Ghosts, spooky vocab, and catrinas

October 30, 2023

Hello friend,

Why didn't el esqueleto ("skeleton") go to the scary movie? He didn't have the guts.

This week, jokes can't save Venezuelan-American comic Joanna Hausmann from a haunted hotel, we round up thematic vocab for Halloween, and we explore the history behind La Catrina.

A spooky illustration of the hotel, colored purple, framed by a black spider web sky around an orange moon

Featured story
Hotel embrujado

An historic hotel in Miami becomes a skeptical Venezuelan comedian's worst nightmare in the Radio Ambulante story, Hotel embrujado. Joanna Hausmann questions her sanity, physics, and the supernatural after unexpectedly creepy encounters in one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. Trick or treat your way through Soundbites that dissect Caribbean and Venezuelan speech patterns and play with pronunciation.

Soundbites are fun-sized treats, but as any kid on Halloween knows, the best candy is full-sized. Subscribe and listen to Johanna's full story, alongside our entire collection of tales from across Latin America.

Artwork by Diana Carmenate

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Language tip of the week
Spooky vocabulary

In honor of autumn holidays, like Halloween and Día de los Muertos, we are sharing some spooky vocab that just might come in handy this week:

  • truco o trato — trick or treat. Truco is often translated as "trick," such as a trick of the trade or a magic trick. Trato, on the other hand, normally means a deal like a contract or agreement, but can also mean "treatment" when it refers to the way someone treats someone else. You could also use dulce o travesura, which means “treat or mischief.”
  • los dulces, los caramelos — candy. Dulce is an adjective that means "sweet." While caramelo can refer to caramel, it most often refers to candies in general.
  • la telaraña — cobweb, spider web. This is a combination of two words, tela, usually referring to fabric, and araña, the word for spider. In a different context, telaraña can also refer to a net (such as one for catching fish) or a tangle of cables.
  • el murciélago — bat. This word is derived from the Latin mouse (rat) and caecus (blind), meaning "blind mouse."
  • el hechizo — spell. This word can also refer to a person's charm. The verb form, meaning to cast a spell, is hechizar.

ICYMI: "I'm scared," en español

How do you say "I'm scared" in Spanish? You probably learned a variation of tengo miedo or perhaps estoy asustado. But what do you say to describe that spooky feeling you get from a haunted hotel or a ghost story, when something causes chills to run down your spine? This quick video teases out the idea of un hilito helado featured in a History & Culture Soundbite from El equipo fantasma.

Preview image for an Instagram video featuring a new way to say you've been spooked in Spanish

Follow the Jiveworld Instagram account for short videos focused on Spanish language learning tips.

Día de los Muertos
La Catrina

The image of the skull has become synonymous with Dia de los Muertos celebrations. You see it in makeup, as puppets, depicted in art, and gracing altars (ofrendas). And just as the Day of the Dead is more than meets the eye, so is this icon. This particular skull, often surrounded by flowers, is La Calavera Catrina – the ‘elegant skull’ – usually shortened to La Catrina. Men and women wearing the skull makeup in festivals are called catrins and catrinas, respectively, which are slang terms used to refer to well-dressed people.

A Mexican woman, wearing skull makeup and flowers in her hair, stands in front of a altar for Día de los Muertos

Photo by David Nieto, 2019, Mexico

Mexican illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada is credited with popularizing the modern image of La Catrina in a 1910 satire called La Calavera Garbancera. His depiction, which skewered European-obsession by Mexico's upper class, was later adapted by Diego Rivera into his mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central. As a political satirist, Posada's caricatures used skulls for every person's face, indicating that, underneath the veneer of jobs and class, we are all the same.

Thanks for reading,

Team Jiveworld