Whether or not you have a lot of free time, do yourself a favor and learn even just a few words of another language. You don’t need wholesome reasons to do it either– it could be to get more bread at a restaurant, finally ask that person on a date, or to make sure mechanic doesn’t muss anything else up in your car. To boot, I don’t really speak Cantonese beyond a few travel phrases, but given its staccato nature, it’s probably my favorite language in which to curse (唔該, early ’90s Stephen Chow and Ng Man Tat movies).
Thus, counting foreign language study as one of my hobbies, I will give everyone a brief vocabulary lesson in Spanish, using as a guide humble points of interest – no, they’re more like points of no interest to anyone but me – in Mexico, El Salvador, and Cuba.
As an example, take this sign by a bridge, or puente, in El Salvador. I was en route between the city of Santa Ana and Joya de Cerén, the American version of Pompeii when I saw the inferiority complex in full swing. Or, was it just laziness?
In Spanish, río means river and sucio means dirty. Folks, if it’s that nasty, why not make it a río limpio (clean)? If you’re curious about how dirty it might be, plan your visit today!
Yes, given that we now know that puente is bridge and sucia is dirty, the new word, cara, means face. You will find these two blips on highway 150D near the Mexican city of Córdoba in Veracruz (state), and apparently back in El Salvador, too.
Somewhere along highway 145D a bit north of the Puente Chiapas in Mexico’s Chiapas state lies this fella. Sorry, I mean this sign laden with irony.
Puente Sin Nombre literally means “Bridge Without a Name,” so you can either wax poetic about it, or let the Chiapas government know that calling it a Bridge Without a Name gives it a name. Or, was everyone in on it?
This one is more on point. Bienvenidos a Campeche = Welcome to Campeche (state). Easy. To the left of the sign, we have “termina Yucatan,” or “the end of Yucatan (state),” and “principia Campeche,” or “the start of Campeche (state).”
Now we’re getting into the weird. Near Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco state, we’ve got this sign; to the north, Veracruz, to the east, Uzbekistan??? No, seriously…Samarkand(a)- besides being a suburb of Villahermosa – is a Silk Road treasure found in the Central Asian republic. Perhaps I will write about my time there one day. Oh, right-on the above sign, “reduzca la velocidad” means “reduce the speed.”
Meanwhile, how do they expect us to get to Uzbekistan from here?
Oh, I know. A Cuban bus.