viernes, 6 de agosto de 2010


On 20th of July I left Bulgaria... They were 10 amazing months of great adventures, new friends and a lot of histories. EVS was an experience I'll never forget. Finally, I am in Spain again. Wind, dust, and that white landscape formed by greenhouses' plastics. Yes, I am in El Ejido. My town.

Once here, I went to visit my friend Luis. He invited me to have dinner with his girlfriend Noelia at his flat. He bought some prepared food. When he took it out from the fridge, he asked me, at the same time he was showing me the pack: "Have you tried this before? It is Mexican food". Then, I could read on that pack: burritos. "No, I haven't", I answered. "But, did you know burritos are very popular in the rest of Europe? But they call them Spanish food?". "What?!", Noelia exclaimed. "This is not Spanish!".

Then, I told them the history... The history of the Spain-Mexico confussion. Now, I'm gonna write it here, in my blog. Let me take you on a trip around Europe. Do you wanna come with me? Хайде бе!

A little test: This is Don Quijote... Spanish or Mexican?
And this is El Zorro: Spanish or Mexican?

   First stops: from Sweeden to Poland, across Portugal.

This trip starts in Sweeden. Why Sweeden? Because David, my room-mate in Bulgaria, was from there, and he had the honour of being the first person who made me know that Spain is a totally unknown country... I meant, an confused country.

One of our first days living together, I told him "I should cook some Spanish dish". "Nice!" He replied. "I like the Spanish food: burritos". Then, I said "But, burritos are Mexican". He said sorry, but one second later he said "and, what about tacos?". During a while, I thought "what the fuck is a taco?", and I said "did you mean tapas?" (that small dish of any food that we eat in Spain with an also small and very cold beer). And David said "no, no. I mean tacos". Suddenly, an old TV advertisement came to my mind "El Paso: the best Mexican food. Burritos, tacos, fajitas,...". "Ey, man!", I kept talking, "tacos are also Mexican. When you were in Barcelona -David told me he was there- did you eat in a Mexican restaurant?". David recognized that Sweedish people calls "Spanish food" to the Mexican food (*).

(*) Actually, there is a similar case. Many people calls "French fries" to chips, because they have a Belgic origin and in Belgium they speak French... Why is it not "Belgic fries"?

Some months later we went to Varna to visit Narciso, a Portuguese volunteer. Narciso also thought that burritos were Spanish (yes: even my neighbors from Portugal don't know the difference between Spain and Mexico!). All went to buy something to eat. David said to cook some tacos. Finally I'd try tacos! We bought some vegetables and meat. But David said that, for making tacos, it would be necessary to have tortilla. He said so, in Spanish: tortilla. Tortilla means omelet, and, in Spain, if someone says tortilla, s/he means "Spanish omelet" (as simple as omelet with potatoes). In fact, in order to differentiate the Spanish omelet from the normal omelets, we use to say tortilla de patatas: potatoes omelet. Anyway, the translation in English is always "Spanish omelet".

But the thing was that I really didn't know what David meant with tortilla... We found some bread to make pancakes and he said that we might use them. Some days later, my curiosity made me to write "tacos" on Wikipedia. And I discovered that a Mexican omelet exists: it is very slim and made with corn.

When we were eating those tacos, it reminded me when I ate something similar with some friends in Spain: we called kebab. Turkish kebab. Because, although you won't believe me (I said "you" because this article is not in English by chance), Mexican food is not popular in Spain. If you go to my country, you will find exactly the same kind of international fast food places than in Bulgaria: döner kebab, pizza, chinese restaurants and fucking McDonalds.

Let's leave behind Sweeden and Portugal, and carry on with this travel in Poland. Why Poland? Because the other coworkers of mine during my EVS project were from there. In the end, as I promised, I cooked a Spanish tortilla for David and Ana, one of the Polish volunteers. She asked me why I don't cook tacos for the next time. My answer was "because I am from Spain, not from Mexico". Ana, who was really confidence, said "but, although the origin of tacos is Mexico, they are very popular in Spain". I said that she wasn't right: Mexican food is not popular at all in Spain. It is not easy to find it in my country and if she wants to eat Mexican food in Spain, she should go to a Mexican restaurant, but, anyway, there are not too much... She looked at me with a very mistrustful face and said "really?". I think she didn't believe me, even though I am Spanish and she is not... But she wouldn't be the last one.

