La Noche de Rábanos: Radish Night

La Noche de Rábanos es una tradición Oaxaqueña que se lleva a cabo a cada año el 23 de Diciembre. Durante este día diferentes familias Oaxaqueñas año con año tallan figuras representativas de Oaxaca con Rábanos, Flor Inmortal y Totomosle u Hoja de Maíz con las que participan compenteciá en donde un comité vota por las mejores figuras cada año. 

Esta tradición tuvo sus inicios en la navidad de 1897 cuando el Presidente Municipal Francisco Vasconselos convocó a las familias del mercado a llevar a cabo esta tradición que se ha celebrado por más de 100 años.

La Noche de Rábanos or “Radish Night” takes plaes every December 23. During this day Oaxacan families join yearly contest to make the best altars in which figures that reprensent Oaxaca in different ways are carved using Radishes, Flor Inmortal, or Totomosle (Corn Sheath)

This Tradition has its beginings in 1897 when the Municipal President Francisco Vasconcelos started with families from the Oaxaca Market this tradition that has been a constant sucess for more than a hundred years. 

 

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Viernes de Vocabulario: Gender Neutrality

Here at ICO, we hope that you’ll learn just how much fun Spanish can be.  Like any language, Spanish is full of colorful slang expressions.  On Fridays, we’ll be teaching you a combination of useful everyday words and fun common colloquialisms.

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If you’ve ever had to exchange contact information with a Spanish speaker, you might know that the name of the symbol @ is arroba.  What you might not know, however, is that this symbol is used for way, way, way more than email addresses.  If you read informal written Spanish, it’s absolutely everywhere.

To explain why, I’ll have to backtrack and talk about some fundamental aspects of Spanish grammar.

As you know, Spanish has grammatical gender, which English doesn’t have.  A “friend” can be either a man or a woman, but in Spanish, you have to specify if you are spending time with an amigo or an amiga.

A group of male friends are amigos, and a group of female friends are amigas. However, a mixed group always takes masculine agreement, even if it consists of 99 women and 1 man.  (If you want to know more about this topic, check it out here.)

A lot of folks have dealt with this asymmetry by saying and writing things like amigos y amigas, or amigos/-as.  And this is where the arroba comes in!

Since the arroba, @, looks like an a surrounded by an o, it is used in written Spanish to indicate gender neutrality.  Most commonly, this is used in email salutations, as follows:

Querid@ amig@, Dear friend,
Compañer@s, Classmates/workmates,
Estimad@ cliente, Dear client,

And so on and so forth.  It’s also used in contexts where English speakers would use things like “s/he” to be inclusive.  A letter from schools to parents, for example, might refer to su hij@ (“your child”) to avoid using either hijo (son) or hija (daughter).

That said, this is still a fairly informal usage.  It’s more common in email than in other forms of written communication, and the Real Academia Española (an institutional body that monitors the Spanish language) disapproves of this usage, and so it will remain informal for the time being.

Viernes de Vocabulario: Awkward

Here at ICO, we hope that you’ll learn just how much fun Spanish can be.  Like any language, Spanish is full of colorful slang expressions.  On Fridays, we’ll be teaching you a combination of useful everyday words and fun common colloquialisms.

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Some words and phrases are just plain difficult to translate.  Sometimes, it’s because there’s no good equivalent, and sometimes it’s because some particular word has a much wider range of meanings in one language or the other.

English speakers use the world “awkward” all the time.  A situation can be awkward, a person can be awkward, and a feeling can be awkward.  Yet these are not the same word in Spanish.

An awkward situation is a situation in which you feel uncomfortable.  In Spanish, then, to describe a situation or moment as awkward, you would say it’s incómodo, or uncomfortable.  It might also be delicado, “delicate”, if what you mean is that it requires particular social finesse.

An awkward person can be a few different things.  Someone who’s awkward might be physically gawky, or they might be particularly adept at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Both of these are best described as torpe, or clumsy.

An awkward turn of phrase can also be torpe, but you could describe it as poco elegante (“not at all elegant”) as well.

If you feel awkward at any given time, you might say me siento incómodo (“I’m uncomfortable”), or me siento raro (“I feel weird”).  You might also use the verb cohibirse or the adjective cohibido.  Cohibirse means something like “get awkward” or “clam up” – and cohibido means “self-conscious.”

Fue un momento muy incómodo porque soy una persona torpe, siempre digo la cosa menos indicada.  It was an awkward moment because I’m an awkward person, I always say the worst thing.  Después me cohibí, y ya no volví a abrir la boca.  Then I got self-conscious, and I didn’t open my mouth again.

Viernes de Vocabulario: Understanding, Not Understanding, and Not Knowing

Here at ICO, we hope that you’ll learn just how much fun Spanish can be.  Like any language, Spanish is full of colorful slang expressions.  On Fridays, we’ll be teaching you a combination of useful everyday words and fun common colloquialisms.

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When you’re just learning a language, it can be hard for others to know if you understand them, or for you to know if others have understood you.  So you might think you would want to know this word:

¿Entendiste?                Did you understand? (tú)
¿Entendió?                   Did you understand? (usted)

However, many (although not all) Spanish speakers consider this a rude questionThose who find this rude thinks that it places the blame on the person listening for not understanding, and prefer to place the blame on themselves.  So instead of asking someone if they understood, you would ask this:

¿Me explico?                Do I explain myself?  Do I make myself clear?

Of course, just knowing how to ask politely is only have the battle.  Sometimes you’ll have to tell someone that you didn’t understand, or that you don’t know, or that you’ve forgotten something or gotten confused.  For this, we have three more useful phrases:

Me quedé en blanco.    I drew a blank.
Perdí el hilo.                  I lost the thread (of the conversation)
Se me fue el avión.       I lost my train of thought.

These three phrases have different uses.  When someone asks you a question and you can’t remember the answer, you’d say, me quedé en blanco.  If someone’s talking too fast or you zone out in the middle of the conversation, the appropriate phrase is something like, es que perdí el hilo. And when you get tripped up in the middle of a sentence, you’d say, se me fue el avión.

Why is thought a train in English and an airplane in Spanish?  That may be one of the great mysteries of language learning.