Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What do you know about the Spanish-speaking world?

Spanish is the official language 21 countries. Take a look at this map to see them.

A person is Hispanic if their roots extend from Spain in some form. Latinos are people that are from the Spanish-speaking world that are not DIRECTLY from Spain. So Latinos are Hispanic but not all Hispanics are Latino. Brazil in NOT a Spanish-speaking country. Though it is located in South America and borders a few Spanish-speaking nations it was settled and claimed by Portugal; therefore, the first language of Brazil is Portuguese.

There is only one rain forest in the US National Park System. It is called El Yunque and it is located in Puerto Rico. It is in the US Natl. Park System due to the fact that Puerto Rico is an Associated Civil State of the US. Puerto Ricans are citizens of the US and need no special documentation to travel the continental US.

Some Latin dances you’ll learn about this semester and others are: La Bomba, La Plena, Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, el Tango, Cumbia, Durangquese. Feel free to YouTube these dances if you are curious to see them.

The Arabic/Spanish relation dates back to the year 711. Muslim empires from Saudi Arabia and North Africa occupied Spain for over 700 years. During that time some words in the Arabic vocabulary became part of everyday Spanish vocab. Examples: alfombra, almohada, aceituna, jabón, algodón, almendra, ojalá. Notice anything? The ‘al’ in some of the words mentioned stems from the article ‘the’ in Arabic. All of southern Spain was known as Al-Andalus – meaning ‘to become green at the end of summer’ in Arabic - during the Muslim occupation of Spain and is now called Andalucía.

Hopefully, you will learn quite a bit about a few of these countries during the semester. Be very careful. Some grocery stores label a certain aisle in the store ‘Spanish foods’ that are not Spanish at all. If they were Spanish foods they would be from Spain. The Spanish food aisle is designed for people of Hispanic or Latino roots. The problem is that there are so many countries that are Spanish-speaking that it would take a VERY LARGE aisle to hold the food that is eaten in these countries. Most people think all ‘Latino/Hispanic’ food is hot – it isn’t. Outside of Mexico very few countries use the types of peppers the create heat. Most are sweet or smoky and provide very little punch. You will have to do a little research on a dish of your choice later in the semester.

Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. Mexicans celebrate their independence day with el Grito in Mexico City, the nation’s capital, on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo celebrate the day the French army was fought away from the city of Puebla, but it is hardly celebrated at all in Mexico. No one in Mexico will tell you ‘Happy Cinco de mayo’: it’s just not celebrated. Mother’s day is actually a very important holiday in the Spanish speaking world. Other holidays celebrate different saints in Catholicism as well as Christmas (Feliz Navidad!) and the Day of the Dead.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Immersion Update

The original 15 spots for the Immersion Course in Costa Rica have already been filled. It looks like this year's group will be the largest yet! Just can't say enough about the program and the entire group here at the college.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Inmersión en Costa Rica

Once again, preparations are under way for this years "Inmersión Cultural." This year's experience will take place in Costa Rica during the end of May and the first part of June. So far, we have an awesome, diverse group of students that are very excited about the course.

If you are interested in keeping up with the adventure, I would suggest following us here on the blog, or by joining us for the trip to Costa Rica!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Immigration: What do we do?

We have had a great discussion via "Moodle" regarding immigration. It is easy to think about building a wall to prevent people from coming to the US, but what can we do once people have arrived to an area and settled? How can we demand that a group of people assimilate into our culture and learn our language, yet not provide the resources and opportunities for this to take place?

Hopefully, you have visited some of the links I sent you all regarding taxation of immigrants. This is on of the most common argument used when stating the negatives of illegal immigration, but it is not always very accurate. It is always better to be well-informed so that your argument is much stronger and true.

You have also been provided a resource that gives the process to become "legal." As you can see, it is very complex and could take up to 20 years to achieve. Again, this is a case that could be simplified bia immigration reform.

I hope that you are more knowledgeable when it comes to issues regarding immigration. It is a very difficult issue, and it is marred with gray areas that don't allow for clear application of laws, nor the protection of individuals being faced with deportation.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The summer is off to a traveling start. I have just returned from two weeks with my students in Mexico. The trip was awesome. The cultural and historical importance of the places and artifacts we were able to see is incredible. Here is just a bit of the highlights from the trek.

We spent Friday (5/28) visiting La Peña de Bernal and the city of Tequisquipan, and Saturday we spent two days and one night in the historically important town of Guanajuato. On our way home, we made short stops in Dolores Hidalgo, the heart of the Mexican Independence movement, and San Miguel de Allende, the heart of the Gringos moving to Mexico movement.

La Peña de Bernal is the world's third largest monolith. Part of the crew was able to reach a height of around 500 meters (that's right, meters...it is easier that way) while the actual peak (not reachable sans equipment) is much, much higher. In total we were around 2,000 meters above sea level and for us, being from Stanly County, the air got pretty thin. The views from the top of La Peña are spectacular. Although it was unusually hazy, we could see for kilometers. According to local lore, the town and rock themselves are supposed to be magical. Many people (well in their 90's) climb the stone to receive energy and experience its incredible powers. We actually felt it on our climb. On the way up, the trail that is covered by a lot of dirt, dust, and plant life completely wore us out. However, when we arrived to the heights where there was no debris, only exposed stone, we suddenly received a burst of energy which carried us to the top.

After Bernal, we visited the town of Tequisquiapan. Tequis, as it is called, is just a small, colonial town that features a lot of shopping and a great little restaurant called ''La Tajano''. Most just enjoyed the savory soup, while other had some exquisite enchilidas. Even the complementary bread and requeso were out of the world. Though we didn't have time to visit, the annual Wine and Cheese Fair was taking place while we were in Tequis. I heard from many people that this years expo was one of the best.

Guanajuato offered us the chance to see naturally occurring mummies, some of the original silver mines of central Mexico, and the museum of Spanish Inquisition torture devices. Due to the climate, soil content, and diet (very fresh and very natural) of the people of Guanajuato, it is very common that people are mummified through a natural dehydration process. After visiting the mummies, we made our way to the old silver mines. We were able to go down only 24 meters, but that was far enough. When the guide tells you how many people have lost their life in Mexico's mining history, you don't want to go too far. Going deep wasn't always necessary during the 17th and 18th century in this particular region. During this time period, it was not uncommon to find silver literally just below the surface of the soil. This is what brought so many Spanish conquistadors to the area, lending to its strong colonial history and attractions today. The torture museum was probably our favorite stop. There's nothing like learning just how people were stretched beyond their anatomical limits, fried like pork rinds, and had their heads compressed until their brains exited through their nasal passages simply for being homosexual or a single mom...good times!

Dolores Hidalgo is a very special place in the history of Mexico. It was here where the original ''grito'', or shout, for Mexican independence took place. This tradition is relived all over the country, but most importantly in the Zócalo of Mexico City. Nearly two million people gather every September 15th (not 5 de mayo) to join the president in celebrating the independence by shouting ''!!Viva México¡¡'' and ringing the ceremonial bell.

It was a whirlwind trip and it totally wore us out, but we rallied each other and made it to class. Our classes were great all week. The history class is absolutely amazing. We have learned about the time period of the pre-Colombian groups all the way up to the conquest. Our classes during the week carry us to the following weekend's adventures. Here is how weekend #2 went...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010