Tortilla de patatas. Spanish omelet made with eggs and potatoes.
Tortillas mexicanas. Mexican omelets to make tacos and burritos.

   Spain and America... I mean, Latin America.

I should recognize that Spain is very influenced by Latin America. We listen to their music (Colombians Shakira and Juanes, or the shitty reguetón: the Hispanic version of чалга) and we watch their TV series (during the 90s, the Venezuelan ones were extremely popular). But we don't eat their food. I think it is normal to be wrong about the origin of some actor or musician. For instance, sometime I don't know if some rock band that I like are from the UK or from the USA... But, at least, I perfectly know where they eat hamburgers and where they eat fish&chips. And, by the way, there are 22 countries where Spanish is the official language. Twenty-two! So, why is the confussion just between Spain and Mexico? Why not between Panamá and the Western Sahara?

These things got me angry often. I mentioned it to some friends and one of them, Iram (the only Mexican who I know in Spain) told me the fault is mine: "you look Pancho Villa with that moustache!". I even changed my moustache for a beard during one month! But it didn't work... I still was Mexican, wey! (*)

(*) Wey: A Mexican word used in the coloquial speech. It means "man", "mate", "dude",...

So, I decided to take it easy:

- Initially, when they asked me what is the meaning of mariachi, I used to answer "a Mexican musician". In the end, when they asked the same, I said "I don't know. That's not from Spain".

- Some people told me they knew a Spanish song, and after that, they started to sing "La Cucaracha" (a traditional song from Mexico). I used to say: "I haven't heard before. Maybe it's not Spanish".

- A guy said to me that he could insult in Spanish. Then, he said: "¡chinga tu madre, pendejo!". I said to him "I don't know what is the meaning of chinga and pendejo".

Because, as you can imagine, the Spanish language from Spain is not exactly the same than the Spanish language from Mexico. It is like in English: in the UK they have lifts and in the USA they have elevators. In they UK they have lorries, and in the USA they have trucks... In Spain we have coches (cars) and in Mexico they have carros. In Spain we have móviles (mobile phones) and in Mexico they have celulares. And, as I said, both of us have tortilla, but they are not the same kind.

   Third stops: France, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia,... and Bulgaria.

I forgot this was a trip. So, this travel has a stop in France, with my neighbors from France. Neighbors like Stephane, also volunteer. After I cooked a Spanish omelet and said to him that it is called tortilla de patatas, he replied: "Tortilla? Did you steal it from Mexico?" No, man... We went to Mexico more than 500 years ago. We killed a lot of them and we imposed our culture. That was more than enough and I promise you we are not proud of that. Nowadays, this country is independent and has its own culture. They are not the same than us -Spain- even though we share a language. As well as Mali and France: are they the same? Or Ivory Coast, where they also speak French. Is this country similar to France? And what's up with Haiti? Does France look like Haiti or vice versa? If it's not so, why do they share the language?

Next stop: the Baltic Sea. During our mid-term evaluation meeting, a Russian-Latvian girl called Karina, who presumed to have been living in Spain for a month, asked me if I was missing the Spanish beers in Bulgaria. I said that I wasn't, because the Bulgarian beers are so good... and so cheap!. And she said: "but you have very good beers like Corona or Desperados...". Well: Desperados is beer with a little bit of Tequila. Should I give more clues? (by the by: Tequila is not Spanish. You knew that, right?). Another clue: watch this picture:

Did you realize something? Should I help you?

Yes. Corona (as well as Desperados) are Mexican beers. And, moreover, we don't have Corona in Spain. We have Coronita, which is the same brand than Corona, but they had to change the name in order to sale in Spain, because there is a brand of tobacco called Coronas. Anyway, the most important thing is the following: in Spain you can drink Heineken, Calsberg, Beck's, Guinness, Foster, Stella Artois and Desperados. But we are not Dutchmen, Danes, Germans, Irish, Australians, Belgian or (of course) Mexicans. We are Spanish and we drink San Miguel, Estrella, Mahou, Cruzcampo and Alhambra. It is so easy to get...

