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Archive for the ‘Spanish Culture’ Category

by CaptainCode

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March 19th, 2014

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Happy Fathers Day! What? Is it not the Fathers Day today? In Spain, it is!

Today is Saint Joseph’s Day, and in Spain the holiday is also celebrated as a Father’s Day. To remind, Saint Joseph (San José) was a spouse of the Virgin Mary, and the step-father of Jesus Christ.

The holiday has been celebrated since the 15th century, and, as it traditionally falls during Lent, it was traditionally observed as a day of abstinence. As a result, traditional meals on St. Joseph day were made up of meatless dishes.

As St Joseph’s day traditions vary from region to region, one could certainly expect the holiday to be somewhat more festive than a modest meal, after all this is the Spanish culture we are talking about, right? This is especially true if we look at Valencia, the region in the South of Spain.

To commemorate St Joseph, Valencians hold traditional celebration called the Falles, or Las Fallas. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments created during the celebration. Traditionally, each neighborhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that holds fundraising activities all year round to raise money to produce a construction known as a falla. The fallas are usually big statues of various comic characters and satirical stories.

Falles is a festival that lasts for 5 days and culminates on St Joseph’s Day, and every day and night of the Falles is a glorious party, with processions and comedic performances, in the streets, people celebrating at restaurants and terraces outside, enjoying non-stop vivid fireworks every night. Foreigners are often surprised to see everyone from small children to elderly gentlemen throwing fireworks and noisemakers in the streets (and how littered the streets become).

La Cremà (the Burning), the climax of the Falles, takes place around midnight on March 19, these falles are burnt as huge bonfires. This is why the constructions are called falles (“torches”). Traditionally, the falla in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament in Valencia is burned last.

Each falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first. The construction itself is lit either after or during the explosion of these fireworks. Many neighborhoods have a falla infantil (a children’s falla, smaller and without satirical themes), which is held a few meters away from the main one. This is burnt first, at 10:00 pm. The main neighborhood falles are burnt closer to midnight; the burning of the falles in the city centre often starts later.

So where does the tradition come from? While there are a number of speculations regarding the origin of the Falles festival, most researchers believe that the Falles developed from the celebration of the spring equinox, which is celebrated with bonfires in many traditions worldwide. Many suggest that in Spain it started in the Middle Ages, when artisans disposed of the broken artifacts and pieces of wood they saved during the winter by burning them to celebrate the spring equinox. Valencian carpenters used planks of wood called parots to hang their candles on during the winter, as these were needed to provide light for the carpenters to work by. With the coming of the spring, they were no longer necessary, so they were burned.

Over time, with the strengthening of the Catholic traditions, the date of the Falles festival was made to coincide with the celebration of the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and also became the Father’s Day in Spain.

Did you know that you can speak Spanish fluently by the time of the next Fallas festival? Imagine visiting Valencia for this exciting festival and being able to get around with no interpreter (and no English!). Whether you’re thinking this trip to Spain or just making your next Carribean vacation more fun by speaking Spanish to the locals, you can start learning Spanish FREE now! Visit Visual Link Spanish website and enjoy our FREE lessons, or choose to upgrade for a full award-winning Spanish course from Visual Link Spanish.

Here are some fallas:nou-campanar-falla-1


by CaptainCode

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February 14th, 2014

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dia-de-los-enamorados-02Happy Valentine’s Day! While we all know that love is all around and it’s certainly universal, did you ever wonder how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in other parts of the world? Is it the same commercialized blend of red roses, hearts and chocolate (not that we don’t enjoy it) as it is in our part of the planet? And, since we’re at it, what was the origin of the holiday before it became as mass marketed as it is today?

The Origin of  Valentine’s Day

There is a number of legends of how the holiday began. According to the most popular ones, Valentine’s Day is traced back to the Ancient Rome at the times of Emperor Claudius II.

Claudius made a bold decision to ban marriage, claiming that single men made better soldiers. However, a priest named Valentine continued to secretly marry couples, and eventually was imprisoned for disobeying the emperor. In jail, Valentine, being a hopeless romantic, fell in love with a young girl who regularly came to visit him. Right before he died, the priest wrote her a love letter, which is believed to be the first ever Valentine.

Valentine’s Day in Latin America

Over the centuries, the holiday has grown into a huge business in the United States and Europe, but seems to be a little more so in Latin America. In many countries, it seems to be more of an excuse to share love and friendship than candy and cards. It is even referred to as “Día del Amor y la Amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship) in many countries, including Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. It is common to see people perform “acts of appreciation” for their friends. In Guatemala this tradition is known as the “Día del Cariño” (Affection Day). In Brazil (yes, we know they speak Portuguese there, but still), the Dia dos Namorados (lit. “Lovers’ Day”, or “Boyfriends’/Girlfriends’ Day”) is celebrated on June 12, probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint, when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good husband or boyfriend.

