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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Puerto Rican Spanish: the Influence of Andalucía

"Gracia." We hadn't even stepped out of the airport or had a chance to notice the perfect weather and gorgeous scenery of Puerto Rico before we had our first Borinquen experience: Puerto Rican Spanish.

"Did you hear that?" I asked Kam. "That guy just said 'gracia' without an 's' at the end. I wonder if that's how it's pronounced here." Kam doesn't come from a family of language lovers like I do (growing up, grammar and word-choice were frequently discussed, even heatedly debated, over dinner at my house), so I think he often tunes out my word-obsession... except when traveling, that is. When abroad, Kam is equally interested in getting to the heart of local language idiosyncrasies. And so we were both instantly on the alert for more Puerto Rican-isms.

We quickly noted that "buenos días" and "buenas noches" followed the same pattern as "gracias," becoming "bueno día" and "buena noche," no 's' to be heard.

Asking locals for their explanation offered little clarification. But I imagine Puerto Ricans must get grilled on this regularly, because most were quick to respond with, "I don't know why we drop the 's,' but it's not because we're lazy."

A little bit of digging eventually turned up a fascinating explanation:

Many of the early Spanish colonists to arrive in Puerto Rico came from Andalucía, the southernmost region of Spain. In Andalucía, post-vocalic syllable-final consonants are aspirated. In other words, a consonant that follows a vowel and is at the end of a syllable (or word) is not pronounced in a way "we" expect to hear, but rather comes out like the sound of a breath, a sound which we might not notice at all. And so "gracias" becomes "gracia," ending with the faintest hint of a breath sound.

Andalusian Spanish had another influence on Puerto Rican Spanish: the substitution of "l" for "r." Unfortunately, we didn't pick up on this on-the-ground, but did enjoy seeing it exemplified here:

Youtube commenters clearly disagree on the degree to which this substitution is universally Puerto Rican. We're looking forward to tracking it ourselves on a return trip.
And if you beat us to PR, stop back by to let us know what you hear. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Puerto Rico: the Taíno and Tibes

Are you planning a trip to Puerto Rico? On our recent visit to PR, we wanted more than the typical "tourists sipping piña coladas on the beach" experience. So when Smithsonsian's "What Became of the Taíno?" article (here) piqued our interest, we were ready to leave the resorts behind, and delve into Puerto Rico's history. After all, understanding a culture's past makes its present much more clear.

And so it was with great enthusiasm that we left our home-base of Luquillo, PR, to head 90 minutes south to Ponce, where we visited the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center (Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes). Tibes is the site of the remains of indigenous ceremonial meeting and burial grounds, dating back to AD 25. The remains were unearthed by Hurricane Eloise in 1975.

The Tibes staff treated our family to a private tour in English, during which our fabulous guides detailed what is known of the indigenous Taíno people who were living in Borikén (their name for Puerto Rico) at the time of Columbus' arrival in 1493.

replica of a Taíno bohío (Tibes, Puerto Rico)
The Taíno lived in yucayeque (villages) of as few as 80, but sometimes up to 3000 people.

Most villagers slept in family groups of 8-10 people in a bohío, or a small round thatched roof hut. Inside the bohío, the Taíno slept in jamaca (hammocks).

replica of a Taíno caney (Tibes, Puerto Rico)
A caney, or square shaped, somewhat larger bohío, was home to the village cacique (chief) and his 4 or 5 wives. One wife would have the designation of "favorite wife," which would earn her such privileges as a special seat during an areyto (ceremony). Unfortunately, the status also came with the obligation to be buried alive with the cacique, should he die first.

remains of a Taíno canoa (Tibes, Puerto Rico)
The Taíno crafted canoa (canoes) by hollowing out the trunk of a single tree. All canoa building was done with stone tools, shells, and fire; the Taíno had no metal tools prior to European contact.

The Taíno built smaller canoa from the saman tree for river travel. The ceiba tree was better suited for larger sea-worthy canoa, which could carry up to 100 people on voyages between islands of the Antilles, and possibly beyond.

unearthed Taíno batey (Tibes, Puerto Rico)
Nine batey, or ceremonial plazas, have been found at Tibes. A batey could serve as cemetery, astronomical tracker to mark time, tribal or inter-tribal meeting place, or playing field for a ball game that was both a form of entertainment and a means of resolving disputes.

This ball game, called batey like the grounds on which is was played, was of special interest to the Spanish when they first witnessed it. They were especially intrigued by the batu, the rubber-like ball, made of wax from the cupey tree rolled together with grasses, and weighing up to 25 pounds. Rules of the game allowed for movement of the batu by any body part except the hands.

Although the Taíno were all but extincted by the Spanish, traces of their culture can be seen to this day. Words like hammock, canoe, hurricane, and iguana, come from their language. And some of their cooking methods, such as barbacoa (barbecue) and use of a pilón (mortar and pestle) to pulverize yucca and corn, continue to be used in Puerto Rican cooking today.

