Enforex Newsletter 2011
Popular destinations in Spain

Typical Spanish

Folklore Andalucia
Folklore Navarra
Typical Spanish Costumes

It’s a little complicated to talk about typical Spanish costumes as it often happens, a region can have many different ones. There are even some towns whose costume is different to the rest of its province. 

Unlike other countries, in Spain the use traditional of costumes is not very old. In most places we have no records of these garments until the beginning of the 19th century, in the zenith of Romanticism, when the distinctive national traits between countries and people were enhanced.  This is the reason why many of these dresses look more like a gala gowns than truly typical peasant garments. 

Of course not every typical dress in Spain is “flamenco” style. It may even surprise the visitor to realize that the costume he believed to be traditional and common in all the country is only common in one concrete region of Spain: Andalusia. While in the South the colourful and spotted fabrics rule, in the rest of Spain we find costumes whose main colours are black and white.

Many expert distinguish two types of regional dresses: the southern ones, tight at the waist and very flamboyant and the ones from the Northern regions: dresses with short and bulky skirts, normally plaited and used with an apron and mantillas worn on the shoulders.  Others add a third category that would correspond to a “central” region in which the costumes adopt features from the North and from the South.

For example: the typical costumes from Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias, the Basque Country, Navarra, Aragon, La Rioja, Catalonia and Castilla y León belong to the “Northern” category: costumes inspired in the peasant way of life, with rather simple colours, to which elements such as characteristic shoes are added (like albarca or clogs), fluffy petticoats, lace and white stockings.

The Southern category is monopolized by the notorious “Andalusian” style: tight dresses, showy colours, flowery or spotted patterns, frilled skirts that reminisce of flowers (carnations, roses, etc.) accompanied by high heels thick enough to allow the girls to “taconear” (stamp their heels) while dancing.

If we talk about a central category, we must focus our sight on the Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha, Madrid and Valencia regions. As we said before, different northern and southern features are blended. We could summarize it in Northern cuts of the skirt with “Southern colours and motifs”. If we substitute the colours for black or white we would see a typically northern costume.

And what about the islands? In Canaries as well as in Balearics costumes had developed rather curiously. In both cases simple and light fabrics predominate, according to warm climates. In the case of the Canary Islands, girls wear colourful skirts and a hat manufactured with vegetable fibres, while in the austere Balearic Islands costume a hood made of thin materials covered the head, back and chest is worn. 

This is a generalization and there are a few details missing, such as description of the male costumes. So we hope that this rather modest introduction interest readers enough to investigate and discover this curious part of our culture.

Featured City

Feria Málaga
Feria Málaga
Feria de Málaga

There are very few places nicer in August than Malaga, but if to that we add a good party, even better. If you’re there during that month don’t miss the Malaga Fair that will take place from the 12th to the 21st of July (9 days!)

The celebrations begin a little before midnight, with the street cry that officially opens the fair. The crier must hurry, because at midnight a fire work, lights and sound display begins, which lasts for half an hour.
On the next night, the first Saturday of the holiday, at 9.30 pm the mayor turns on the lights of the fair’s venue. From that moment on, the urban centre becomes a place where to have a good time dancing, having some wine. Listening to live music or enjoying some tapas. It will not be lacking for stalls, of course.

Devotion is never away from these dates: the Romeria takes place, joining Malagueños on foot, on horse and carriages on the way to Santuario de la Victoria, where a floral offer is made in honour of Saint Mary.

Traditional events such as bulls or equestrian exhibits are joined by a few more modern ones such as workshops, exhibitions and concerts so there’s place for everyone during the holiday.

If you don’t know what to do during the last days of August don’t think it for too long and go to Malaga. You will definitely have a great time.

Famous Person

Montserrat Caballe
Montserrat Caballe
Arturo Pérez Reverte

He is one of the most well known Spanish contemporary writers. Always polemic, people say that you Esther love him or hate him, but no one is indifferent to his works or articles.

Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Spanish language academia and occupies the “T” armchair (in Real Academia Española, all members sit on a chair labelled with a letter, either in lowercase or uppercase. He was born in Cartagena (Murcia) in 1951. Little is known about his childhood and youth, so we can say his biography begins when got his Journalism degree in 1973. 

