Monday, January 23, 2012

Gastro-Geographical Linguistic Tour of Latin America

Mexico was the first Latin country I ever lived in. I loved Mexico because they make some great foods! I loved the enchiladas and mole! The tacos and quesadillas. I loved it all! But after  I spent a year in language school in Mexico I assumed I could speak Spanish in any Latin America country and it would all be understood. I made sure to learn the names of my favorite foods, because, well, food is very important to me!

So I knew a 'torta' was a sandwich and a  'tortilla' was a flour or corn flat bread. Beans were frijoles. I love to drink coke so I knew to ask for 'coca'. Pop corn, a good snack, is 'palomitas' which is easily remembered because it mean 'little doves'.

Good to go!

And then I moved to Venezuela. Suddenly, a 'torta' was not a sandwich but a cake! A' tortilla' was an omelet and beans were 'caraotas'. Oh yeah,' tacos'? Those are soccer cleats! Not tasty at all!

I learned new words for my favorite foods. 'Lomito' was  the best cut of beef.' Pasteles' were pastries. 'Perico' was scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes, and peppers. I loved the 'panes with mantequilla' (bread and butter). Also it is best not to ask for coca! It is sold by the kilo and is a white powdery substance... one must ask for a 'refresco'. And popcorn is 'cotufa', so no more little doves.

Then I visited Costa Rica. I asked for a 'torta' and they said,"QUEQUE" (what? what?). I asked again, "Torta, por favor" and they handed me some cake, but said, "QUEQUE". Oh, like 'Cake' but said in Spanish. Gotcha! And passion fruit is not parchita but maracuya. ok then...

Then I moved to Paraguay where my favorite legumes are not 'frijoles' nor 'caraotas' but...habichuleas or porotos. But 'porotos' confuses me because here the popcorn is 'pororo'  Passion fruit, which I knew as 'parchita' or 'maracuya', is mburucuya. If I want bread and butter, I have to ask for cookies with lard! 'Galletas con manteca' is 'pan con mantequilla' (bread and butter).

Confused yet?

If I want a good steak, I don't ask for a 'lomito' because that will be a sandwich.  And a 'mixto', which in Venezuela would be a sandwich with beef, pork and chicken, is just a plain ham and cheese on  bread here.  'Perico', the scrambled eggs is' Bandera espanola'... but who wants to eat a Spanish flag???

Then we come to the 'yerba'! The 'weed' everyone uses every day in large amount. Its sold on the grocery store shelves and even strangers on the street will offer you free weed. In Venezuela 'yerba' is an illegal substance usually smoked by teens!  And no 'coca' or 'refresco' here, its a 'gaseosa' which sounds a bit repulsive!

And now we come to Argentina where everything is different yet again. 'Yerba' isn't yerba but 'mate' and it must have sugar added!

When my husband went to the coffee shop in Argentina he ordered his usual 'cafe'.

"Would you like that with a  factura ( bill/check)?" they asked him.

"Well, yes, but when I am finished." he said.

"But Senor, don't you want your factura now, while your coffee is still hot?" They politely insisted.

"Ok, but I may wish to order a second cup of coffee and you will have to add it to my bill." he replies.

And then the waiter brings him his coffee and a pastel (pastry) which is called a 'factura' (bill/check).

And yes, it would be best eaten with the hot coffee after all!


DASI GLAM said...

Rita, I just loved your entry today. It's so true, you would think that if your learned to speak Spanish it would be same everywhere in Latin America; it's not. Not to mention when it's spoken by Spanish nationals, sometimes you're so surprised until you understand what they're really saying. It's a lot of fun though, and you presented it brilliantly. And I see you will never go hungry anywhere, you know how to get your food! :)

Humble wife said...

Makes me smile!

Speedy G said...

I hate to admit this, but I've always had a hard time understanding Mexican's in films... even famous actors like Cantinflas. At first I thought it was the accent... but only then did I realized how different the language was regionally. Especially "curse words"... ;)

Jim said...

Hmmm... I think it's just time you came home to Mexico! ;)

Kathy said...

:) Love this! I'm going to be studying it before we come back down to visit! :)

Kathy said...

:) Love this! I'm going to be studying it before we come back down to visit! :)

Findalis said...

Be grateful that it is still the same language. You could be living in Europe with dozens of different languages.

Sis. Julie said...

Wow!!! Is the language that complicated? I'm so thankful the Lord didn't call us to missions to another country. I never learned foreign languages well in school much less as a way of speaking on a regular basis.

Sorry I haven't been by in a while. I just don't get to the blogging world much anymore. But now that I have my Julie's Jewels facebook fan page I will be trying to post things more regularly. It has been a blessing keeping up with you on fb.

Love you!!!

Lizet said...

Que mucho me reí! es tan cierto. Cuando nos mudamos de Bolivia pensé que iba a ser super fácil hablar acá, y derrepente muchas palabras significaban algo diferente.
Me encanta lo de la factura y el café :)

Jeanne Chabot said...

Not to mention yucca/mandioca and pomelo/whatever it is elsewhere... :)

When I first went to Paraguay, I went with a religious sister and a priest, both of whom had already spent 18-19 years in Latin America, (the first in Bolivia, the latter in Chile) and they both had a hard time understanding paraguayans because of the accent. I know when I first arrived, (and wasn't altogether fluent in spanish) I couldn't even always tell if they were speaking spanish or guarani. :)