Rhythms of Latin America: Merengue

Image taken from Pixabay.com.

To talk about merengue is to talk about a Caribbean music genre with an irresistible power to draw everyone—from Caracas to New York—to the dancefloor.

With its roots deep within the Dominican Republic’s colonial past, merengue emerged near the midpoint of the 19th century as a staple of the rural class expanding to the country’s urban centers and beyond.

In the same fashion as salsa, merengue was born of the fusion of African rhythms with European notation, and a good dose of instruments from both cultures. Also, merengue’s distinguishable rhythm is two-four, though it is not uncommon to hear four-four beats in some songs.

The genre got an unprecedented impulse by Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, the Dominican dictator from 1930 to 1961, who turned it into national music of his country. It was during this time when merengue reached the US audiences thanks to groups like the one from Ángel Viloria y su Conjunto Típico Cibaeño in the 1950s.

“Compadre Pedro Juan”, by Luis Alberti sung by Francis Santana.

Merengue became so ingrained in Latin American culture that it was finally recognized in 2017 as one of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

There are basically two styles of Dominican merengue: the one called perico ripiao, originating from the Cibao region and requiring accordion, tambora, and güira; and the orchestral or big band merengue, which evolved in New York and many Latin American cities using a more complex instrumentation, like the saxophone or the synthesizer.

Among the greatest exponents of merengue, we may count Wilfrido Vargas, the Dominican singer, trumpeter, and band conductor whose influential work helped lay the foundations of the modern version of the genre at an international level since the 1980’s.

Another name synonymous with merengue is that of Dominican Juan Luis Guerra, singer, songwriter, and producer with a career spanning four decades and multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awards under his belt.

Of course, many others have left their footprint on the merengue stage for good, like Los Hermanos Rosario, Las Chicas del Can, Olga Tañón, Elvis Crespo, Bonny Cepeda, and Milly Quezada.

“Volveré”, by Wilfrido Vargas Orchestra, feat. Rubby Pérez.

“A pedir su mano”, by Juan Luis Guerra y su 440.

The post Rhythms of Latin America: Merengue first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

Colloquial Spanish Course – Talking about Clothes in Spanish

In this Spanish lesson we are going to practice talking about Clothes in Spanish. First we will learn some relevant vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short audio conversation in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

talking about clothes in spanish

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Talking about Clothes in Spanish:

La camisa: shirt
La camiseta: t-shirt
La blusa: blouse
El jersey/El suéter: jumper, sweater
La chaqueta: jacket
El abrigo: coat
La chaqueta de punto: cardigan
Los pantalones/El pantalón: pants, trousers
Los pantalones vaqueros/Los vaqueros: jeans
Los pantalones cortos: shorts
La falda: skirt
El vestido: dress
Los zapatos: shoes
Los deportivos/Las zapatillas de deporte: sneakers, trainers
Las botas: boots
Los calcetines: socks
Las medias/Los panties: tights
El sombrero: hat
El sombrero de copa: top hat
El gorro: wolly hat
La gorra: cap
El traje: suit
La manga larga: long sleeved
La manga corta: short sleeved
La camiseta de manga larga/corta: long/short sleeved T-shirt
El cinturón: belt
La bata: dressing gown
La corbata: tie
La mini-falda: mini-skirt
Las zapatillas de casa: slippers
Los zapatos de tacón alto: high heeled shoes
La cremallera: zip
La sudadera: sweatshirt
Los ligueros: suspenders
Las medias: stockings
Los gemelos: cufflinks
Los cordones: shoe laces
Los tirantes: braces
La pajarita: bowtie
La boina: beret
El smoking: dinner jacket
El chaleco: waist coat
De rayas: stripy
De flores: flowery
De lunares: dotted
De cuadros: checked

Now play the audio to listen a conversation. Can you understand what is being said? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)