His career, and some say, his rather cynical  character was forged during more than two decades as a war correspondent for the newspaper Pueblo (12 years) and then for Televisión Española (9years). The list of the conflicts he covered seem endless: the War of Lebanon, the War of Eritrea, the 1975 Campaign in the Sahara, the Falkland War, War of El Salvador, the War of Nicaragua War, the War of Chad, the crisis in Libya, the guerrillas in Sudan, the War of Mozambique, the War of Angola, the Tunisia coup d’etat.… and those chronicles which made him famous among the great audience: The Gulf War (1990-91), Croatia (1991) and Bosnia (1992-1994).

During his years in Televisión Española he also hosted a radio programme: “la ley de la calle” (the street law) and a TV programme “Código Uno”. Both focused in crime reports. He would also begin his work as a columnist in SemanalXL (Sunday supplement edited for 25 newspapers). 

Even though he decided to devote himself to writing on 1994, Pérez-Reverte had already published with success several novels, such as El Húsar in 1986, El maestro de esgrima (The Fencing Master) in 1988, La tabla de Flandes  (The Flanders Panel) 1990, El club Dumas (The Club Dumas) in 1993, and La sombra del águila (The Eagle’s Shadow) in 1993. As a full time writer he has published  Territorio comanche (Comanche Territory) in 1994, Un asunto de honor (A question of honor) in 1995, Obra Breve (1995), La piel del tambor (the Drum’s Skin) in 1995, Patente de corso (The Corsican Patent) in 1998, La carta esférica  (The Nautical Chart) in 2000, Con ánimo de ofender in 2001, La Reina del Sur (Queen of the South) in 2002, Cabo Trafalgar (Cape Trafalgar) in 2004, No me cogeréis vivo (You Won’t Take me Alive) in 2005, El pintor de batallas (The Painter of Battles) in 2006, Un día de cólera (A Day of Anger) in 2007, Ojos azules (Blue Eyes) in 2009, Cuando éramos honrados mercenarios  (When We Were Honourable Mercenaries) in 2009 and El Asedio (The Siege) in  (2010). Currently one of the most prolific Spanish writers, his work has been translated in 34 languages.

We have to make a special mention of his series of novels starred by Diego Alastriste y Tenorio, a solider from the Tercios and mercenary known as “Captain Alastriste”. The saga began in 1996 and up till today there are 6 volumes. These stories have a huge number of fans and have been useful in getting the great audience to know more about the Golden era, in its brilliant moments as well as in its darkest tour.

His style, in the saga as well as his other novels, is distinguished by simple and often harsh language, his tough, self confident and unbreakable characters some of who are cynics forced to break the law but they still have their own code of honour. It’s not to wonder that his speech when he  Real Academia de la Lengua Española was about the language of bandits and scoundrels from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Currently, Arturo Pérez-Reverte is one of the most successful writers in Spain, but also one of the most controversial. To his fans he’s an authentic and genuine guy who does not mince words and who expresses his beliefs regardless of what is politically correct. But his critics say he is a rude writer, a pessimist on purpose, excessively cynical and far too grumpy. 

Be it as it may, he is one of the few authors that can afford to live exclusively of his books, and of putting some imagination into it, as he says himself. And that is admirable in itself.

Spanish Recipe


Among basic Spanish recipes, gruel must get a special mention. Though traditionally it has been linked to the region of La Mancha, it is cooked practically all over the southern half of the peninsula and in some areas of Aragon and Valencia. As a matter of fact, it is, arguably, a much more popular dish than more famous ones, such as paella or gazpacho .

Why, then, is gruel so little known? Maybe it’s due to the fact that, let’s face it, gruel is an ‘ugly’ dish: a darkish mush of sorts made of toasted flour and water, it can be enhanced with other ingredients, such as bacon, peppers or salt, to taste.
But, to put it in the words of a French chef, ‘if the dish looks pretty, it tastes ill, and when it looks ugly it pleases all’.

Let’s just say gruel fits that saying like a glove. Because, initially, they might strike us as strange, but once we’ve had a spoonful we’ll detect a familiar taste, similar to bread but with a peculiar texture. Close, very close, to molecular cooking.

