By Suzanne Ludekens
Popular legend says that the best way to learn Spanish is through romance or currently by watching soap-operas. However, a romantic interlude or spending large amounts of time in front of the television may not be the favored method for improving everyone’s language skills. To bridge the communication gap and protect feminine honor, enter stage right Carolina, Guadalupe Victoria and Rolando, “El gitano,” characters in The Soap Opera of Carolina the new intermediate Spanish book by Warren Hardy.
The original soap opera, set in San Miguel, is the result of five years’ vision finally turned into reality through the lifetime love affair with Spanish of language teachers Warren Hardy, Lila Trapàga and the late Fernando Maqueo.
Warren and wife Tuli came to San Miguel in 1989 on a honeymoon that never ended and “plan to be buried on the Mexican side of the graveyard.” Lilia and Fernando, refugees from the chaos of Mexico City, came in 1988 and 1987 respectively and were equally seduced by the beauty of the town and the people.
Together in a unique creative conspiracy, they provide a fun and entertaining key to opening new doors to understanding the language, culture, history and psychology of Mexico.
The concept started with Warren, who was looking for an original vehicle to teach intermediate Spanish. He then contacted Lilia, a local actress, director and language teacher, who in turn collaborated with Fernando , a local poet and language teacher.
According to Lilia, the Mexican soap “is the best way to transmit social norms and is a school of sentimental education.” And so the book includes all the soap-opera clichés and stereotypes as well as commonly used expressions. “The work is the culmination of many experiences, observations and research,” said Lilia. The activities of the characters, based on models from the popular Mexican soaps, include experiences from their students in San Miguel but more than just their personal input. “Any similarity to real people and situations is merely coincidental,” stresses Warren.
Seven chapters of intrigue and adventure tell the story of Carolina, a North-American woman who comes to San Miguel and suffers a “fatal romance.” During a classical odyssey of self-discovery, Carolina, dealing with the empty-nest syndrome and abandonment by a workaholic husband, rediscovers an inner life that was dormant in the U.S and develops a penchant for well-made margaritas.
The characters who accompany Carolina provide an interesting insight into Mexico and San Miguel. Guadalupe Victoria, a young, vivacious Mexican woman, is Carolina’s partner in crimes of revelry. It is no coincidence, for the characters and the students, that the majority of scenes take place in local bars and restaurants.
Doña Severina, Guadalupe’s mother, offers revealing insights into the complexities of the Mexican mother-daughter relationships. “Of all the characters I find Doña Severina the most interesting,” comments Warren. “She is the typical self-effacing Mexican mother-grandmother.” And, as Lilia explains with a laugh, Doña Severina is a personality that she and Fernando know very well.
The most appealing character, however, is bound to be Rolando, “El Gitano,” the stereotypical Latin Lover. Poetic and romantic, he’s a lady-killer with his charming manner.
Although presented in a work of fiction, the adventures of Carolina and her friends are the very adventures that many people experience—or hope to experience—in San Miguel. In an endearing view of this town—through the eyes of a foreigner but with the irreverent humor of the Mexican people—the book reveals the magic and mystery of the places and people.
The book, however, is much more than just soap opera. Warren, when translating the original Spanish version, became fascinated with certain issues and underlying concepts and so commissioned a section on historical background. “The topics were so interesting, entertaining and of tremendous cultural and historical value, the book needed more to be complete,” he comments. The section on historical background provides 25 chapters on Mexican customs, psychology and local history.
Important historical events and buildings are discussed and local festivals are explained. Even the words to the traditional song “Las Mañanitas” (The Little Mornings) are given, so students will be able to join in the singing at birthday celebrations and other festive occasions. A chapter on fireworks gives a totally different perspective to the noisy dawn interuptions.
The “Mexican man of 1,000 loves,” one of Warren’s favorite chapters, reveals the psychology behind the Latin macho and the consequences—the casa chica (the little house). It dispels the myth behind the stereotypical Mexican lover who, with velvet words, speaks the poetry of conquest.
While the soap offers great and entertaining reading, it is carefully formatted to provide solid vocabulary and grammar instruction. Multiple choice questions at the end of every chapter playfully test comprehension and the newly acquired vocabulary.
This engaging and entertaining course will be taught by Lilia Trápaga July 27 to August 13. For information call Warren or Tuli Hardy at 154-4017 mornings 152 4728 afternoons