I could suffer situations like this until one of my last months in Bulgaria. Some Spanish volunteers there (Isma and Pili) came to visit Veliko Tarnovo and they stayed in my flat at Gorna Oryahovitsa. The day before, I told this to the restaurant staff (the restaurant where the volunteers in Gorna must eat in everyday). Niki, the waiter, spoke no English, so (with the Gosha's help, the other Polish volunteer who was in the same project than me) we had a conversation similar to the following:

Niki: Ще имате испански купон? - Will you make a Spanish party?

Me: Може би - Maybe.

Niki: Да! Мариачи! - Yes! Mariachi!

I got serious, as if I didn't know what he was talking about.

Niki (singing): La Cu-ca-ra-cha, la cu-ca-ra-cha...

I kept so serious, as if I didn't know the Mexican song "La Cucaracha".

Niki (pointing his head): Сомбреро, нали? - Sombrero, isn't it?

Me: Да. Сомбреро е шапка на испански език - Yes, sombrero means hat in Spanish.

Niki: Но, голяма шапка, нали? - But, it is a big hat, isn't it?

Me: Не. Няма голяма шапка в Испания - No, there is not big hat in Spain.

Then, Gosha took part of the conversation to say (in English): "Don't you have big hat in Spain?". And I said that we don't: "maybe in Mexico they have, but not in Spain". In the end, I tried to ignore this conversation because making him know he was talking about another country would be impossible.

Unfortunately, this history didn't end here and, later, I went to Veliko Tarnovo to visit Alejandro (a Spanish teacher who worked there) and some Erasmus students like Magda from Slovakia. I came to Alejandro, really annoyed, to tell him that they said a lot of things from Mexico as if they were from Spain. I said this in English, because Magda was there and I didn't want to be no polite speaking in Spanish. Then, Magda did exactly the same than Gosha did before: she took part of the conversation and said "but, don't you have big hats in Spain?". "No! We don't!" I exclaimed. She put the same mistrustful face than Ana put when I told her that there are not tacos in Spain and, after some seconds for reflexion, she said "but, anyway, Spain and Mexico are very similar!". "Yes" (I only thought) "Like Slovakia and Japan... They are as 'close' as Spain and Mexico, aren't they?" (*)

(*) This is not any exaggeration at all. The distance between Madrid and Mexico D.F. is 9061 km. The distance between Bratislava and Tokio is 9097 km.

Sombrero cordobés. Typical Spanish rider with a Cordovan hat (hat from Córdoba, southern Spain)
Sombrero mexicano. Typical Mexicans mariachis with their big hats.

   Last days in Eastern Europe.

Days in Bulgaria were going on and going on... Until they were almost over.

I was invited to have dinner by Lusi, one of my pupils in Gorna Oryahovitsa. Her father made a not difficult question for me: "what do you least like in Bulgaria?". I said that people from the rest of Europe (not only Bulgarians) don't know the difference between Mexico and Spain, and I was very disapointed. Lusi's father felt offended and said that I wasn't right: "there are almost one million of Bulgarians living in Spain, so that, Bulgarians know perfectly what is Spain and what is not Spain". Some minutes later, when we were eating, he said: "maybe the Bulgarian food is very different to the Spanish one, because the Spanish food uses to be quite chili..." (*). No more words.

(*) One of the main features of Mexican cuisine is that it uses to be hot.

