Las Carpetas

I recently heard about the artwork of Christopher Gregory-Rivera on an episode of the Las Raras podcast. Christopher Gregory-Rivera’s recent work, called “Las Carpetas” (“The Files”), examines the history of government surveillance on the island of Puerto Rico. The “carpetas” he refers to are files with information about Puerto Rican citizens — targets of FBI and Puerto Rican Police Department surveillance over the course of 40 years. These individuals were deemed “politically subversive” or somehow connected to the Puerto Rican Independence Movement.

A Puerto Rican artist based in New York City, Christopher Gregory-Rivera compiled and photographed an impressive number of original documents to create this series, which documents files, photographs, videos and handwritten notes. The result is both aesthetically beautiful and emotionally sobering.

One of the most interesting facts I learned when hearing about “Las Carpetas” is that there is a Spanish verb used in Puerto Rico that came from this time: “carpetear.” This verb is now commonplace and means to gather information on someone, especially for political reasons.

You can learn more about “Las Carpetas” on Christopher Gregory-Rivera’s website, and you can read more about this part of Puerto Rican history in a testimony presented by Ramón Bosque-Pérez called “The FBI and Puerto Rico: Notes on a Conflictive History.”

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Winter Words

Both Spanish and English have beautiful words to describe winter! These unique words go beyond some of the more commonly known terms to conjure up the feeling of the season.

Spanish winter words:

carámbano – icicle

rompope – eggnog

duende – elf, fairy, goblin

copo de nieve – snowflake

hoguera – bonfire

granizo – hail

muñeco/a de nieve – snowman/woman

cascabeles – bells

English winter words:

névé – nevero

blizzard – ventisca

slush – aguanieve

whiteout – tormenta de nieve, condición de visibilidad limitada por nieve

The Arabic Roots of Spanish

When Arabic-speaking Muslims from North Africa invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711, they introduced unique architecture, philosophy, and social norms to the territory. The Arabic language deeply influenced the local vernacular Latin dialect, which eventually became Spanish.

In the 15th century, this territory was now the Spanish kingdom and was presided over by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Despite the Inquisition, the Spanish language already deeply reflected Arabic influences. Some Arabic words also shaped the English language, as you can see by a few nouns in this list.

Arabic (spoken)SpanishEnglish
zaytun aceituna olive
shatranj ajedrez chess
habaqah albahaca basil
alhafaalféizar windowsill
aljabrálgebra algebra
zurafahjirafa giraffe
laymunlimón lemon
sindiyyahsandía watermelon

Historians traditionally viewed this period of Islamic rule as a time of “convivencia,” or living together, because it’s been widely accepted that Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in relative harmony and abundance. In modern times, however, historians question this seemingly idyllic picture. You can read more about the Muslim and Arabic influences in Southern Spain and the diverse views of life during this period in this “Beardy History” article.

Finally, with all the sweet holiday treats not so far behind us, I leave you with one more Arabic word: “as-sukkar,” meaning “azúcar,” or sugar!

The Holidays Are Here

The 2022 holiday season has arrived! At first, it seemed to come “on little cat feet” like in Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fog.” Now it’s in full swing: carols playing in every shop and winter-themed coffees, sweet treats, and cocktails. Here’s a cheery scene from the café table I’m writing at this morning:

Client projects are especially inspiring to me at this time of year, and 2022 seems even more robust because events and offerings are in person again. Some of my translation and editing projects this season range from descriptions of health and wellness fairs and services here in California to annual reports that describe leaps and bounds made over the year; holiday recipes from Mexico to a collection of essays from writers and artists living in Alaska.

I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and look forward to connecting in 2023!

International Translation Day

A question: “Finger Lickin’ Good” or “Eat Your Fingers?” Read on…

September 30th was International Translation Day. It’s an opportunity for us linguists to celebrate our work and to spread awareness about the importance of language access and the translation and interpretation professions. 

If you receive my newsletters or read this blog, chances are you know how important human translators are. But what about AI and machine translation, like Google Translate? Well, machine translation is quite helpful at times! There are other times when a human translator is necessary. 

Here is a simple way to tell if machine translation or human translation is best for the task at hand:

So, there you have it. Don’t be like KFC. Make sure to use the right tool for the task!

Spanish/English Fire Safety Vocabulary

Here in the Western United States, this time of year brings a flurry of communications about wildfire prevention and safety. Organizations are preparing resource lists and social media posts in advance of any wildfire event, and of course it’s important to get these written communications out in different languages.

In case you or your organization needs a jump start on some frequently-used terms in English and Spanish, here is a list of Spanish/English Fire Safety Vocabulary that may prove useful. These are some of the most frequently-used terms I translate when it comes to wildfire safety and preparedness.

Bilingual communications are found everywhere! Here is a Spanish/English forest fire danger index sign in Mendoza, Argentina, courtesy of Los Andes.

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