Spanish

Texas Standard: October 27, 2020

There’s some hope from the left Texas could go blue in the presidential election, and some likelihood it could when it comes to the state house. We’ll explore. Also, the divisive state of politics right now has many concerned about the risk of violence on or after Election Day. We’ll dig into news Texas Army National Guard troops will be deployed. Plus, misinformation going out before an election is nothing new. But evidence it’s targeting Spanish-speaking communities. Also, when counties can turn any building into a polling place it often means many of those buildings won’t be fully accessible. And a small-town Texas story is getting its shot on the big screen. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Dichos

By W. F. Strong and Lupita Strong 

Dichos are proverbs. Dichos is a Spanish word for wise sayings, clever maxims, humorous perspectives that can guide you well. Dichos are life coaches, lighting a pathway that, if followed, can make our lives better and less painful. Dichos are nuggets of wisdom that are handed, like gold, from parents to children to enrich their lives.  They exist in all languages of course, but here in Texas we get the benefit of having them in English and Spanish. Sometimes they’re similar, but sometimes they’re vastly different in both content and expression.  

I’ve collected a few of my favorite dichos to share. I’m grateful to my diaspora of Hispanic friends who sent in an avalanche of suggestions which helped me remember some I’d forgotten and taught me a few new ones as well. To spare you from my inadequate Spanish rhythms, I’ve brought in an authentic voice to help out. Vámonos!

There are many dichos about the value of keeping your mouth shut: 

En boca cerrada, no entran mosca. Keep your mouth shut and no flies will get in. 

El pez por la boca muere. Fish die through their mouth. 

There are many dichos about love, of course. Here are two about long distance love:

Amor de lejos es amor de pen#$%&@ – well, can’t finish that one here, but I’m sure – if you know some Spanish – you can. Long distance love is a love for DANG fools. 

And there’s a corollary:  Amor de lejos, felices los cuatro. Long distance love makes four people happy. 

Here are two about the best laid plans: 

Del plato, a la boca… se cae la sopa. From the bowl to the mouth, you can lose your soup. Or, Del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho. From planning to doing, much can go wrong. 

Now for a few about being a good person. 

Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres. Tell me who you run with and I’ll tell you who you are. 

Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda. A monkey in a silk dress is still a monkey. Lipstick on a pig.  

El burro hablando de orejas. The donkey talking about ears – hypocrisy. 

And for lazy people we have these cautionary dichos: 

Camaron que se duerme so lo lleva la corriente and El flojo trabaja doble. Sleeping shrimp get carried away by the current and the lazy one does everything twice. 

The devil often appears in dichos: 

Más sabe el diablo por viejo, que por diablo. The devil is cunning  because he’s ancient not because he’s the devil. 

And here’s the five-second rule in dicho form. When you drop food on the floor you will often hear: Todo para dios, nada para el diablo. All for God, none for the devil.  

Let us end with this timeless jewel: 

Los niños y los borrachos, siempre dicen la verdad. Little children and drunks always tell the truth.  

I’ll drink to that. I’m W. F. Strong. Estas son historias de Tejas. Algunas son verdaderas.

Texas Standard: October 10, 2019

A stern warning from the federal judge overseeing reform of Texas’ foster care system: further resistance will be worse than futile. We’ll have the story. Also, the president makes it clear he won’t be cooperating with the house impeachment process. What’s less clear: what this means for what many have predicted to be a transitional election season in Texas politics. We’ll explore. And skyrocketing heat-related injuries in the military. Now there’s an attempt at a radical ‘about face’. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 10, 2019

It’s a new rule designed to answer concerns about sex abuse in the Catholic church, although some victims say it’s nowhere near enough. We’ll have the latest. And do you remember acid rain? Problems in the Permian with a new warning from a national environmental group says recent reports by the energy industry itself indicate dangerous and illegal amounts of sulphur dioxide in west Texas, we’ll take a look. And so so-called good samaritans at the border with Mexico arrested. Those stories and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 2, 2019