My last moments in Eastern Europe were in Macedonia, with Laura, a Spanish EVS with whom I cooked a wonderful Spanish tortilla at Narciso's flat, in the same kitchen where David prepared tacos. On my way back, I met two Mexicans on the bus: Aura and Eduardo. Finally, I could solve some doubts! They told me they were really glad because Mexico is very popular in countries such as Serbia, Montenegro or Macedonia. The reason is that they watch some Mexican TV series like Kassandra (which was so famous in Spain too during the 90s). They said it is amazing to hear Eastern Europeans speaking in Spanish with Mexican accent. They were really impressed. So, definitely I came to the conclusion that Spain is simply unknown, and everything is thanks to North American (*) movies, which promote their culture, their music and their food. Moreover, there is the fact that a lot of people from the USA call "Spain" to everywhere which is bellow Texas and California. Many of them think Spain forms part of America! So that, the USA export not only their bad cinema and worse food... They export their ignorance and crassness. It's a pity. An actual pity.

Perhaps, this comment has been unappropriated. I should have in mind that I also knew a girl from the USA, Tricia, who was also volunteer from another program similar to EVS and called Peace Corp. I spoke to her about this (actually, I wanted to know if she would be able to differentiate Spain and Mexico) and she started laughing a lot. "Do people mistake Spain and Mexico? How can it be possible? They are very different!". I checked that not all the people from the USA are like people who appear on their commercial movies... I must give them an opportunity.

(*) When I say North America, I mean the north of the American continent: Canada, the USA and Mexico. I don't mean only the USA, as many people does.

   This is the end...

In this guessed trip that I took you on, I didn't pass by Norway, Belgium or England. But at least one person from these countries has once said something Spanish that was actually Mexican...

When I came to Bulgaria, as a "good Spanish", I wanted to fight against some stereotypes I hated, such as "we love bullfighting", "we are having party at anytime", "we don't work too much", "we always sleep siesta" or “in Spain it is warm during the whole year”. But now, after realizing that paella is unknown and most of them have never listened to flamenco music, I became more "promoter" of my country. I also became more patriotic, and nowadays I am a misunderstood in Spain, because, in my weird country, being patriotic means being fascist. Fortunately, Spain won the football world-cup and that makes OK to show Spanish flags hung on balconies and windows. To make matters worse, I have disagreed with bullfighting ban in the region of Catalonia. May I be more fascist and conservative? I want to spit myself (please, feel the irony).

Coming back to my friends' apartment, Luis and Noelia, I must say that they were surprised: very surprised and as disappointed as me. They thought Spain and its culture were famous abroad: How not to know writers as Lorca or Quevedo, cities as Toledo or Salamanca, or food as gazpacho or sangría? No. They know almost nothing of that. I noticed Noelia in particular, because she is going to Italy as Erasmus next course: "promote Spain, Noelia. Promote Spain".
The pearl in the crown of Spanish cuisine: PAELLA.
One of the most popular Mexican meals: BURRITOS.
Today, November 28th, I updated this article JUST to correct some mistakes regarding English language... I also wanted to say a couple of stuff:
First of all, in the "little test", Don Quijote is a Spanish character created by Miguel de Cervantes. For its part, El Zorro is a Mexican character created by a writer from the USA: Johnston McCulley. Many Europeans think that El Zorro is from Spain, and, actually, he is a hero who fights against the Spanish colonists.
Second of all, tortilla means "omelet" in Spanish from Spain... I have been checking and I wasn't able to find how is "omelet" in Spanish from Mexico. I believe they simply don't have... The Mexican tortilla is something totally different to an omelet, because "omelet", by definition, is always made with eggs. Remember: the Spanish tortilla is a potatoes omelet.
And, finally, I would also like to make clear my irony when I mess with the USA. Tricia exists, she read the article and she didn't get offended... I currently have many friends from the USA who live in Almería (they work as English teachers), and I should say that they perfectly know the differences between Spain and Mexico, particulary regarding food.