Our entire group of 5, from 70-somethings down to a 7 year old, highly recommend a visit to Tibes to augment your Puerto Rican experience.

  • Tibes is a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Ponce, on Route 503, km 2.2. 
  • Tibes is open Tuesday through Sunday; closed Mondays.
  • Posted hours and online travel forums disagree on the hours of operation; 9:00 to 3:30 was our experience. 
  • Admission fees are $3 for adults, $2 for children 5-12, free for under 5 and over 75. 
  • Tours are offered in English and Spanish, and are included in the admission fee. 
  • As with any event or attraction in outlying areas of Puerto Rico, we recommend calling ahead to confirm times and prices. Call (787)840-5685. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Road Trip Geography Fun! (a freebie)

As summer vacation gets closer, it almost feels harder to wait for it... so we haven't! We've been out hiking and camping for a few weekends already, which has really gotten us in the mood for our summer road trips ahead.

On yesterday's drive home, we saw cars from so many states out on the roads, we realized we weren't the only ones who couldn't wait for summer vacation to begin our summer travels. It seems everyone is already on the go. Which is why I created this super fun new FREEBIE:

The Road Trip License Plate Tracker

Just click the image to get to my TpT store and download yours FREE before your next road trip.
Happy Travels!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Thank You, Ancient Egyptians... for big heads & pączki?

Would you believe that Carnival (which is the celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday, which is the day before Lent begins, which is the 40-day period before the day before Easter... with Sundays not counted as part of the 40 days... AGH!!!) is yet another tradition that traces its origins to pagan festivals of ancient Egypt? Yep!

I'm sure you can guess the story from there: Greeks and Romans took the customs to their respective empires, and later The Church magically transformed those customs into Christian practices. I imagine the Christian side of the event didn't stick for too many generations, and before long, it seems Carnival was full of pagan revelry again, albeit still timed with the Christian observance of Lent.

As Christianity spread throughout The New World, the pagan-yet-timed-with-Lent celebration of Carnival spread with it. And so today, countries all over Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, and Australasia have various pre-Lenten festivals which incorporate a local flair. These can range from simple, like a single Mardi Gras treat in a typical Midwestern household, to extravagant, like the famous weeks-long Carnevale of Venice. Sometimes the festival develops an entirely new meaning, as is the case in Trinidad and Tobago, where, since 1838, Carnival has become a celebration of the end of slavery.

Because I love using holidays to learn about the world, I checked in with a few blogger friends to find out how pre-Lent looks where they live. Loved what I learned -and tasted!- along the way!

 pączki, POLAND photo: CZmarlin
Olga, a.k.a. The European Mama shared that Poland celebrates Tłusty Czwartek, or Fat Thursday five days before Fat Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras). A highlight of Tłusty Czwartek? Indulging in pączki, a jelly- or creme-filled donut which has apparently been eaten in Poland since at least the Middle Ages. (If it, too, has ancient Egyptian origins, I haven't discovered them yet.) Pączki is now a much-anticipated seasonal treat in Polish communities around the world! And yes, I had my first one, a creme-filled version, this year. Mmmm!

Giuliana of Washington, Dead Chef, actually grew up amidst the famous Venetian Carnevale. Guiliana reports that festivities begin weeks before Lent. Venice's Carnevale celebration became "official" more than 700 years ago, but it is thought to have been going on for a few hundred years before that!

Battaglia delle Arance, ITALY photo: Scrambled Nest
Today, Venice's Carnevale retains many early elements, such as costumes and masks, and copious numbers of deep fried dough treats. Check out Giuliana's post here to read more, including a recipe for her delicious-looking Frittelle di Carnevale!

Stefania at Scrambled Nest has a great character guide to those famous masks of Italy's Carnevale (here). The masks originated with an improvised style of theater popular in Italy from the 14th through 18th centuries, Commedia dell’arte, and remain a beloved part of Carnevale, more than 300 years later. Stefania also shares a quick guide to various other Carnavali around Italy, including the exciting and colorful Battaglia delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges) in Ivrea, Italy.

grosses têtes, FRANCE photo: Lou Messougo Blog
Claiming to be older than Italy's Carnevali, although shorter in annual duration, the Carnaval of Nice, France is also a worth-the-trip event! Phoebe of The Lou Messougo Blog has beautiful photos and descriptions of the flowers and the grosses têtes (big heads) that make up Nice's many Carnaval parades. Phoebe offers great tips, such as: be sure to go in costume, or you'll have to pay admission for the flower parades; and: watch the parades early in the week, before floats get covered in increasing amounts of spectator-sprayed silly string.

(If you're near Nice this time of year, you may as well check out nearby Menton's Fête du Citron, too. It's not related to Carnaval, but it is related to a whole lot of sunshine and citrus, so you can't go wrong! Phoebe will tell you all about it here.)

wooden masks, GERMANY photo: The Piri-Piri Lexicon
Not up for two-plus weeks of celebrating, but don't want to be limited to just this one Tuesday?

