Bullfights. Love ’em? Hate ’em?

Bullfights. Love them? Hate them? Not sure? Well, there are lots of opinions swirling around about bullfighting these days. Here are some highlights in the news…and my opinion further down.

Patricia McCormick, the first woman bullfighter from North America, passed away in 2013: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/us/patricia-mccormick-bullfighter-who-defied-gender-roles-dies-at-83.html?ref=bullfighting

Patricia McCormick. Image care of weirduniverse.net.

The Spanish senate just passed a law recognizing bullfighting as a part of Spanish heritage…and will be providing public funding to the industry. Interestingly enough, Spanish state television has spoken out against bullfighting, and 76% of Spanish citizens are against public funding for bullfighting: http://www.wspa.ca/latestnews/2013/Spain-passes-law-to-protect-cruel-bullfighting.aspx

A story of activists versus tradition in the Spanish town of Tordesillas: http://pri.org/stories/2013-09-18/extreme-bullfighting-spain-activism-vs-tradition

Sonora recently became the first state in Mexico to ban bullfighting: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130504/mexican-state-bans-bullfighting

Barbara Drake, an American expat and freelance journalist living in Peru, wrote an article about bullfighting in her adopted country: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/levi-novey/the-twisted-temptations-o_b_472989.html

Lastly, did you know there are bullfights in China? Hm. http://www.theguardian.com/sport/picture/2013/jul/31/sport-picture-of-the-day-bullfighting-china

I do not support bullfighting. My opinion is: In this day and age, we have the resources available to us so that we do not need to excessively hurt or kill animals for our livelihood or entertainment. There are many alternative options. Livelihood: Veggie burgers! These delicious corn dogs! (They really are good.) Entertainment: Movies! Books – gasp! While those antiquey corrida de toros posters are lovely on a wall, it is a spectacle I will be happy to see put to rest. Yes, I do think it will be bid a clear adiós sooner rather than later.

And you? What is your opinion? A cultural staple or passé? Well, if you agree with my opinion and want to share your anti-bullfighting thoughts on Twitter, make sure to add #LoveSpainHateBullfighting to your post. PETA, 76% of Spanish people, and many bulls will thank you.

2021 update: A 2020 article in Forbes discusses the current state of bullfighting: “Will Bullfighting Survive the Next Decade in Spain?”

Protesters in Lima, Peru. Image care of The Huffington Post.
Protesters in Lima, Peru – “Stop the cruelty,” “Not art nor culture.” Image care of The Huffington Post.

Working to Save Sea Turtles

A recent event in Costa Rica has me reminiscing about my time there. Today El País ran an article about the killing of conservationist Jairo Mora, a Ticowho worked to preserve sea turtles on the Caribbean coast of his country. This sad news highlights the high emotions that surround the preservation of sea turtles.

A baby turtle crawls out to sea.
A baby turtle crawls out to sea.

Some Costa Ricans – and people in other countries – eat sea turtle eggs. They are harvested by digging up the holes where female turtles have laid their eggs. Sometimes the occasional dog will do the same, and it is well known that baby turtles scrambling to sea can be swooped up by a seagull for lunch. Human poaching, however, is much more dangerous to the turtles’ survival than natural causes.

I volunteered through PRETOMA at Ostional, a beach located along the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. I will never forget seeing the giant female turtles waddle up and out of the waves, slowly dig their nests, and drop the large, white eggs into the sand. One of our responsibilities was to count the eggs – a laborious task but nothing compared to the amazing cycle of nature we were watching. Another responsibility was our night patrol, making sure that nests were not being dug up. This was the tricky part, as some community members support conservation efforts, and others do not.

The "arribada" at Playa Ostional.
The “arribada” at Playa Ostional.

A comment from the El País article rang true for me: “Comida para hoy y hambre para mañana…Cuando ya no les quede más playas vírgenes para asfaltar ni árbol por talar, se darán cuenta que el dinero por si sólo no se come.”

Photo credits: costarica.com; fws.org

Calavera Love

Día de los Muertos is just around the corner. Last year I posted pictures from here in San Francisco. This year I’m sharing some lovely, unique images. ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!

calavera 1
Too cute.
If the afterlife is this, that's fine with me.
If the afterlife is this, that’s fine with me.
Haunting and lovely from Oaxaca.
Haunting and lovely from Oaxaca.
This is titled “Mmm…brains.”