The history of this special dish is as simple as its preparation: just like migas (crumbs), it is a typical recipe among shepherds, who often had to carry something in their bags to improvise lunch or supper for a number of people. And when it comes to stretching, there’s nothing like flour.

We already explained the dish is popular in a vast number of areas, so you might imagine there are several kinds, depending on the province. Within La Mancha we find the sort from Cuenca, prepared with mushrooms and potatoes; in Aragon it is known as farinetas, and it is seasoned with fried garlic and bacon; in Valencia they cook it with tomato, cod or snails; in Murcia it is made with pepper and cloves.

The largest number of variations is found in Andalusia, where we find, among many other, matanza or ’game’ gruel, with the likes of black pudding or fat; and colorás, with peppers, tomatoes and sausages.

Both in Andalusia and in Extremadura there are several types of sweet gruel. The best known ones are those from Malaga, with sugar, aniseed, milk or molasses, and the poleas from Extremadura, typically made during Christmas time with lime, aniseed and cinnamon.

Hence, we recommend you to taste gruel, if you have the chance. There is sure to be one kind to suit your taste.

Popular Saying

“Poner una pica en Flandes” (‘To Put a Pike on Flanders’). If you have successfully carried out a demanding task, which has required great effort, which has left you exhausted and which, on top, has never been accomplished by anyone before, then you have put ‘your pike on Flanders’.

A boisterous adage with an epic ring to it, no doubt. Yet, somehow, its history tells us it is accurate.

As you know, Flanders (presently a part of Belgium and the Netherlands) and Spain were part of the same monarchy during the reign of the Habsburg dynasty. You will equally know about the Eighty Years’ War, which ultimately earned Flanders its independence from the Spanish Empire

It was a long and extenuating war for the Spanish soldiers, part of the emblematic Tercios, who, following the major journey from their places of birth to those northern territories, which stipulated a detour via Italy (since France and Spain were bitter rivals) and had to fight against an enemy that outnumbered them, that knew the region better than they did, and that, on top, fought for their lifestyle and their possessions. It is often said that Flanders was to the Spanish army what Vietnam to the American military.

Every success was hard to get, and every city conquered came at the cost of sweat, blood and tears. Those who managed to do it had achieved a true feat. And with the passage of time, the veterans would come to liken any difficulty in their lives to the moment when they came to rest their pikes (weapons similar to spears) on Flemish lands.

Precious few of our maxims have as clear an origin as this, even if it isn’t the only one we owe to those pickets. Another, rather curious, one, which gives us an idea of the ups and downs of their tasks and breaks down their lives for us nicely is “Spain, my nature; Italy, my fortune; Flanders, my burial”.

But that is altogether a different story.


Semantic Field: Time

Whoever thinks that in Spain we are not bothered about the passage of time, is mistaken. We do… a lot. Testament to it is the great number of words in our vocabulary used to refer to the passage of time. Here you have a small sample of them, slightly different to the ones we are familiar with.

Añada (season): used primarily by people lovers of wines, as well as people linked to harvests, it denotes a period of the year, a season.

Bienio (two-year period): simply a period of two years. Those who are keen on cultural events will be familiar with this, as there are many bienales (biennials).

Calenda: this word was used by ancient Romansto refer to the first day of every month. Nevertheless, these days it is commonly used to refer to a bygone era.

Centuria (century): you could say this is the high-brow (if somewhat outdated) synonym of siglo. One hundred years.

Ciclo (cycle): a period of time, which, once it has come to an end, is measured all over again. For instance, some economists hold the theory that crises are repeated in five- to ten-year cycles.

Cuarto (quarter): these are the fifteen-minute periods that make an hour. If you’ve been in Spain on New Year’s Eve you will know it. There is always someone at hand to confuse the four bells of the hour with the twelve bells of the time.

Eón (aeon): indefinite period of time that lasts a long while. For instance, we can’t say for sure that the extinction of dinosaurs came on March 14, 65 million years BC, so we say it took place eones (aeons) ago.

Época (epoch): a given time defined by the events that took place within it. For instance, ‘la época de los romanos’ (‘the epoch of Roman dominance’) or “la época de los caballeros andantes” (‘the epoch of chivalrous knights’).