The Piri-Piri Lexicon's Annabelle says parts of Germany celebrate Fastnacht for about a week before Lent. Annabelle explains how scary pagan masks and costumes once frightened away winter and its evil spirits, but have since become characters responsible for distributing sweets and treats at the parade. Be sure to read to the end of Annabelle's post for your fun "ah, that's so German" moment of the day!

Of course, you might prefer a slightly more tame means of ushering in Lent. Why not join our friends of the British Commonwealth, and declare tomorrow to be Pancake Tuesday?! You can embrace the religious aspect of making pancakes to use up your rich ingredients before 40 days of fasting, or relive the pagan custom of consuming pancakes to tap into the power of the sun (which is round and warm, like a pancake, is apparently the reasoning). In either case, an excuse for a day of pancakes sounds yummy, and Eolia of La Cité des Vents has a great recipe for the French version, crêpes, here.

After checking out the world's celebrations, perhaps you'd like to get your students or children into the N'awlins Mardi Gras spirit. Then check out my latest facebook fan FREEBIE! This coloring page and open-ended writing sheet, in the typical N'awlins Mardi Gras style, will work for study in any language!

To access, click the image to get to my facebook page. Be sure to like the page, then look for the "Free downloads!" button in the left sidebar.

Et maintenant... laissez les bons temps rouler!

And however you celebrate, don't forget to thank an ancient Egyptian!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Todo sobre los Pingüinos" and my New Zealand penguin regret

You know what they say: Youth is wasted on the young. I don't know about you, but in retrospecting my own life, I see a degree of merit in that somewhat pessimistic catchphrase. Case in point: penguins!

During a short part of my teenage years, I lived in New Zealand. Those many years ago, I had no idea that there were just 17 species of penguins in the world, that they all lived in the Southern Hemisphere, and that 3 of those 17 species can be seen in New Zealand. Thus, I had no idea what a big deal it was to actually be seeing penguins. Live. In their natural habitat. Not on a tour. Not in the zoo. Just experiencing them naturally. I took nary a picture (well, maybe one or two), and let their sighting simply be a passing moment on my travels around The South Island.

Agh!!! If only I could go back and relive my youth; I would appreciate so many things more fully than I did at the time. Penguins included!

Well, recently I have been able to revisit my penguin encounter, in a sort of virtual sense, in the creation of my new favorite packet:

"Todo sobre los Pingüinos"

(Click image to view this packet in my TpT store.)

"Todo sobre los Pingüinos" is a 6-page, customizable fold-out penguin craftivity booklet, entirely in SPANISH. Customizable means it's perfect for classroom differentiation, or for homeschooling families who have children at different levels completing projects together. And of course, Spanish means it's perfect for Dual Language, Immersion, or Second Language programs, and multilingual homeschoolers.

By the time my daughter completes this packet with her class, she will know better than I did to appreciate the wonder of seeing a penguin in the wild... with the added benefit of an increased Spanish repertoire, too. What more could one wish for?!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, MLK, Jr! ...and a fb fan freebie: mulitlingual coloring pages

Today Martin Luther King, Jr should have been celebrating his 86th birthday. In his honor, I have posted a FREE coloring page in four languages, remembering his famous "I have a dream" speech. Also included is an open-ended writing sheet, which you can use in any language.

To access, head to my facebook page, and look in the left sidebar for the "free downloads" button.

For more great ideas on honoring MLK, Jr with kids, check out Multicultural Kid Blogs' series, here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lycklig Pepparkakans Dag!

Happy Gingerbread Day!

Christmas season in Sweden offiicially kicks off on Luciadagen (St. Lucia Day) on December 13… but one special day precedes the month of celebrations, setting the stage for the yumminess of the month-long Swedish Christmas: pepparkakans dag!

Pepparkakans dag literally means "peppercake day," but refers to Sweden's obsession with their beloved gingerbread cookies. It is thought that way back in the 14th and 15th centuries, these cookies were made with black pepper, thus the name… but there is every possibility this is a legend that has grown with the obsession. (More "stuff of legends" includes stories of nuns using pepparkakans to cure stomach ailments, and even a king being ordered to consume the cookies to improve his foul mood!)

Pepparkakans dag falls on December 9… today! On this day, Swedish families bake their gingerbread cookies for the season. Of course, many families opt to forgo the rolling pin and purchase their seasonal pepparkakar instead.

Want to make your own pepparkakar? There are plenty of recipes around the e-world… but an especially yummilicious recipe for pepparkakar is included in our Multicultural Kid Blogs' "Celebrate Christmas Around the World" packet.

Whether you're baking pepparkakar today, or making some other holiday favorite, I hope it is a yummy start to the celebrations ahead!

You can find lots more fun and yummy Christmas trivia and info on the MKB Christmas in Different Lands series.