Veronica: Hola Stuart. ¡Guauu! ¡Qué ropa más chula!
Stuart: Oh, gracias.
Veronica: Es un look bastante nuevo para ti. ¿Alguna razón especial para este cambio de imagen?
Stuart: La verdad es que no. Simplemente he decidido ser un poco más aventurero y libre.
Veronica: Bueno, ¡pues lo has logrado! Ese sombrero de copa rojo es algo muy especial. ¿De qué está hecho… de terciopelo?
Stuart: De terciopelo, sí. Y mi chaleco de flores, ¿te gusta?
Verónica: ¡Es impresionante! ¿Dónde diablos lo has comprado?
Stuart: Hay una nueva tienda vintage en el casco antiguo y encontré la mayoría de estas prendas allí.
Verónica: Pantalones de rayas…
Stuart: Sí. Estos me quedan un poco apretados. Habría preferido que tuvieran un poco más de cintura.
Verónica: ¿Entonces por qué llevas tirantes? Pensaba que los tirantes eran para sujetar los pantalones.
Stuart: No, que va. Son decoración.
Veronica: ¡Qué diferencia con tu viejo look Stuart! Todo lo que solías llevar eran vaqueros, camisetas y zapatillas deportivas.
Stuart: Ya, era muy aburrido. Mira estas botas Verónica…
Verónica: ¡Dios mío! ¿Hasta dónde te llegan?
Stuart: Hasta los muslos.
Veronica: Mmmhh, tal vez eso sea un poco extraño.
Stuart: ¡Qué más da!
Verónica: Aunque me gustan tus gemelos. Son muy bonitos.
Stuart: Siempre los he tenido. Fueron un regalo de mi abuelo. Simplemente nunca los había usado antes.
Veronica: ¡Bien por ti Stuart! ¡¡Aunque esa pajarita es abominable!!


So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

The post Colloquial Spanish Course – Talking about Clothes in Spanish first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

Funny grammar issue with the verb aprovechar

I saw this word the other day and was inspired to write a little about some of the fun Spanish language "finer points" that I have picked up along my four year Spanish language-learning journey. I don't claim to be a perfect grammarian, but I have learned a few things along the way.

Here is one fun point:

So you may probably already know that "aprovechar" means to take advantage of an opportunity, with positive connotation. But how you ask, does one say to take advantage in a negative way?

The answer lies in one of the most beguiling points of the Spanish language (at least for thick-headed Anglophones like me). It's the reflexive verb.

By making aprovechar reflexive, and adding the preposition de before the object you can indicate taking advantage in a negative sense.

So, for example: No tuve que trabajar ayer, y aproveché el dia para descansar. I did not have to work yesterday, and I took advantage of the day to relax.

Al parecer que el jefe no ha pagado a los trabajadores. El ladron se aprovechó de ellos. Apparently, the boss didn't pay the workers. The thief took advantage of them.

Aprovechar is positive. Aprovecharse de is negative.

I like how reflexives can totally change a verb's meaning–makes things a lot more interesting to me.

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Introducing: The User Pinger bot! (testing phase)

Hello there!

I'd like to introduce a new feature currently in testing phase. After countless hours of fighting against Python, I finally managed to set up a User Pinger bot for the sub (this is the part where I tell you what this is about).

The part where I tell you what this is about

Pings are a way of sending notifications to a group of people from within the sub. I've made groups for a variety of countries and regions that you can join at will.

When someone writes !ping GROUP in a comment, everyone subscribed to that GROUP will get a message from u/LearnSpanishPingBot containing a link to that comment. In other words, it's like Discord Pings, but for Reddit.

For example, if someone had just asked how to say "car" in France's Spanish (lol), then you could !ping FRANCE, and anyone within the FRANCE group (that is to say, anyone with the FRANCE role), would be notified and sent a link to your comment. Ain't that cool?

And now, the list of groups you can join.

The list of groups you can join.

Countries & Regions

Group name Description
DOMINICAN Dominican Republic
GUINEA Equatorial Guinea

Other regions

Group name Description
LATAM Latin-America

To join a group, simply click on it and then on "Send", or PM the bot yourself with the appropriate commands.

You'll find the full Documentation on the Wiki.

Final note

Remember that this is a test, so the bot can crash or be down at any moment. I'll set the flair on this post to ON or OFF to let you know. I'm basically running this on my laptop, so plox bear with it. Don't abuse it too much, tho.

If you find it useful enough, I may make it permanent. I can also add more groups if necessary.

Happy pinging!

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An Update on COVID-19 in Mexico

Here we are in 2021, yet we’re still talking about COVID-19. A phrase that’s often heard and is even printed on t-shirts in my home of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is “Pinche COVID!” (F***ing COVID!). While I wish this post could be on my usual topics of holidays, food, or travel, I’m going to give an update on COVID-19 in Mexico.