Photo 1 credit: photopin.com

Photo 2 credit: Illustration by Jose Pulido Art

Photo 3 credit: Wayne Hunthausen Photography

Photo 4 credit: Linocut by Lori Dean Dyment

Photo 5 credit: Pregunta Santoral

Homes to inspire

I just finished redecorating my bedroom. Along the way I encountered some beautiful design ideas from firms and individuals located in Spain and Latin America. In more rural areas of places like Costa Rica, nature is gorgeously incorporated in spaces like Casa Kike.


This light-filled apartment in Bogotá, Colombia is a lovely oasis from the big city. I love the brick walls and large windows.


Lastly, I’ve always admired Spanish-style homes. Living in California, we have many gorgeous examples, and I especially like the ones that mix modern with traditional. Perhaps one day I’ll live somewhere with a real summer and can enjoy lazy afternoons on a patio like this, complete with olive tree:

Photo credits: Lush and Luxe, Gianni Botsford Architects,  and Houzz.com.

My Top 4 Tips for Language Learning


I recently started taking Italian classes: Elementare Uno. So far I am thoroughly enjoying myself – I’d forgotten how wonderful it feels, after fumbling with words and tentatively mumbling a new verb conjugation, to be able to finally put a sentence together!

Being a language student has reinvigorated my understanding of the general student experience. It also reminds me of what us language teachers sometimes forget to talk about in class. So, here are my top four suggestions for students learning a new language. Thanks to my Italian school, Istituto Italiano Scuola, for reminding me!

1. Speak. Sorry, but you just have to. Eventually it just has to happen. This brings me to my next point….

2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I know everyone says this. But it’s easier said than done. The best thing to do? Put yourself in your conversation partner’s shoes. If someone was trying to practice your native language, you would probably be excited to support and help them. You wouldn’t mind if they made a few – or even a lot of – mistakes. You’d probably feel honored that they are looking to you for support and help.

3. Grammar is important. But it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. As a language teacher, I can be a stickler for grammar. But really, you don’t need exquisitely polished grammar to make friends, get around, and do what you need to do. The grammar will come in time.

4. “Keep your eye on the prize.” My dad has often shared this phrase with me, and I think of it all the time. Keep your language learning goals in mind. Why did you choose to learn a new language in the first place? To have amazing travel experiences? To meet interesting new people? To read articles and books? To eat delicious food? To communicate with someone you love and with their family? Keeping your goal in mind will help you through the rough patches.

So, that’s it from me! What are strategies that have helped you when learning a new language?

Photo credit: yourworldhere.com

Surrealism and Remedios Varo

I’m currently reading “Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys” by Janet A. Kaplan, professor of art history and executive director of Art Journal. Few books have been written about Remedios Varo, and Kaplan’s work, published in 1988, is a thorough journey into the artist’s life and gorgeous, captivating artwork.

Creation of the Birds, 1957
Creation of the Birds, 1957

I first learned of Remedios Varo as an undergraduate in one of my Latin American art history courses. I promptly fell in love with the exquisite detail and storytelling element of her paintings. For a long time, Varo as a person remained a mystery to me…she was not discussed much in the course I took and I couldn’t find much of anything online or in the library about her. I even proposed writing my Honor’s thesis about Varo and fellow surrealist Leonora Carrington, and I was met with disinterest by anyone who could have been my thesis advisor! (Ah, the days before assertiveness.)

Born in Spain in 1908, Remedios Varo spent her childhood moving about the country with her family, as her father was an engineer and took on various projects in different regions. After fleeing the Spanish Civil War, she settled in Paris. There, she fully embraced the new Surrealism movement and experimented with dreamlike collages, drawings, and paintings – all while holding down a number of random jobs to stay afloat. With the onset of WWIII, she became one of many European refugees to be accepted into Mexico, where she lived the rest of her days, never to return to her mother country of Spain due to the Franco regime. It is in Mexico that her work truly blossomed and she gained most of her recognition. By this time she had also married, separated, and had a number of love affairs – something very different and daring at the time.

Celestial Pablum, 1958
Celestial Pablum, 1958

I love two things the most about Varo’s work. First, she uses mathematical precision in her layouts and techniques. It is mind-boggling the amount of time and energy spent on each painting. Second, her stories are fantastical, wonderful, and imaginative. She imagines a completely different world and places the human being amidst it.  I dream of seeing her work in person, and until that day I can flip through the pages of Kaplan’s work to become immersed in the details and stories of Varo’s work.

Photo credits: venetianrednet, remediosvaro-simones.synthasite.compirringuinis.blogspot.com.

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