9 comentarios:

  1. Jose, I was amazed by your article... I spent 6 months in Spain. You, Spaniards, are incredible! I still can't get it, if these people from your article really were in Spain, how they still can mistake tapas with tacos or whatever.. I mean, everything is written on the restaurants-signs... The only thing I regret is not trying the gazpacho... Well, I guess you don't know how f**ed up is fighting over rakia's or shopska salad's origins with the whole f**ing Balkan peninsula... Cuidate mucho!!! Un beso, fiestero ;-) =))))) Dilyana

  2. Jose Antonio! No he terminado de leer, por el inglé canso...(sí vergonzoso...)pero lo voy a apuntar en mi agenda para continuar(este blog es la poya). De todos modos, quería decirte algo que ya sabes: que yo he comido muchos Tacos.;) Y que el desconocimiento de causa al aludir costumbres es muy común en todos los rincones de este precioso Mundo.
    Nos vemos espero, mua. Ali

  3. Jejeje

    Pues, debido a mi "éxito" entre mis amigos extranjeros y a mi nueva ansia por promocionar España, creo que si hay un siguiente artículo, este será en inglés otra vez :)

    A mí esto de la confusión España-México me quema un montón... Y debido a esto, me quema también la actitud española de luchar contra unos estereotipos que en realidad no existen.
    El otro día, en "El Intermedio", la reportera esta medio-japo hizo una encuesta en la calle a los guiris. Cuando la presentó dijo algo así como "vamos a ver qué conocen los turistas sobre España a parte de la paella y de la sangría"... Como ya he dicho en este artículo CASI NADIE EN EL EXTRANJERO tiene la más mínima idea de qué es paella y de qué es sangría... El Wyoming dijo "¡eso es un estereotipo! ¡Yo no bebo sangría!"... Bueno sí, y a mí no me gustan los toros, pero ¿son españoles, sí o no? Sí, lo son. Pero los mariachis, no. Y el tequila tampoco... Eso es lo que hay que erradicar: la confusión, y no la 'estereotipación'...

    Es sólo mi opinión :)

    P.D.: Me encantan los nachos con guacamole xD xD

  4. Hola:

    Encontré tu blog por casualidad hace no sé cuánto tiempo, lo guardé por ser medio búlgara y porque me encanta leer sobre Bulgaria y esta noche vagbundeando por mis páginas he leído esta entrada.
    Entiendo tu frustración ante la confusión España - México, pero hay algo en tu forma de expresarte que no me ha convencido. Dices "casi nadie en el extranjero tiene la más mínima idea de qué es paella..." y te sorprende eso. ¿Y de dónde iban a saberlo si no tienen acceso a ello? Igual que en España hay gente que no sabe qué es tarator, o qué lengua se habla en Croacia. E igual que tú has llamado a la reportera de la Sexta "medio-japonesa" cuando ella es coreana.
    Lo que te quiero decir es que me parece muy bien que hables de tu país y de tu cultura a los extranjeros, pero no deberías (en mi opinión) enfadarte con ellos por eso (que es la sensación que me ha trasmitido tu texto). Además, ¿qué hay de malo si te confunden con un mexicano? Te molestará si a ti no te gustan los mexicanos.

  5. Hola, Nikolina.

    Ante todo he de agradecerte que leas mi blog.

    No sé qué decirte que no haya escrito ya. Creo que he explicado muy bien mi sorpresa y decepción al saber que España y México son el mismo país a los ojos de mis vecinos los europeos, así como no he irradiado ningún odio hacia México (país, junto con el resto de los latinoameicanos, espero visitar algún día). Pienso que una situación así molestaría a cualquiera: ya no solo el desconocimiento de saber qué se come en tu país, sino de pensar (y todavía no sé muy bien con qué lógica) que en España se come lo mismo que en otro país que está a 9000 kilómetros...

    Corea y Japón están mucho más cerca, quizá por eso (y porque no veo la tele demasiado) no sabía que la reportera de "El Intemedio" es coreana. Pero sus rasgos físicos la sitúan en una zona del mapa a la cual me he aproximado bastante. Aún así entono el 'mea culpa' por mi puntito de ignorancia.

    Bulgaria es un país desconocido (y el motivo de crear este blog fue, entre otras cosas, darlo a conocer durante mis 10 meses de residencia allí), pero como dijo mi amigo Luis (el que me invitó a cenar 'burritos'): "yo solo sé de Bulgaria que está muy lejos y que hace frío. Pero no me inventaría que allí se bebe vodka por el simple hecho de que sea un país eslavo, como Polonia y Rusia".

