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Our "noches de Guateque": 

What does Guateque (pronounce: wa-te-ke) mean, anyway?

I’m sure you’ve heard of our weekly events « Noche de Guateque » or seen them on your news feeds, and must have gone all confused. 

What in the world do we do in a what...eeeh...what??? 

Originally the word is from Spanish Cuba, where it was used in the 19th Century to define an animated party and/or a joyful dance. 

In Ecuador, it was used to name parties only for black people. 

It then went back to Spain in Andalusia, meaning a huge feast, and was mostly used in the sixties to design a casual celebration at a house. 

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We believe that it is crucial for our students to be able and practice Spanish outside of the classroom, this is why every week we organize a social event which we have named « noche de Guateque », and we go out with our students for good food, good drinks, good company and a lot of fun (in Spanish, amigo!). 

How about next time you get down here and join the fun?

PS: Guateque is also a town and municipality in the Colombian Department of Boyacá, Thanks Wikipedia!

Posted: 1/7/2015 11:45:53 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


You thought that with January coming, you would be able to finally rest. You thought you could get back in shape and start working on that New Year’s resolution of exercising more and watch those carbs. You thought that all that craziness from the holidays was over and that it was time to put some order back in your life. 

Oh my friend, you could not have been more wrong!

In Mexico, the celebration doesn’t end on January 1st. There is more partying to come, and more eating delicious holiday food. 

Today January 6th is known as « Día de Reyes ». 

Before you get all excited about eating and partying again, here is a little history: the tradition tells us that, guided by a bright star, three kings riding a horse, an elephant and a camel, started their journey to visit baby Jesus to adore him. The three Kings came from different parts of the world: Melchior was king of Persia, Balthasar king of the Arabs, and Gaspar was a king in India. It is assumed that they were three, as according to the most popular tradition, three gifts were found. However, in other versions it is mentioned they might as well have been four, six and even up to twelve!

The gifts were gold, to honor Jesus the king, myrrh for Jesus the man, and frankincense for Jesus the god. 

The Kings symbolize the first gentiles who converted to Christianism.
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So how does this work in Mexico? According to custom, children would not write a letter to Santa in December, but would write their wishes to Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar, not without mentioning how good they had behaved the previous year. They would place the letter, together with some snacks for the Kings and their animals, on the windowsill on the evening of January 5th, and wake up to a morning full of presents on January 6th.

Now here’s what you’re probably more interested in hearing. Nowadays, as with every custom, people tend to stray more and more from the exact tradition. Adults want their share too, and more and more children receive their presents via Santa and his elves on Christmas day. However, the « día de Reyes » is very much alive, and is a very popular tradition in Mexico. 

What you would do nowadays is invite a group of friends over for a nice little get together, and share what is called « Rosca de Reyes » (see picture).
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Each and everyone will grab a knife and cuts a piece of Rosca. 

A little plastic baby Jesus figurine is hidden in the Rosca (sometimes there are up to 6 or 7 plastic Jesuses!). The person who gets one is bound to organize a party or give tamales or atole on February 2nd, day of « La Candelaria » (more to come on this celebration). 

The party never ends, bienvenidos a México! 

 

 

Posted: 1/6/2015 5:06:09 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


Reason Nr. 3 to visit Vallarta in the winter. 

One of the most magical gifts nature gives us around the bay is that every year between early December and March, is the possibility to sea whales, during their reproductive period.

These amazing creatures visit the bay every winter, as they find here the perfect conditions for reproduction. 

The humpback whale male literally serenades the female, producing one of the most beautiful and powerful sound an animal can make. Once the female approaches the male, he starts to « show off », in order to make sure that she notices that he is the one for her. By doing so, he sometimes will jump so high his whole body will come out of the water. 

As their gestation lasts 11 months, it happens that some females arrive at the bay while being still pregnant from the past season, and therefore give birth in our beautiful waters too. 

Hence, the chances of seeing whales jumping out of the water and seeing their calves is particularly high. 

At Spanish Experience Center we are very conscious of the environment and only work with tour providers where the animal comes first: in order to ensure that the whales feel safe in the bay and make sure they come back year after year, it is crucial to follow some rules. The most important being: do not approach the whale closer than 30m (about 32 yards), do not stay more than 30 minutes with the same animals, especially if there are other boats nearby, if there are more than 2 other boats look for another group of whales, make sure you take your tour with a certified company, etc. 

So why not combine your experience of learning Spanish with one of the most magical shows nature has to offer?
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Posted: 12/17/2014 5:43:43 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


After a fascinating beginning of the month and amazing celebrations of « Las Peregrinaciones » (Check our post about these pilgrimages: http://bit.ly/16pF1yg ), time has come for the famous Posadas!

la_pinata_by_diego_rivera_lcr.jpgThe Posadas take place during nine days, from Dec.16th until the 24th; the number nine represents the nine months of pregnancy, specifically Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus.

The roots of the Posadas go way back: although their origins are in Spain, they have been celebrated throughout Mexico for over 400 years. 

Nowadays they take place every year, mostly in Mexico, Guatemala and some parts of the United States. 

This joyful tradition commemorates the pregnancy of Mary and when Mary and Joseph, at the end of their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, had to ask for lodging and were denied access to most houses they approached. 

Here is how it works: every night, one house from the neighborhood will host the posada. Friends and family will gather, and the group will divide in two groups. The first one will stand outside of the house, chanting and asking for « posada » (which literally means lodging or accommodation), while the second group, from inside the house, will chant their answers, starting with a blunt « no, you are not welcome », and finally let them in, when they realize that the beggars actually are Mary and Joseph. 

After everybody is welcome inside, the traditional piñata will be teared down and usually tamales and atole will be served.

Here to give you a taste of the real thing the lyrics to the song: http://bit.ly/1qX5rAj (in Spanish) so you can practice at home !

Posted: 12/16/2014 7:01:32 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


Today, not really a post about something to do in Vallarta this Christmas (although there are dozens of ways to celebrate Christmas in Mexico) but rather, a word. 

While "Merry Christmas" has become easy to understand to billions around the globe, I'm sure you've all heard this song in your local Mall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReJ4PRklbKA : but how many of you know how to say Merry Christmas in Spanish?

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Those who were brave enough to click on the link easliy recognized the words "Feliz Navidad".

"Feliz", meaning "happy" or "merry"

and "Navidad", which stands as a translation for Christmas. 

The meaning of the word, though, differs quite a bit from the meaning of Christmas (which comes from Old English Crïstesmaesse, meaning "Christ's Mass"). 

Indeed, the word Navidad comes from latin "Nativitate";  

"Nati", meaning "birth"

"Vita", meaning "of life"

"te", meaning "for you"

Thus the meaning of the word could be translated into something like "the birth of life for you". 

It kind of makes me want to say Feliz Navidad to every single person I meet, all year long :). 

Posted: 12/12/2014 3:17:28 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


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