More Traditions From Different Countries

In Mexico, February 14th is celebrated as the “Día de San Valentin but is more commonly referred to as El Día del Amor y la Amistad, the day of love and friendship. While people also commonly give flowers, candies and balloons to their romantic partners, it is also a day to show appreciation for your friends. It is a time for people to show appreciation to the people they care about in general.

In Peru, locals celebrate by giving out orchids, native to the country, to each other. Carnaval is going on at the same time so it is considered a public holiday, and many celebrate with mass weddings to be able to accommodate large groups of couples.

Argentina & Chile refer to the day as El Día de Los Enamorados. There is more of an emphasis on spoiling your significant other with gifts compared to other Latin American countries. Colombia and Bolivia celebrate Valentine’s Day on September 20-21, when it popular to send gifts from secret admirers.“ Dominican Republic & El Salvador have a similar tradition when a game called Angelito or Amigo Secreto is played. Girls and boys rip a piece of paper, write someone’s name, and then proceed to give their angelito a gift. That’s a very cute Secret Santa variation, isn’t it?

Happy Valentine’s Day Amigos!

by CaptainCode

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December 5th, 2013

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Did you know the guitar was invented in Spain? So these people must know a thing or two about music!

Do you like Spanish music? And we do not mean any music and songs in Spanish (although songs in Spanish are just another great way to learn the language). Yet, this time we do not mean Shakira, Marc Anthony or Mariachi – these are great samples of Latin American and Mexican music.

For truly Spanish music, think Flamenco. As traditional and historic and it is, Flamenco is something that you will hear in cafes, bars and in the streets of Spanish cities. There are at least 30 varieties of flamenco in Spain and can be found everywhere. And since the Spainish invented the guitar, these people know their music. The famous Spanish poet Fredrico Garcia Lorca called flamenco one of the greatest inventions of the Spanish people.

Flamenco can be considered much more than music–rather a lifestyle. With so much diversity in Spain the love of flamenco has been a constant throughout and even has roots in France. The beauty of flamenco takes more than just a guitar; the style is tied to the elaborate dancers with castanets and the traditional hand clapping.

The type of flamenco most tourists see is with colorful dresses and music dating back to the 16th century from the region of Andalucía with traces of Moorish and Jewish traditions. But flamenco is not just a style from centuries before. El Camarón de la isla (1950-1992) helped bring about nuevo (new) flamenco with the induction of the electric bass. Camarón is considered a legend in Spain with his image everywhere from car stickers to t-shirts.

After a battle with lung cancer Camarón died. Over 100,000 mourners at the funeral truly showed the world the power his music had on people. Following his death, film director Jaime Chávarrí made a movie of his life which later received several nominations for the prestigious Goya Awards.

Today flamenco is still a huge part of understanding the culture; don’t think that Enrique Iglesias is what Spanish music is all about. Here’s a great example of Flamenco to add some Spanish feel to your day:

by CaptainCode

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November 12th, 2013

As typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, as it’s called in the Philippines, has swept through this Asia-Pacific island country, it caused massive destruction with as many as 10000 feared dead. With the prayers and relief coming to the Philippines from all over the world, we thought it would be a good idea to mention something not so many know about.

As Spanish speakers and language learners, we usually keep the list of Spanish speaking countries in mind. Yet, not all of us know that until relatively recently, Philippines used to be a Spanish speaking country, too. Philipino, or Tagalog, one of the two official languages (the second official language is English now), bears a lot of similarities with the Spanish pronunciation and vocabulary.

Spanish was introduced in the Philippines after 1565, when the Spanish Conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi sailed there from Mexico and founded the first Spanish settlement on Cebú. As the colonial rule was established, the first printing press founded and the first books released were in Spanish. In the 17th century, Spanish religious orders founded the first universities in the Philippines, some of which are considered the oldest in Asia (University of Santo Tomás in Manila and the University of San Carlos in Cebú). During colonial rule through Mexico City, Spanish was the language of education, trade, politics and religion, and by the 19th century, it became the country’s primary language, although it was mainly used by the educated Filipinos.

In the 19th century, a Spanish decree introduced a system of public education, creating free public schooling in Spanish. Shortly, this island nation, the Philippines had a prominent group of Spanish-speaking scholars and thought leaders, many of whom participated in the Philippine Revolution and later in the struggle against American occupation. In 1899, the First Philippine Republic established Spanish as the country’s official language, with both the constitution and the anthem written in Spanish. However, the independent republic itself didn’t last long.

