow there. And he was the first Spaniard ever to be featured in The Simpsons.
To all this, we must add seven Grammy awards and eleven doctor honoris causa degrees In different international universities. He is not only a famous singer – he is one the most influential Spaniards in the arts world.
It may sound strange to read about a dish where the principal ingredient is stale bread. But in Spain, the “migas” (literally, “crumbs”) are widely accepted in la Mancha, Murcia, Andalucía, Extremadura and Aragón. Each region has its own variant but, in essence, the migas are nothing more than stale bread that has been soaked, and then fried in a pan with some olive oil. To this you can add fried eggs, pork fat, grapefruits or even chocolate (just not all at once. Fried eggs mixed with chocolate are generally do not sit well).
It is a speciality in the Spanish country, originated by the shepherds of yore, who had to improvise their meals with dry products that would last for several days. This included the bread that was gradually getting stale in their pouch. Speaking of this, it is almost comical how a lot of the industrial, pre-cooked migas sold in the supermarket have images of shepherds surrounded by sheep.
It’s such a hearty snack that almost everybody concurs that it is best eaten in cold days. There is a lot less consensus when it comes to the perfect recipe for migas: as we just mentioned, there is a vast variety of recipes throughout Spain. The best answer in these cases is always to ask a grandmother, who are usually guided by the “the best way to prepare them is whatever you have hidden in your pantry” principle.
“Hablando del Rey de Roma”. Maybe one day, as you arrive to work or to a place where you are supposed to meet with people, two friends who were already there talking to each other might have turned their heads and said to you, “hablando del rey de Roma” [“Speak of the king of Rome” an equivalent of the English, “Speak of the devil”] and then have explained that they were just talking about you.
It might shock you to learn that by using it, we are travelling back in time to an era even before the Roman Empire, and even before the Roman Republic, for, according to history books, the last king of Rome died in the year 509 b.C. So what do you have to do with a monarch from 2000 years ago?
Here’s what: We Spaniards like proverbs that rhyme. So they came up with an expression that said, “hablando del rey del de Roma, por la puerta asoma” (which means, “Speaking of the king of Rome he shows up through the door”). So using the “eternal city” is nothing more than aesthetics. If instead of saying “asoma” we had gone for “llegó” (arrived), the saying would have probably been “Al fin llegó el rey de Montmeló” (literally, “so here arrived the king of Montmeló”) or something in that vein.
Another interesting aspect is the famous “king”. No, it’s not a reference to distant past. The proverb originally spoke of the “ruin de Roma”. As you may know, “ruin” stands for a person who is ignoble and overall a bad person. Of course, since he who arrived late would get offended, a different word had to be chosen. Perhaps seeking irony, the word “rey” was used because it also sounded similarly.
So whenever you hear that, don’t picture yourself wearing a crown. You better ask for an explanation.
There is a popular riddle for Spanish children, in which a youngster is asked what the only word in the Spanish vocabulary that has all five vowels in it is. The child usually spends a long while thinking until the adult, boastful of his wisdom, lets him in on the answer: “Murciélago” (“Bat”).
It could very well be the first of many mistakes this child we see adults perpetrating. There are up to 222 words that are panvocálicas (a Spanish term meaning that they have all five vowels in them). We cannot list them all, but here are some of the most “interesting” ones:
Angurriento: It is a way of saying either “greedy”, “hungry” or “covetous”.
Buscapleitos: A troublemaker. A rowdy person constantly looking for a fight:
Deturpación: Rare Spanish word meaning “deformation” or “disfigurement”.
Enomuchiguar: This word is no longer used, but it used to mean “to multiply”.
Ferruginosa: It defines mineral water that contains iron salts.
Granjuiento: Ugly-sounding word that means “riddled with acne”.
Hurtadineros: It is basically a moneybox made of earthenware. You can find it in the home of many Spanish grandfathers.
Infernáculo: It sounds like something infernal but it really is a game children used to play, which involved jumping on a path drawn on the floor. The age-old hopscotch
Lucharniego: This is how we call a dog that has been trained to hunt at night.
Perfunctoria: Something made without thought, carelessly.
Pichuleador: An Argentinian word used for somebody who likes to haggle.
Querindango: An offensive way to call a married woman’s lover.
Vituperador: Just the kind of person who would criticize the “querindango”: somebody who harshly reprimands or criticizes somebody.
Of course, there are other, more common words like “blanquecino” [whitish], “descubridora” [she who discovers] or “sublevación” [uprising]. But if a family ever wants to joke around with the riddle, you can always answer with one of the words from the list. As you very well know – the most effective punch is the one that leads of victory.
“Soporífero” In order to understand what “soporífero” means, we must understand what “sopor” means. And “sopor“ means drowsiness, sleepiness. So something that is “soporífero” is something that is sleep-inducing.
So far so good. “Soporífero” might as well mean to be beneath the warm covers of your bed, or even a glass on warm milk. But wait, there’s more. In Spanish, “soporífero” goes further and is related to things that directly boring, which makes us sleepy. Hence, “soporífero” can be either staring at the washing machine at four in the morning or a lecture on the mating rituals of oysters. That is, something so unappealing that all it can make is sleepy.
Yes, it has been a somewhat complicated explanation. But we sincerely hope it wasn’t “soporifera”.
“Seminar on the didactics of ELE” On June 10 and 11, our Enforex school in Barcelona will organize a seminar on the didactics of ELE (Español como Lengua Extranjera or, Spanish as a Foreign Language). It will be about different aspects of how Spanish is or should be teached – from grammar to the relevance of this language in the entire world. It also reveal some useful learning strategies.
If you are an ELE teacher, a student currently in training to be one or a professional or student of any other subject, this is your seminar. Three full days full of interesting and practical contents at a very reasonable prices.