Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Drinking on Cinco de Mayo? 15 Spanish Phrases You Should Know

With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner and every Spanish and Mexican restaurant in the country bracing for an onslaught of drunken gringos, I thought a few quick Spanish lessons might help to bridge the inevitable cultural divide on May 6th.

First, let's begin with a few words about the event itself. In 1862, Mexico stopped payments on a huge debt they owed France - they also did the same with Britain and Spain, but France was the only one that sent over a fleet. Keep in mind the United States was fighting its own Civil War at the time so we weren't involved. The French fleet landed on the coast of Mexico and troops started making their way to Mexico City to take over the capital and the country. On May 5th 1862, a much larger and well armed French force was defeated by a much smaller but highly fortified local Mexican force at the small town of Puebla.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  

Unfortunately, when the French reinforcements arrived a short time later Puebla fell, Mexico City fell and the French ruled Mexico for the next four years.  Which is why in Mexico,
Cinco de Mayo...not such a big deal!

Understanding all that, let's get to the lecciones de español (the Spanish lessons)


Hello in Spanish is Hola - a familiar greeting you can use with almost everyone in the service industry and you should receive a friendly Hola! back.

If it's late morning when you head out to the bar and you still have your wits about you, be a bit more formal and start things off with Buenos días (Good morning).

Later on in the day, if you're still feeling good after a few Margaritas and you want to impress the attractive hostess you can use Buenas tardes (Good afternoon).

Later that night, (later meaning 6 Margaritas, 8 Tequila shots, and 5 pitchers of Sangria later) after you've lost your cell phone, the bar has taken your car keys and you are being escorted to the taxi after vomiting on yourself - if you'd like to prove that you're really a decent guy, try using  - Buenas noches (Good evening, Good night).

Drinking conversations

If you walk into a restauant and do not see the bar area - a quick ¿Dónde está el bar? (where is the bar) should have you pointed in the right direction in no time.

Now comfortably seated at the bar, let's order. Quisiera una Margarita, por favor - means I would like a Margarita, please. Feel free to substitute your favorite beverage for the word Margarita. (Beer is Cervesa, Wine is Vino, and Tequila is El Diablo, but we'll get to that later*)

Once served, always be polite and thank your server with a simple Gracias.   If someone thanks you for something the correct response is De Nada meaning - it is nothing (a small hand wave is also appropriate to signify that you are not only multi-lingual, but sophisticated!).

As the night progresses, there will undoubtedly be a call to nature so another useful phrase is ¿Donde está el baño? (where is the bathroom).  If this is an urgent matter (as in if you do not reach the bathroom soon you will throw up in the sombrero of the girl at the next table) you may want to insert the word ¡rápidamente (quickly) at the beginning of your question.

If the 6 tacos with hot sauce, 8 chimichangas, and 5 burritos are an issue, use the same phrase as above substituting "la farmacia" (the pharmacy) for el baño.

If you've missed your mouth with a flaming shot and the outsides of your throat and mouth are literally on fire, calmly ask one of the Bartenders/Waitresses ¡Perdóneme, estoy en el fuego, hay un doctor en la barra? (Excuse me, I am on fire, is there a doctor in the bar?)

If, on the 12th shot of El Diablo (Tequila), you feel your brain functions begin to shut down and hallucinated visions of yourself in a photograph displayed on an alter at this years el Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead - which by the way is very big in Mexico) appear in frequent flashes projected onto your frontal lobes, better get professional help with the phrase "¡Estoy bebiendo con los muertos puede que me llame a una ambulancia! (I am now drinking with the Devil, please call me an ambulance). If their response is "Si, que son una ambulancia" (Ok, you're an ambulance) they're just screwing with you and you're better off dialing 911. 

Before the ambulance arrives - be sure to settle your tab.  Remember, you are an American - making an impression here is important, so a friendly La cuenta, por favor (meaning literally "the count" or the check, please) should bring your tab promptly.

I hope this helps.  Have a great and safe Cinco de Mayo!

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