As a result of the Spanish-American war, Spain ceded the islands to the United States. Under U.S. rule, the English language began to be promoted instead of Spanish, and the use of Spanish promptly declined. The 1950 census stated that Filipinos who spoke Spanish as a first or second language made up only 6% of the population. And another 40 years later, in 1990, the census reported that the number had dwindled to just 2,500.

Spanish lost its official status in 1987, and was dropped as a college requirement, remaining an optional course. Today, it is a required subject in only some academic institutions, such as the University of Santo Tomás in Manila and the University of San Carlos in Cebú.
Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a third-language Spanish speaker, introduced legislation to re-establish the instruction of Spanish in 2009. Today, the language is still spoken by Filipino-Spanish families, mainly concentrated in Metro Manila, Iloílo and Cebú. Yet, despite government promotions of Spanish, less than 0.5% of the population are able to speak Spanish at least proficiently.

While the Spanish language has never been 100% accepted by the Philippines population, it is still reflected in the country’s culture and art, and has contributed a number of words and expressions in Tagalog, Cebuano, and other Philippine languages. Here’s to hopes and prayers for this island nation recovering from the terrible tragedy.


San Augustin Church in Manila, built in the early 17th century

San Augustin Church in Manila, built in the early 17th century

by CaptainCode

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October 29th, 2013

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¡Hola! As this Visual Link Spanish Blog comes back to life, we kick off our conversation of the Spanish language lovers with something nice and celebratory. And what can be nicer and more celebratory than delicious food? We mean Spanish food, of course! Don’t worry, there’ll be some vocabulary included with our new tradition, the 10 Palabras (words) section.

Seafood paellasmall

As autumn, naturally, makes us crave richer foods, and, contrary to popular stereotypes, autumn is THE seafood season, the choice of the dish we’ll be talking about today is obvious: Seafood Paella!

Just a short history note, the people of Moorish Spain often made casseroles of rice, fish and spices for family gatherings and religious feasts, which made rice a staple food by the 15th century, and the tradition of family gatherings over a huge rice dish is still well and alive –with Paella!

Naturally, on the Mediterranean coast of Valencia, the locals used seafood instead of meat and beans to make Paella. This created the true Spanish Treasure: Valencian Seafood Paella!

With lots of recipe variations being out there, go ahead, get creative and come up with your perfect Seafood Paella!

Before you do that, you will probably need to go grocery shopping. And when you do, imagine that you aren’t in your local food chain store, but in a real Spanish market somewhere in a cozy Valencian village. You would probably find these 10 Palabras useful:

Rice – Arroz
Shrimp – Camarones
Mussels – Mejillones
Lobster – La langosta
Onion – La cebolla
Garlic – El ajo
Tomato – Tomate
Salt – Sal
Paprika – Pimentón
Seasonings – Condimentos

¡Buen provecho!

by Jake Beus

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December 23rd, 2011

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Santa Claus is coming to town! There are many different artists who sing that song and have different versions. My favorite is Neil Diamond’s version, with Jackson 5 coming in at a close second. In preparation for Santa Claus coming to town I have come up with a few things that you can say to Santa before that special day called Christmas. Although you may not be able to speak with him personally, Santa knows what’s in your heart and what’s on your mind.

Yo creo en Santa Clos/Papá Noel. | I believe in Santa Claus.
Me porté bien este año. | I behaved well this year (I was a good boy/girl this year.)
Me alegra estar con mi familia. | It makes me happy to be with my family.
He perdonado a mis hermanos. | I have forgiven my brothers and sisters.
Me portaré mejor el año que viene. | I’ll behave better next year.
¿Podrías darlos a mis padres algo bien? | Could you give my parents something nice?

We would like to give you something special as well this Christmas season. It’s currently Day 12 of our 13 Days of Christmas. Click on that link to view all the free audio downloads we are giving away from our Level 1 course. We used to sell these audio lessons for $100, and you can download them and put them on your mp3 device or phone for free. That’s our way of saying Merry Christmas to you. Help us spread the Christmas cheer by sharing that link with your friends, neighbors, family and acquaintances.

Whatever way you choose to celebrate this Christmas season, we hope that you celebrate safely and that you enjoy every moment. Remember to be nice to everyone, because Santa is watching!

by Jake Beus

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October 24th, 2011

Nelson Cruz

La Serie Mundial

The World Series, or la serie mundial, is going on right now. The world series is the championship of major league baseball in the United States. It is baseball’s biggest stage. The St. Louis Cardinals are playing the Texas Rangers. I am a fan of the Texas Rangers, although I don’t have a problem with the Cardinals. Many of the players in the world series are from Spanish-speaking countries. Baseball is becoming more and more popular in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean countries. Many of those countries have produced big stars in the baseball world. Rebecca Lopez from wfaa.com stated that there are 17 Latin players in the 2011 world series. Eight of those players are from the Dominican Republic.