Reading, writing, and a rush to judgement? Some Texas lawmakers seem somewhat unsettled by a school finance bill racing to the floor of the Senate, we’ll have details. Also, the white puts in a multi billion dollar request for emergency border funds. This time, it’s not about a wall but humanitarian relief. Some in congress are unconvinced. Also the future of ugly food, why your next pet might be virtual, and actor and filmmaker Edward James Olmos is in the studio. All of that and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 1, 2019

Lowering property taxes, but giving up what? We’ll take a look at the latest movement at the Texas capitol. Also, asylum seekers would have to pay to apply under new orders from President Trump. We’ll break down the proposals. And you throw the bottle in the blue bin, viola! You’ve recycled. But it’s not so simple, and in fact it could be getting harder. We’ll explain. And one of the most important figures in Texas’ religious history never set foot here, or did she? Exploring the legend of the Lady in Blue. Those stories plus a fact check and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: April 30, 2019

To be or not to be a Senate candidate. Democrats puzzled why an expected challenge to John Cornyn is slow to materialize, we’ll have the latest. Plus, amid what appears to be growing support for gun control efforts in other parts of the U.S., the nation’s biggest gun rights group takes aim against itself? A leadership struggle at the NRA poses one of the most serious threats to the organization in years. And a Texas senator moves to stop publishing the final words of prisoners facing the death sentence. All that and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: April 9, 2019

Texas officials raising lots of eyebrows after taking quick action to sue the companies involved in recent chemical disasters. A change of heart? We’ll take a look. Also, who’s helping the growing numbers of people crossing the border right now? Highly strained resources for migrants in the valley as their numbers mount. And is the STAAR test aimed too high for Texas students? New complaints getting a hearing at the state capitol. Plus a closer look at the possibility of a former Texas governor taking over as head of Homeland Security. All of those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: January 16, 2019

Dallas and Houston both reporting slowdowns at airports as unpaid TSA workers call in sick. Now a call for airport screeners to go on strike. We’ll explore. Also, what’s worse than a partial government shutdown? Ask someone living in the UK right now. Why an impasse over Brexit could leave a mark here in Texas and what happens next. Also the discovery of three new species of salamanders in Texas, what it means for Texans of the human variety. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: December 6, 2018

Snow to the north, flooding to the south, storms close in on the Lone Star State, with dangerous implications. We’ll hear the latest on weather warnings statewide. Also a man in a jail cell in Odessa may be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Why did it take so long for authorities to catch him? Plus, why Texas appears to have become ground zero for a cryptocurrency crackdown. And challenging assumptions: one of the most comprehensive profiles of Latinos: ever. Those stories and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 18, 2018

A shooter situation at a school in Galveston county. Santa Fe High School goes on lockdown, we’ll have the latest from our reporting partners. Also, what could be an important moment in U.S. Mexico relations: a televised debate in the contest for the presidency of Mexico. The front runner? One way to think of him is as a Trump of the left. And a wildfire in the panhandle spawns a rare phenomenon that creates more fires from above the story behind an unusual pyro cumulus cloud formation. Also, they called him the Tex Mex Elvis, now Freddy Fender’s daughter is fighting to preserve her father’s legacy. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: October 4, 2017

The state’s had a drought plan for years, now a first for water management in Texas: a statewide flood plan. What Texas is doing to prevent widespread damage from future floods and what’s needed to deal with the next one. Also, the sexual abuse of farm workers: a seemingly intractable problem? How workers came up with a plan and sold it to some of the biggest names in the American marketplace and now could be a model. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Cabeza de Vaca: The First Texas Tourist

The first person to waltz across Texas – okay, waltz is the wrong word (just tipping my hat to Ernest Tubb there). The first European to walk across Texas was Cabeza de Vaca. And he did it barefoot and mostly naked. Why? We shall see.

His full name was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Bet they just called him “Al.” “Alvar” means “guardian.” Turns out that he tried to be just that for the indigenous peoples of all the Americas, North and South.