Era (era): very similar to the previous term, with the difference that era refers to a historically relevant time, due to some sort of innovation or cultural chance. For instance,“la era de los descubrimientos” (‘the era of Discovery’) or “la era atómica” (‘the Atomic Era’).

Etapa (stage): a specific period of time during which a task is carried out. Let’s suppose we have to move houses. One etapa (stage) would encompass storing everything in boxes; another one would be the journey from the old house to the new one, etc

Intervalo (interval): so far as we are concerned here, this word refers to the distance between one time and another. It sounds highly metaphysical but actually it’s simple: do you have a 15-minute break between one class and the next? Well, that quarter of an hour is an intervalo.

Jornada (journey): it is the equivalent to saying a ‘day’, or a period of 24 hours, although it is more often used to refer to the number of hours spent at work or school.

Lapso (lapse): the passage of a given amount of time. Suppose you take your car to the garage and the mechanic tells you ‘the engine will be fixed within a week’. He would say it will be fixed in the lapso of a week.

Lustro (lustrum): it refers to a period of five years. Its name comes from the Latin ‘lustrum’, a Roman festivity of purification that used to take place every five years.

Plazo (period): the time stipulated for something. You must have seen one of those films about a kidnapping where the main gangster says ‘I want a million dollars, if you haven’t delivered in a plazo of two hours we will shoot’.

Racha (streak): short and inexplicable period of luck or misfortune. Need we say more? We have all been through one of those.

These are some of the terms you might find in a book, or in the newspaper. Naturally, no one at a bar will ask you if the second bienio of the first centuria of this epoch has been representative of the era of information. If anyone does, just tell them that society has been on a streak in this lapse but that you’d rather wait until a lustro has gone by to make up your mind.

Calandraca” (annoying; absurd) For some mysterious reason we can’t even fathom, the sound of this word is funny. Maybe is the reiteration of the ‘a’, or the brusque combination of the occlusive ‘c’ with the rolled ‘r’, or the fact that in order to enunciate it we must keep our mouth open and it seems as if the tongue is performing acrobatics.

Whatever the case, this term is one of the most curious cases of polysemy we have come across. On the one hand, in sailing terminology, calandraca was the name given to a watery soup made with the remaining biscuits left in the storage of a boat when food was running out. On the other hand, in Murcia (Spain) it is used to refer to an annoying or bothersome chat; your typical conversation you must withstand out of nothing other than good breeding. And, finally, in America it was used to refer to discarded clothes, which, with the passage of time, has come to be a synonym for a ridiculous person.

How do all these meanings fit together? Maybe a good old sailor on his way to Cartagena compared a particularly annoying conversation with the bothersome affair that was eating that tasteless broth made of hardened biscuits. Perhaps someone overheard him and then in some American harbour said that the cloths used to clean the boat deck were just as useless as a tedious conversation. And, who knows, maybe the recipient of the comment compared an old cloth with an acquaintance whose outfit was always rather extravagant.

We’re probably speculating but this is what you get when you deal with curious words, such as this one: somehow, they get your imagination flying.

Spanish classes + leisure in ValenciaIt’s summer, you are on holidays and you want to learn Spanish. But you don’t really feel like getting down and studying again: what you really want is to dance, take pictures or prepare a nice home-cooked meal. We know, and this is why we have courses in which you will learn Spanish and have a good time.

In our school in Valencia you will be able to enjoy this Spanish classes summer, in which you will also actively participate leaning other disciplines. Because, what better way to learn Spanish than cooking a paella, getting to know the difference between a “paseíllo” and a “remate” while dancing Sevillanas or experimenting with filters and exposition times while taking beautiful photos?

The student can cose between cooking, Sevillana dance or digital photography courses. These are taught in small groups in specially conditioned classrooms in our schools and in the history and vocabulary specific to the activity is present in the syllabus.

In this way, students will not only learn a language, but they will also experience being a true flamenco dancer like Sara Baras, a great chef like Arguiñano or a master of the image like  Ouka Lele.

In Enforex we know that learning a language is much more than taking classes. It’s also living different experiences.

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