If you are a fan of the game and also want to learn Spanish, perhaps you should watch the game and listen to it in Spanish. Depending where you live, you may be able to find a Spanish radio station broadcasting the game. The biggest stars are Nelson Cruz, Neftalí Feliz, and Alexi Ogando from the Dominican Republic. Elvis Andrus is from Venezuela. It is a record number of Latino players in the World Series.

I have not heard each of those players speak English, but I have heard some of them. This is a fun time for them and all the players in the world series. This is a fun time for the countries that they represent. You might someday be able to represent your country as you do something in a foreign country. Do your best to learn Spanish pronunciation and you will be loved by the people in that country. Do you plan on watching any of the remaining games? Turn on that Spanish radio station, and GO Rangers!

by Jake Beus

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September 23rd, 2011

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Ever since I learned Spanish I have had a crush on Shakira. I am not ashamed to admit that, and there is no reason that I should be. Obviously she is very attractive, and she knows that. Obviously she can move very well, and she knows that. She may not have the best voice in the world, but she has a unique voice and she uses it well. The songs she chooses are very entertaining. She has a pleasing personality as well. Those are some of the reasons that she is such a great entertainer and is so famous.

Shakira was born February 2, 1977, in Barranquilla, Colombia, into a poor family. Her mother was a native Colombian, and her father was of Lebanese descent. She grew up listening to music from both cultures. She wrote her first song at age eight, began entering and winning competitions at age ten. She learned the guitar at age 11, and at age 13 she moved to Bogotá to pursue a career in modeling. She wound up signing a record deal with Sony’s Colombian division instead while she was there. And thus began her ascent to fame.

Shakira has written or co-written most of her songs. She has always wanted to maintain a control over her songs. When she received an offer from Gloria Estefan to translate her hit song “Ojos Asi” into English, she decided that she would learn English well enough that she would write her own songs in English as well. She has made it huge in English and Spanish because of her unique poetic imagery.

Shakira is a great example of learning a second language. She has learned English very well. She had a goal and she dedicated herself to that goal, and look what she has done. Her success is very public because she just happens to be a huge celebrity now. You will experience your own successes should you choose to learn Spanish. I recommend that you listen to some of Shakira’s music in the process. Grab her lyrics and try to sing along. You’ll notice that she sings very fast and that her music can mesmerize you. Beware.

by Dave Clark

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August 31st, 2011

¡Hola Amigos!

Last week I taught you how to say “Happy Birthday” in Spanish. I promised you that I’d show you the Mexican Happy Birthday song which is 7 verses long (I thought is was 8 in my article last week, but it’s only 7 – that’s way shorter eh?).

Anyway, here’s a link to last week’s article if you want to learn more about how to say Happy Birthday in Spanish.

So, here it is, and I’ve also included a YouTube video with an awesome mariachi singer singing it. (You can follow along with the words below. I’ve tweaked the English translation a bit to help for learning purposes.)

Here’s the song – enjoy! (Be sure and click on the “more” link below to see all 7 verses.)

“Estas son las mañanitas

que cantaba el rey David

Hoy por ser día de tu santo

Te las cantamos aquí.

Despierta mi bien despierta

Mira que ya amaneció

Ya los pajaritos cantan

La luna ya se metió.”


“These are the dawns

about which King David sang

Today because it’s your special day

We sing them to you.

Wake up very well wake up

Look what has already woken up

Already the birds are singing

and the moon has gone away.”


by Tyler

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August 26th, 2011

1.  Flan: A flan is a type of open-topped pie that could be compared to a custard tart. It is one of the most popular desserts in Spain and Latin America and served for many different occasions. The classic Spanish flan is typically made up of vanilla egg custard and topped with caramel sauce, but there are many different versions out there.

2. “Pastel de Tres Leches” or “Tres Leches Cake” is named for the three milks in the soaking liquid (Leche means milk in Spanish). The three milks in the soaking sauce for Tres Leches are sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. Tres Leches Cake is extremely dense and moist, almost like a custard. Tres Leches is sweet and delicious, but differs from the more traditional light and dry cake we are used to.

3. Churros: Most  Americans are familiar with churros. Most of us have eaten them or at least seen them at carnivals, theme parks or fairs. My best description of them is that they are the Spanish equivalent of doughnuts. Instead of a ring like a doughnut, “churros” are long, straight, and usually have ridges.

4. Arroz con Leche: This is a thicker, creamier  and more fragrant version of rice pudding.  Arroz con Leche is made by slowly cooking rice with milk and sugar flavored with nuts, vanilla and orange zest.

5. Empenadas: Many of us are familiar with savory empanadas – delicious pastries stuffed with beef and egg, chicken or vegetables. However, dessert empanadas can be equally satisfying. Many are created using fruits such as strawberry or pineapple.

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