Learning Spanish in the Galápagos

The boardwalk is called the malecón and not the maricón which means “faggot.” I was lost on the second day and I’m glad that I found the boardwalk before I found a person, because otherwise I would have asked them where I could find the “maricón.”

Viruenza means “shame,” which I already knew, so I assumed sin viruenza simply meant “without shame” but apparently it doesn’t, though I’m still not entirely clear on what it means. The first time I heard it, I had just turned to Pamela after she served me ceviche and said, “Que reeeeco! [Yummy!]” and Javier smiled and said quietly to me, “sin viruenza.” The next night, I said something complimentary to Lorena and she smiled and shook her head and said, “sin viruenza.” At the time I thought she was quoting Javier, but it turns out she was just saying it too. The way it was explained to me, it’s sort of like calling someone a “player.” Javier was implying that I was hitting on Pamela and then Lorena was implying that I was trying to pursue both her and Pamela simultaneously, making me a “sin viruenza.”


Caña is a type of liquor they sell in the Galapagos that mixes well with Sprite and was a favorite drink among our friends during nights on the maricón malecón. Caña is spelled with a’s, not o’s, however, so when I mistakenly asked Jonny if he had, “bought coños,” the reason everyone started giggling was because I’d just asked him whether he’d bought “vaginas.”

A buena chica, is a “good girl” and it seems to have the same connotation as “good girl” does in English. A chica buena is a “hot girl” or as Ecuadorean girls say it to me, “a chhhhhot gayrl.” It isn’t quite the same as saying “hot girl” in English because three different people told me a girl would slap me if I actually called her that to her face, so I think it’s closer to saying something like, “a hot piece of ass” in America. Incidentally, when we were drinking Cañas on the malecon, I asked Sole if she was a “chica buena” and she thought for a second, nodded, and said, “sí,” and I got away unslapped.

When I was asking about what exactly constitutes a “chica buena,” Javier laughed and said, “Mike quiere conquistar unas chicas! [Mike wants to conquer some girls!]” This doesn’t mean what you think. It seems to be more emotional than sexual. The idea is you “conquer” a girl when she’s in love with or strongly attracted to you. You can’t just show up at a bar and “conquer” a girl that night; it’s like a months long thing. It’s also possible to say that a girl has “conquered you” if she’s made you fall in love with her.

When Pamela was asking for American slang, I told her there’s one expression that’s never actually used, but is ridiculous slang I learned from Gilad, which is, “Oh snap! Clickety clack!” She would say it in this really adorable singsong voice that sounded more like a part of a nursery rhyme than an expletive. She kept repeating it throughout the night and for days after and promised us she was going to teach it to her daughter because it, “sounds really, really nice!”

I tried to tell Francisco that his next door neighbor was skittish but I didn’t know the Spanish equivalent so I asked,
“Como se dice en español ‘skittish’?”
“Skittish?” Francisco asked, confused.
“Yeah, like ‘jumpy.’”
“Skittish… That’s a Jewish word!”
“Are you thinking of yiddish?”
“Ah, maybe. Maybe.”
The only word I could get from anyone was “nerviosa” which simply means, “nervous.” I told Javier, “You only have one word for nervous? You’re a very brave people.” And he said, “Well… there are lots of people in this world who are nervous. We just don’t go around saying (pointing his finger), ‘Hey, skittish!’ ‘Hey, jumpy!’”

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3 Responses to Learning Spanish in the Galápagos

  1. Al Al says:
    Is “schmello” slang? Plz introduce it to the Galapagos.
  2. okay okay says:
    100 approvals
  3. John John says:
    My favorite restaurant in Washington Heights is called El Malecon. If it means boardwalk, I don’t really understand why, considering there’s no boardwalks in upper Manhattan.

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