Oaxaca life

Spanish to English: A Pocket Glossary of Terms

Pigs
A group of piglets roam the streets in San Sebastián Abasolo.

Words and photographs by Ehren Seeland

Fundación En Vía runs responsible tourism visits to six different communities every week so that participants can meet with the inspiring women that take part in the interest-free microloan program. These visits take place in the family homes and businesses of the women and serve to educate tour participants around microfinance and the impactful benefits that the program provides. The majority of these communities speak Spanish and Zapotec, and while the tours are led by a guide in English, there is also an En Vía translator who plays the crucial role of helping to share the stories and experiences of the women and also to help facilitate meaningful interactions throughout the day.

Spanish is not a requirement when taking part in the tours, however it is sometimes beneficial to learn a few key words prior to visiting the communities (or Oaxaca as a whole). To aid in this process, we have assembled a handy list of translations that are relevant to our tours below that can easily be printed to fit in your back pocket.

Market stalls in Teotitlán del Valle include everything from flower sellers to produce.
Market stalls in Teotitlán del Valle include everything from flower sellers to produce.

Business
el interés – interest
el mayoreo – bulk
el préstamo – loan
el puesto – stall (in the local market, for example)
el almud – a 4-kg measuring container for corn, wheat, peas, etc.
el marrano – pig (in Mexico)
el borrego – sheep not lamb (in Mexico)
surtir – to stock (inventory of store)

Cooking
la cal – lime used to soak corn to prepare the masa
el comal – large clay surface used to cook tortillas over the fire
el chepíl – green herb used in some tamales
el humo – smoke
la leña – firewood
la masa – dough used to make tortillas
el molino – the grinder
el molcajete – grinding stone or bowl

Meeting space in the home of a weaving family in Teotitlán del Valle.
Meeting space in the home of a tapete weaving family in Teotitlán del Valle.

Greetings
Hola – hello or hi
¿Cómo está? – how are you
Muy bien, gracias – very well, thank you
Buenos días – good day or good morning
Buenas tardes – good afternoon
Buenas noches – good night (can be used as greeting and farewell)
Me llamo (nombre) – I am called (name)
Mucho gusto – nice to meet you

Freshly picked garlic from local growers in San Sebastián Abasolo.
Freshly picked garlic from local growers in San Sebastián Abasolo.

Plants and Herbs
Ajo – garlic
Albahca – basil
Azafrán – saffron
Calendula or sempasuchil – marigold
Cola de caballo – horsetail
Comino – cumin
Consuelda menor – comfrey
Curcuma – tumeric
Frambuesa – raspberry
Hierba mala – weeds
Manzanilla – chamomile
Nogal and Nogalito – walnut
Nuez and nueces – all nuts (general) and also specifically pecans
Pimenton – paprika
Planta Medicinal – medicinal plant
Zarzamora – blackberry

Beautiful embroidery work by a Fundación En Vía interest-free loan borrower in San Miguel del Valle.
Beautiful embroidery work by a Fundación En Vía interest-free loan borrower in San Miguel del Valle.

Textiles
la asa – handle (for bolsas)
el cierre – closure or zipper
la cochinilla – cochineal (insect used for red dye)
el cojín – pillow or cushion covers
la colcha – bedspread
coser – to sew
el hilo – yarn
la lana – wool
pintar – to dye (also teñir, but pintar is more common)
el rebozo – wrap or shawl
el tapete – rug
el telar – loom
la madeja – skein
la canilla – spool (tubes)
los gabanes or jorongos – ponchos
el chaleco – vest

Of course, this is just the beginning, but we hope that this short list of terms helps your responsible tourism experience to run a little smoother. See you on tour!

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