    Por cierto: Luis existe. Al igual que David, Narciso, Iram, Tricia,... No suelo hacerlo, pero en este artículo usé los nombres verdaderos. A todos y a todas les envié un mensaje privado con el link del artículo diciéndole que si les molestaba, lo cambiaría. Si tú dices que lo que no te convence es mi manera de expresarte (creo que piensas que ha sido agresiva o algo así) he de decirte que no solo nadie se sintió ofendido por el texto, sino que recibí mensajes positivos de gente como Iram (que es mexicano) y Tricia (que es de los EE.UU.: el único país con el que me he metido aquí). Otros como mi ex-compi David bromeó linkeandome en Facebook un fragmento de "South Park" en el que cantan una canción sobre los tacos...

    En fin, espero que ta haya aclarado tus dudas.

    Un saludo.

    P.D.: El acceso a la cultura y a la información está al alcance de cualquiera (y más en estos tiempos de Internet). Dices que en el resto de Europa no se tiene acceso a conocer la paella... Yo, como ya he dicho, no sé qué acceso han tenido a los burritos (probablemente el cine estadounidense, que tampoco veo demasiado), pero si eres medio española, medio búlgara, sabrás que en España la comida mexicana y el resto de la cultura de este país no son nada conocidas comparado con, por ejemplo, Bulgaria.

  6. Ah, tu respuesta :).

    A mí me parece de lo más normal que la gente no tenga ni idea. Yo no espero que nadie sepa nada. A lo largo de mis viajes por Europa y contactos con personas de todo el mundo he comprobado que no hay que esperar nada.

    Cuando salí por primera vez al extranjero, a los 12 años, estaba indignadísima porque nadie sabia que la guerra en Croacia había terminado ya (ah, sí, no soy española, soy medio croata, medio búlgara que vive en España, debí haberlo aclarado. lo siento). Nos hartábamos de reír de los norteaméricanos que nos preguntaban si en Croacia teníamos aspiradoras, y que si Croacia estaba en Asia. Años después, al conocer gente de lugares más remotos (para mí), me di cuenta de que yo tampoco sabía mucho o nada de sus países y sus culturas.

    ¿Que la ignorancia se debe tolerar? No. Está mal que sepamos tan poco unos de los otros, y es probablemente la raíz de muchos conflictos. Debemos esforzarnos más. Pero creo que esos temas hay que afrontaros con más humor y más "relax" y más paciencia. Además, así se aprende mejor, ¿no? Y no me refiero a cómo lo afrontas en tu blog (que me ha parecido genial ver tu punto de vista y un poco tu monólogo interior frente a esas situaciones, que eso quede claro), sino en el contacto con la gente "ignorante". ¿Qué le hubiese dicho yo a Niki o al padre de Lusi? Pues no sé en aquel momento, porque SÉ CÓMO ES cuando te meten constantemene en otro país. Pero no hubiese sido más justo decirle: Niki, ¿tú sabes dónde está México? ¿Y dónde está España?.. Porque la idea es explicárselo. Ser ejemplo. Digo yo.

    Y volviendo al tema España - México. En Zagreb no hay ningún restaurante español y hay que yo sepa al menos 3 mexicanos y son súper populares. Desde el año 1994 estamos oyendo el español latino, el español de las telenovelas. En mi primer español no existía "vosotros". Yo manejaba, no conducía, y platicaba con mis amigas.
    En los supermercados hay tacos y salsas chili y guacamole, pero ¿paella? Vinos españoles quizás, pero demasiado caros.
    ¿Entiendes a lo que voy?

    En 1999 estuve por primera vez en España, viaje de fin del curso a Lloret del Mar. El recuerdo qué más se veía por las calles y que más se vendía y que nos compramos como recuerdo de España absolutamente todos fue:

    un sombrero mexicano y/o una botella de tequila.

  7. Solo tengo 2 palabras sobre tu articulo. Suficiente y Satisfecho. Saludos desde Veracruz, Mexico.

  8. Cuanto más aprendes de otros países, más patriota te haces, pero al mismo tiempo más extraño eres para tus compatriotas. Ya no eres ni de ahí pero tampoco eres de aquí. Es la ley del extranjero.