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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish Word of the Day: Castizo 

Here’s a word that’s hard to translate but usually describes something or someone that’s authentically Spanish. 

bullfighting madrid castizo
castizo spanish word

Castizo is an adjective you’ll often hear in conversation with Spaniards when they’re referring to a person, a place or an object that conjures up images of traditional Spain. 

It doesn’t necessarily have to refer only to what’s authentically Spanish – you could refer to a place or person from the UK, the US or Russia as being castizo too – but more often than not it’s used to speak about Spain and its regions.

Even though the image abroad of what constitutes something ‘authentically’ Spanish is usually that of Andalusia, among Spaniards the most pure-blooded region in the country is Castilla-La Mancha, quite possibly because modern Spain has its origins in the Kingdom of Castile. 

Think Don Quijote, Toledo, manchego cheese and jamón serrano rather than bullfighting, sherry and flamenco.

Despite being a cosmopolitan and international city, Madrid is still generally considered Spain’s most castizo city. 

READ ALSO: What are the regional stereotypes across Spain?

windmills castilla la mancha

Windmills dotted across the landscape of Castilla-La Mancha conjure up feelings of ‘castizo’ Spain for Spaniards. Photo: Wikiimages/Pixabay
 

In fact, casticismo was a literary and cultural movement that emerged in Spain in the 18th century to promote the national character and Spanish race in opposition to the influence France and the Age of Enlightenment were having on Spanish society at the time.

It’s worth noting that castizo derives from the word casta (cast, lineage, quality of something). 

So if you’re referring to a person as castizo/a, it’s like saying they’re pure-blooded, of unmixed ancestry or descent, but it can be used to refer to someone who’s from a wealthy and powerful family. 

There was once more of a racial association to its usage, as colonial Spain used the term castizo to define the purity of blood (and skin) of mixed-race people in Latin America, but nowadays castizo is more about origin and tradition than it is about race, although it can sometimes be linked to high class.  

Examples:

Jose María no podría ser un andaluz más castizo; le gustan los toros, el flamenco y la fiesta.

José María couldn’t be a more authentic Andalusian; he likes bullfighting, flamenco and partying.

Mercedes es de una familia castiza con muchos terrenos.

Mercedes’s family is of good lineage and owns lots of land. 

Castizo can also be used to describe a place, custom, language, object that is authentic and true to its roots, unchanged and unadultered.

Examples:

Las Letras es el barrio más castizo de Madrid.

Las Letras is the most authentic Madrid neighbourhood.

Habla un catalán castizo, sin usar una sola palabra en castellano.

She speaks undiluted Catalan, without using a single Spanish word. 

 

¿Hay algo más castizo que comer rabo de toro en Madrid el Día de San Isidro?

Is there anything more authentic than eating oxtail in Madrid on San Isidro Day?

READ ALSO:

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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Expression of the Day: ‘Montar un pollo’

If someone accuses you of 'riding a chicken' in Spain, should you be offended?

Spanish Expression of the Day: 'Montar un pollo'

In today’s fascinating Spanish Expression of the Day, we have a saying which may seem a bit confusing or even shocking to foreigners.

Montar un pollo, which in its literal sense translates as ‘to ride a chicken’ in Spanish, actually means to make a scene. 

So if someone is flipping out, running amok, getting excessively angry or boisterous and generally overreacting in a loud and noticeable way, the colloquial way of saying it in Spanish is that they’re montando un pollo.

In fact, there are several other ways of saying that someone is making a scene in Spanish. 

There’s armar un escándalo, hacer un drama, montar una escena and our personal favourite montar un numerito (as in perform a small musical or theatrical act).  

But going back to the ‘riding a chicken’ expression. Even though everyone writes it as pollo, the original expression was with the word poyo with a y, which means stone bench or kitchen counter. 

It originates from the Latin word podium, which is what Medieval Spaniards would bring with them to town squares, assemble and stand on to get the attention of a crowd when they wanted to give a speech, events which no doubt got pretty noisy and lively.

Montar in Spanish can mean to mount/get on (as well as assemble, ride or whip), so montar un pollo can really be understood as ‘getting on or setting up a podium’, which makes sense in terms of the expression ‘making a scene’.

If a person is giving someone a telling-off or berating them, this expression can also be used in its reflexive form by saying montarle un pollo a alguien. Similarly, the expression can be used in its reflexive form when describing a lot of commotion or disruption that’s taking place, as in se montó un pollo.

Examples:

Esa mujer le ha montado un pollo al camarero porque se le olvidó traerle los cubiertos.

That woman flipped out at the waiter because he forgot to bring her cutlery.

Hay unos jóvenes borrachos en la plaza montando un pollo que no veas. 

There are some drunk young people in the square making a scene that you wouldn’t believe.

¿Te quieres tranquilizar? ¡Estás montando un pollo y haciendo el ridículo!

Do you want to calm down? You’re making a scene and showing yourself up!

Se montó un pollo porque el novio le pilló poniéndole los cuernos.

All hell broke loose because the boyfriend caught her cheating on him.

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