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

Across Mexico, COVID cases have been surging recently. There have now been several days in a row where overall new cases crossed the 20,000 mark. The surging numbers have been blamed on several things – fiestas navideñas y corporativas, se incrementó la interacción social e intradomiciliaria (Christmas and corporate parties, increased social and home interaction).

This is being called “la segunda ola” (the second wave) of COVID-19. In total, Mexico has had over 1.6 million cases and 140,000 deaths. As the testing rate is quite low, it’s believed that this number is actually closer to 200,000.

Mexico has been using a semáforo (traffic light) system to identify the severity of the situation across the country. It actually uses four colors – red, orange, yellow, and green. Just today, the number of states listed as semáforo rojo (red light) doubled from five to ten.

There are currently 19 states colored orange on the map, with 17 of them at high risk of soon turning red. Only one lone state – Campeche – is green. The situation is especially dire in Mexico City, where 88% of hospital beds for COVID patients are currently occupied. For the total country, that number is around 60%.

“A Year of COVID in Mexico” from Al Jazeera.

I live in the state of Jalisco, which is one of those five that turned red today. Just a few days ago, the governor once again hit el botón de emergencia (the emergency button). These are the indicators used for hitting the emergency button:

  • Si la saturación del sistema hospitalario llega al 50% (If the saturation of the hospital system reaches 50%).
  • Si la tasa de incidencia semanal por fecha de inicio de síntomas alcanza los 400 casos (If the weekly incidence rate by symptom onset date reaches 400 cases).

From January 16-31, many restrictions are in place here as well as in our neighboring state of Nayarit. Anyone who can do their work remotely must do so in these two weeks, and any activities that generate a crowd are shut down. Las personas mayores de 60 años deberán permanecer en casa (People over the age of 60 must stay home).

El Gobernador de Jalisco anunció el cierre de bares, antros, salones de eventos, cines, teatros, museos y casinos, mientras que los restaurantes podrán operar hasta las diez de la noche (The Governor of Jalisco announced the closure of bars, clubs, event rooms, cinemas, theaters, museums and casinos, while restaurants will be able to operate until ten at night).

The governor’s office put out a statement that began: No podemos esperar más: es ahora cuando nuestro estado y su personal médico necesitan de la corresponsabilidad de todas y todos (We cannot wait any longer: it’s now that our state and its medical personnel need the co-responsibility of each and everyone). Let’s hope that everyone takes it seriously this time, as one reason for the surging numbers was listed as “falta de apego a las medidas sanitarias y relajamiento de estas” (lack of adherence to sanitary measures and relaxation of these).

All over the country, people are being encouraged now more than ever to #QuedateEnCasa (Stay at Home). People are being reminded of the methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with signs all over the city instructing people to “lava tus manos con agua y jabón” (wash your hands with soap and water), “usar un cubrebocas” (wear a mask), and “mantener la sana distancia” (maintain social distance).

A creative way that Mexico has been encouraging social distancing is with the use of a superhero called Susana Distancia. It’s a play on words, as “su sana distancia” means “your healthy distance.” That’s the phrase they’ve gone with in many ad campaigns instead of the more direct translation distanciamiento social. Just take a look at one of the video ads that features her. It’s a quick and relatively easy exercise for Spanish listening and reading!

There is some positive news with the rollout of la vacuna (the vaccine) here to healthcare workers. However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently announced that Mexico will accept a delay in more shipments of the Pfizer vaccine in order to send more doses to poorer countries. He did his best to ensure an uneasy population by saying ““Ya vamos a tener vacunas suficientes” (We’re going to have enough vaccines).

Personally, I feel safer here in Mexico than I would back in the US at the moment. I’m definitely fortunate to be a younger person in good health who can work from home. In general, I find most people here in Puerto Vallarta are wearing masks when social distancing isn’t possible, for example when riding the bus. Stores requires masks and always take your temperature. Many restaurants here are open-air and they’ve reduced capacity as well. I hope that hitting the emergency button will help to stabilize the numbers and look forward to the day when we can stop saying “la nueva normalidad” (the new normal). In the meantime, it’s up to all of us as individuals to do our part to stop the spread of pinche COVID!


The post An Update on COVID-19 in Mexico first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.