He started out as a Spanish Explorer in the New World, with an expedition of 300 people in Florida in 1528. Within a few months, Indian attacks and starvation had driven the Spaniards to the coast where they quickly built 5 crude rafts to escape into the Gulf. They hugged the coastline and made it to the Mississippi River, which pushed them out to sea where they were separated by currents and storms. Many died from drinking sea water. Many fell overboard and drowned. Cabeza de Vaca’s raft and one other, along with about 80 survivors, washed up just south of Galveston Island.

Aboriginals on the island saved them from starvation, but many of the Spaniards still died of malnutrition and illness. Many of the native Texans died, too, likely from European viruses that Cabeza de Vaca’s group carried. Within months, only he and three others of his expedition were still alive. That was out of the original 300, a 99 percent death rate. Not exactly a confidence builder.

And then the fun really began. The tribe turned hostile. They made slaves of these castaways – forced them to dig for edible roots, gather firewood and keep fires going all night to ward off the swarms of mosquitoes. They were beaten if they didn’t work hard and sometimes they were beaten just for fun. The castaways were stuck in captivity for several years, though Cabeza de Vaca himself got some relief as they allowed him to trade with other tribes on their behalf.

Despite the horrors they endured, a tiny hope sustained them – Cortés was only 1,000 miles away down in Mexico. Maybe they could reach him and their countrymen. Finally, as their tribe migrated south one summer, they seized the opportunity and escaped.

They headed southwest, following the coastal route that is today highway 35. They had no clothes and no shoes. They walked mostly naked and barefoot through increasingly brutal terrain of mesquite thickets and cactus and sharp coastal grasses. They ate pecans, at what Cabeza de Vaca called the “river of nuts,” which ironically was not the Nueces River – nueces meaning “nuts” – but the Guadalupe. They also ate prickly pear fruit, prickly pear itself, mesquite beans and roasted corn (elotes). Bet they would have given about a million gold Escudo coins for a Whataburger.

One thing they did have going for them is that they became known as shaman or healers. They were called The Children of the Sun by tribes in the region. Many in these tribes flocked to them to be healed. They did the best they could, blowing gently on their patients’ bodies and making the sign of the cross over them. Sometimes they recited rosaries. Fortunately, most people they treated were cured, or at at least reported feeling much better.

Their reputation preceded them and the tribes they encountered greeted them as holy men and demigods. This was quite a welcome reversal from their lives as slaves.

Despite the difficulties of their journey, Cabeza de Vaca still marvelled at the beauty of the coastal plains of Texas. He saw buffalo, which he called huge cows, and even tasted the meat once or twice. He declared it better than European beef. He later wrote: “All over the land there are vast and handsome pastures with good grass for cattle, and it strikes me that the soil would be very fertile were the country inhabited and improved by reasoning people.” He was a bit ethnocentric on the criticism, but it turned out he was a healer AND a prophet – predicting the great cattle ranches that would flourish in Texas 300 years later. Back in Spain, he would argue for peaceful coexistence and cooperative colonization with the American Indians. The Crown was so amazed by his idea that they imprisoned him to kill it.

Though the exact route is not known, many believe that Cabeza de Vaca and the castaways trekked southwest through present day Falfurrias and Roma where they crossed the Rio Grande and then turned Northwest. They walked all the way to the Pacific Coast. Ten years after they left Spain, they made it to Mexico City.

Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to get a good look at the magnificence of Texas and to leave behind a record of what it could become. He was Texas’ first tourist and he was Texas’ first travel writer. He gave Texas a five star review for its potential. And in terms of making the most of the land, our ancestors fulfilled his prophecy. In terms of getting along with the native Texans, well, not so much. Let’s just say, it’s complicated.

Lingo for Gringos: Ten Spanish Words All Anglos Should Know

I call this commentary “Lingo for Gringos” mostly because it rhymes, but it should really be called “Ten Spanish Words all Texans Should Know.”

I’m not talking about the easy words like cervezavinotortillataco and baño. And I’m not talking about the common words you say every day that are actually Spanish words – patio, plaza, armadillo, mosquito, etc. I’ve chosen 10 words that are important for their social significance. If you know very little Spanish but at least know these words, you will have a clue as to what is going on around you. Listos? Ready? Here we go.

Aguas means “watch out” or “be careful.” My wife uses it often when children are in danger: “Aguas, aguas,” she says with the same tone of impending doom, whether they are really about to walk off a cliff or could just get gently bumped by the fridge door. The expression has its roots in the cities of long ago when water used to be tossed out the second story windows and walkers below would warn their companions by yelling “aguas.”

Guácala is a slang word, popular throughout Latin America. It means “gross” or “disgusting.” It is also fun to say. It has an onomatopoeic quality that makes the word sound like what it describes. It animates the moment. Guácala, for all that disgusts you. And a true grammarian who just heard me torture the pronunciation of the adjective form for onomatopoeia probably just said it.

Ni modo is two words, but always sounds like one to me. I love this expression. It means “What can you do?” Or “It is out of our hands.” Or “Whatever will be will be.” Ni modo. Someone says, “They’ve changed the computer system at work again.” Ni modo.

N’ombre is not the meaning for “name,” but a word with an apostrophe that is short for “no, hombre.” N’ombre. “No way.” It has many nuances of meanings, but for the most part it expresses surprise, disbelief, or even shock. “Did you know Lisa and Chuy eloped?” N’ombre!

Güey means dude. N’ombre, güey! “It can’t be, dude!” The Big Lebowski would be the ultimate güey. “El Güey aguanta.” “The Dude abides.”

Chisme is gossip or rumor. Good, juicy stories. “Tienes chisme?” “Got any good gossip?” When Facebook was new, I would hear people say, “Facebook es puro chisme,” meaning that private information could easily slip out and travel to all the last places you would want it to go.

Naca or naco. Don’t confuse this with narcos – those who work for cartels. A naca is a girl or a woman who sports unsophisticated tastes or at least less sophisticated than you. She is often, like true rednecks, proud of being authentic. If Jeff Foxworthy spoke Spanish he might do this routine: “If you think Sharpie eyebrows are high-fashion, you might be a naca. And if you think mullets are in – hate to say it – ‘N’ombre, que naco!’”

Sin vergüenza means without shame, or without embarrassment. It is used when someone stuffs her purse with buffet food at the reception. We say, “sin vergüenza.”

Resaca is a hangover. It is a common word in the Rio Grande Valley. It is another name for the oxbow lakes so common there. Just as the oxbow lake is a leftover or hangover from the Rio Grande, resaca is the name for a hangover from the tequila of the night before. “Tengo una resaca horrible.” “I have a horrible hangover.”

Órale is famous for having about 40 different meanings achieved by variations in vocal inflection and situation. Some linguists say it has 820 meanings depending on the tone, time of day, style of hair and what shoes you’re wearing. It is used for enthusiastic affirmation. Someone says “vámonos por una cerveza” and you say, “órale.” It means, “Let’s go ahead,” “absolutely,” “let’s do it,” “hurry up,” “wow,” and dozens of other things. One Texas English equivalent for órale is simply, “there you go.”

So there you have the 10 words that will be helpful to you. I want to say gracias to my gorgeous wife Lupita who has taught me these words and many others I cannot share on radio. But these 10 will serve you well in our increasingly multilingual world.

Soy W. F. Fuerte. Estos son Cuentos de Tejas. Algunos son ciertos.

I’m W.F. Strong. These are Stories From Texas. Some of them are true.

Texas Standard: July 22, 2016

Breaking with tradition: the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has made an endorsement for president. And it’s not the businessman: we’ll explore. Also the 2016 Democratic National Convention is coming up, but we’ll go back to the first and only time it was held in Texas. Also we’ll talk with the first Texan to win the National Spanish spelling bee, and so much more. Today on the Texas Standard: