Mejor un pájaro libre que un rey cautivo
Better a free bird than a captive king
Who are we? What do we do?
"Spanish Pronto" is a Spanish language translation, interpretation, travel and teaching service with contract employees in México, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, North Carolina, California, and New York City.
(The thirteen navigation links above provide a full description of Spanish Pronto services. To insure clarity, these navigation links connect to pages that are minimally hyperlinked. If you prefer to browse fully-hyperlinked text, please scroll below.)
1.) Spanish Pronto arranges learning adventures in Mexico's Yucatán peninsula and Oaxaca Valley, environments known for their hospitality, tranquillity, history, archeology and natural wonder. Spanish Pronto also offers tours of Puebla/Tlaxcala, the Otomi highlands of Central Mexico, and winery tours of Spain and Chile's Maipo Valley. Eight day adventures start at $850.00 plus airfare for groups of ten.
2.) Adult conversation programs in Durham, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, NC.
If you'd like to get started on your own the following sites are useful:
Other useful Spanish learning tools:
(This compendium of links fosters language-learning and cultural understanding.)
3.) Conversational - and literary - courses for "clustered homeschoolers." Homeschool courses may be based on Spanish language literature or the Spanish language edition of "La Piedra Filosofal" - the first of Harry Potter's four adventures. A more elementary course is based on the superb Spanish language translation of E. B. White's "Stuart Little."
Hispanic Health provides an examination of cross-cultural issues relating to Hispanic patient care.
5.) Spanish-English, English-Spanish translation. Spanish-English, English-Spanish interpretation.
6.) Spanish Pronto provides Spanish-speaking factotums. If you have targeted tasks in Mexico, Spain, Central or South America, please contact Spanish Pronto.
Mexican Learning Adventures
Exploring El Yucatán, Oaxaca, Puebla/Tlaxcala and the Otomí Highlands of Querétaro/Hidalgo
Spanish Pronto founder, Alan Archibald, guides small groups to Oaxaca, Mexico and to Mexico's Yucatán peninsula. Each expedition accommodates 4 to 12 participants. (Parents may join programs tailored for teens. See www.yucatan.homestead.com)
Currently, Spanish Pronto founder, Alan Archibald, conducts six learning adventures per year.
In the Yucatán, Mérida and Isla Mujeres serve as "home base." Mainland excursions explore the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá, traditional Mayan culture, family-based farming and artisanship, and the rich life of Mérida, the colonial capitol of Yucatán State and home to one of Mexico's most extensive traditional markets. Snorkeling opportunities abound in the turquoise waters and coral reefs surrounding Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy where you may swim among docile manta rays. (See www.yucatan.homestead.com)
In Oaxaca State, Oaxaca city serves as home base although we will make several journeys to outlying towns and archeological sites.
Eight-day Yucatan programs cost $850.00, plus airfare. Eight-day Oaxaca programs cost $850.00, plus airfare. Round-trip flights from most parts of the United States cost $450 - $650.00. Typically, flights to the Yucatan are less expensive than flights to Oaxaca. Spanish Pronto will gladly make reservations on your behalf.
Spanish Pronto covers all ground costs: lodging, surface transportation, entrance fees and three wonderful meals per day. Throughout your journey, you will receive as much Spanish language instruction as you wish.
Spanish Pronto provides convivial lodging, three hearty meals daily, ground transportation, admission tickets and as much Spanish instruction as you'd like.
Although the Yucatán and Oaxaca will be the primary focus of near-term expeditions, Spanish Pronto also conducts learning adventures to Puebla --Tlaxcala, and into the Otomí highlands of Hidalgo and Querétaro states --- including the overlooked colonial capital, Querétaro City. (In order to contain expense, no insurance coverage is included for any of Spanish Pronto's Mexican expeditions. If you wish, Spanish Pronto will obtain travel/evacuation insurance on your behalf at a cost of approximately $100.00. "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad" by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, is an excellent, comprehensive presentation. Please visit: http://www.travel.state.gov/medical.html Recently, American Express has begun offering "Travel Medical Protection" for $59.00 per year. For more information, please contact 1-800-297-2900. Spanish Pronto's travel agency - "Exito Travel" - recommends www.travelex-insurance.com. Travelex can also be contacted at 1-800-228-9792. According to the Travelex brochure, "children under 16 receive package plan benefits at no additional charge, when accompanying adults purchase the plan." When last consulted, Travelex offered an insurance "plan rate" for $82.00 per adult.)
Other traveler's health sites include:
Suggested itinerary for Yucatán expeditions.
Two nights -- Mérida, the colonial (and current) capitol of the Yucatán. Mérida, "The White City," is an extraordinarily rich cultural, culinary and artisanal environment. Participants will lodge at Casa San Juan a national historic monument operated by its very helpful owner, Pablo da Costa. Large groups may lodge Hotel Santa Lucia, with swimming pool, in-house cafeteria, and in-room television/telephone. Optional side trips from Mérida include Hacienda San Antonio, the small cities of Izamál and Motúl, two colonial gems "lost in time" where local transport relies on horse-drawn carriages known as "Victorias." Mérida is home to the Western Hemisphere's oldest Cathedral, built in 1561. The Casa de Montejo - Mérida's first colonial government building is an architectural masterpiece. Six evenings each week, Mérida sponsors outdoor music, dance or theater presentations. On Sunday, Mérida's city center is closed to vehicular traffic. Two nights -- Valladolid. In historic Valladolid, we will lodge at Hotel San Clemente with a fine courtyard swimming pool. We will eat at Mesón del Marques where President Jimmy Carter lodged during his 1989 visit. Our stay in Valladolid will include exploration of a major archeologial site such as Chichén Itzá, the largest of the Yucatán's Mayan ruins. (Recently, "Science News" published a paper in which sound engineer David Lubman suggests that the remarkable acoustics of Chichén Itzá may represent the world's first "sound recording," specifically the song of the Quetzal, a bird of mythic significance to the Maya.) Alternatively, we may visit Ek Balam, a Mayan ruin currently under excavation. Ek Balam's central pyramid is higher than Chichen Itza's and provides a striking view of the pyramid at Cobá - glimpsed atop the jungle canopy - 30 miles away. Typically, visitors leave Ek Balam mystified by the sudden (and relatively recent) collapse of Mayan civilization. Watch divers plunge 26 meters into the refreshing green water of Cenote Zaci (where you may also swim.) Optional afternoon visits include the Balankanché Caves (where numerous Mayan artifacts were discovered in inexplicably eerie arrangements), and Cenote Dzitnup , where you'll swim in water so beautiful, the memory will last a lifetime. (The accompanying photograph of Cenote Dzitnup does not adequately capture the water's striking shade of blue. However, you can appreciate the stunning, semi-subterranean setting of this cenote.) I'm happy to report that Valladolid has a delightful new museum, which - although small - has assembled exquisitely informative displays concerning pre-Colombian and post-Colombian Yucatecan life, as well as the fascinating Caste War which began in Valladolid in 1848, and which didn't formally conclude until 1976. Two nights -- Isla Mujeres. Participants will lodge at Hotel Carmelina, three blocks from Playa Norte's sugar sand and turquoise water. Enjoy a motor launch side-trip to Isla Contoy, a national Nature Preserve graced with an abundance of tropical birds and "swimmer-friendly" 5 foot manta rays. On Isla Contoy you will feast sumptuously on the fish-of-the-day caught en route to Isla Contoy. (On Spanish Pronto's July 10 - 17 trip, we ate char-broiled barracuda and lobster with side dishes of guacamole, avocado and fruit. En route to Isla Contoy, you will snorkel a "high seas" coral reef that's home to hundreds of species of brilliantly colored tropical fish. The exquisitely beautiful Parrot Fish is an inhabitant of these waters. (We strongly recommend that you bring Kodak's 27 shot underwater disposable camera.) For an additional $150.00, we will tour Isla Mujeres another day, encircling the island by motor launch, snorkeling at Isla Mujeres' offshore National Snorkeling Park and enjoying a second seaside fish feast.
One night -- Final night in Mérida. Feast on Pollo Pibil --- the Mayan "Holiday Dish" --- at Pórtico del Peregrino garden restaurant.
Final day -- Return home.
All Spanish Pronto expeditions may be extended to 10 days.
Suggested itinerary for Oaxaca expeditions
We will spend seven nights in Oaxaca, a colonial city that many observers consider "the culinary heart of Mexico." In addition to seven varieties of "salsa mole" --- red, green, yellow and black --- try "chapulines" (chile-fried grasshoppers), a spritely dish that many enjoy despite "their better judgement." Mariscos Los Jorges, and the exquisitas comidas tipicas at El Asador Vasco persuade many travelers to settle in Oaxaca, a fate that has already befallen several of my students. Delight in late-night snacks at Antojitos Regionales Los Olmos. Or, check out the immense tlayudas oaxaquenas at Marta Sanchez's roadside stand open from 9:00 P.M. til dawn. Whatever you eat, wash it down with a swig of mezcal - a distilled cactus alternative to tequila - made only in Oaxaca valley. If you don't drink alcoholic beverages, have a cup of freshly-ground chocolate at Mayordomo on Mina near La Centra de Abastos. In 1555, Oaxacan nuns added sugar to chocolate for the very first time. Indigenous peoples always drank chocolate in its unadorned, bitter form. In fact, the word "chocolate" derives from the Nahua "xoco atl" meaning "bitter water." Home-grown cacao beans are transformed into "goodies"at a number of shops located at the corner of Mina and 20 de Noviembre. Chocolate Mayordomo is, without question, the best chocolate shop in the city. (Tejate and atole are other Oaxacan beverages that appeal to the venturesome palate.) Oaxaca was founded by conquistador Hernan Cortés, and remains one of the most intact colonial environments in the world. Oaxaca is blessed with an amiable citizenry, pervasive tranquilidad, abundant open-air music and dance and a temperate climate to ease the exertion of travel.
Seven-day programs cost $850.00, plus airfare. All ground costs are included: lodging, surface transportation, entrance fees and three wonderful meals per day. Throughout your journey, you will receive as much Spanish language instruction as you wish.
(A 20% surcharge applies to expeditions that coincide with Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Oaxaca's unparalleled celebration of the "Día de los Muertos" ("Day of the Dead"). During these celebrations, Oaxacan hotel prices surge.)
Currently, round-trip flights from the eastern seaboard cost $535.00 - $650.00. Spanish Pronto will gladly make reservations on your behalf.
Although each Oaxaca expedition may begin on a different day of the week, the following weekdays will likely be spent at the following locations.
(PLEASE NOTE: Depending on which day of the week your tour begins, one of the following weekday itineraries will NOT be part of the tour. Instead, "the seventh day" will begin your homeward journey.)
Saturday. Oaxaca's Saturday tianguis (weekly market) at La Central de Abastos is, arguably, Mexico's richest and most diverse marketplace. Sunday morning: Travelors will have opportunity to observe (or participate in) Roman Catholic mass at La Iglesia de Santo Domingo, described by Aldous Huxley as "one of the most extravagantly gorgeous churches in the world." Visit the Museo Regional de Oaxaca occupying the old Dominican monastery behind Santo Domingo church. This fine museum houses "The Mixtec Jewelry Collection" containing the stunning finds from Tumba 7 at nearby Monte Alban. (Most indigenously-wrought gold was melted into ingots for exportation to Spain.) The Mixtecs, who superceded Zapotec rule when Monte Alban mysteriously collapsed in 800 A.D., are widely regarded as Mexico's best pre-Columbian artesans. By the 15th century, the Aztecs - who dominated central Mexico - valued Mixtec art and craft above all others. Sunday afternoon: Visit Monte Alban, the most impressive ruin in Oaxaca state. In his memoir of Monte Alban, Aldous Huxley encourages us to "imagine a great isolated hill at the junction of three broad valleys; an island rising nearly a thousand feet from the green sea of fertility beneath it. An astonishing situation. But the Zaptotecs were not embarrassed by the artisitic reponsibilities it imposed on them. They levelled the hill-top; laid out two huge rectangular courts; raised pyramidal altars or shrines at the center, with other, much larger, pyramids at either end. Even today, this high place of the Zapotecs remains extraordinarily impressive. Monte Alban is the work of men who knew their architectural business consummately well."
Monday. Santa María de Tule where you'll see the world's largest-circumference tree. Five miles farther on, a side road leads to two tiny Zapotec villages, Abasolo and Papalutla. Few tourists come to these easy-going backwaters with few affectations of modernity. In Papalutla, we will watch Don Adrián weaving baskets. A local woman will cook for us, and, if time permits, we may rent mules to explore the hinterland.
Tuesday is market day in Santa Ana del Valle, a rug-weaving center. Visitors can observe master rug-maker, Lucio Aquino Cruz, plying his trade. Marciano, the local baker, makes excellent bread.
Wednesday. Rest and recreation in Oaxaca. Visit the museums, cultural centers and stores along the cobblestone andador extending north from Oaxaca's Cathedral. Visit the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, where the Virgen Mary is reported to have appeared in 1620. Examine the fascinating collection of artefacts sent from around the world as gifts to the Virgen. The best ice cream in Mexico is sold just outside the Basilica. The adjacent Plaza de la Danza is the scene of frequent bailes folclóricos.
Should participants wish to visit the Mixtec ruins at Mitla, or the sulfur swimming pools (and uncanny waterfall) at Hierve el Agua, this is a day set aside for independent exploration. Easy trips can be made to San Martín de Tilcajete whose fanciful alebrijes are admired around the world. From San Martin, it's only a couple miles to Santo Tomás de Jalietza where backstrap weaving and hand-embroidered leather belt making occupy townfolk.
Although this is a day for independent adventure, we may - if travelers prefer - explore one or two chosen sites as a group.
Whether we spend the day exploring as a group or individually, we will convene for breakfast and supper.
Thursday. Five miles past Santa María de Tule (where you'll see the world's largest-circumference tree), a side road leads to two tiny Zapotec villages, Abasolo and Papalutla. Few tourists come to these easy-going backwaters with few affectations of modernity. In Papalutla, we will watch Don Adrian weaving baskets. A local woman will cook for us, and, if time permits, we may rent mules to explore the hinterland. Alternatively, we may visit the spectacular Tlacochahuaya's Templo y Convento de San Jerónimo (c. 1585), or, visit Zaachila --- the last capitol of the Zapotec Empire. This town of artists celebrates its "dia de feria" on Thursday. Visit recently excavated Mixtec tombs. Zaachila offers good "country cooking."
Friday. Teotitlán del Valle. Settled by Zapotecs over 2000 years ago. Nearly every family produces textiles: Wool is carded, spun and colored often using hand-gathered natural dyes. Teotitlán families own extensive communal farm lands. Their "kingdom" also covers 100,000 acres of pristine forest and forest in the foothills of northeastern Oaxaca Valley. The Balaa Xtee Guech Gulal ("Shadow of the Old Town") Community Museum has fine displays and informative community guides. We will eat at the charming Tlamanalli Restaurant, whose traditional cuisine is highly regarded by Oaxaca's finest chefs. La sopa de calabaza and el guisado de pollo are superb.
Ten day trips include Guelatao, Ixtlan and la ruta domínica. Benito Juarez, Mexico's universally loved - and only indigenous president - was Zapotec. Juarez was born in the village of San Pablo de Guelatao, and spoke only Zapotec as a boy. He was orphaned at age 3, and in 1809 was removed to Oaxaca where Catholic priests undertook his education. After studying for the priesthood, Juarez decided on a career in law and politics. Juarez authored Mexico's most famous civic enjoinder: "El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz." ("Respect for the rights of others is peace.") Oaxaca is also the birthplace of Porfirio Díaz, a one-time democratic president, whose lengthy and increasingly autocratic rule laid the groundwork for the Mexican Revoltion of 1910, the origin of modern Mexican politics. Note: An additional hundred dollars enables exploration of the Pacific Coast, home to some of the most remarkable shoreline in the Western hemisphere. See Puerto Escondido For more information, please contact:
Medical Spanish Immersion:
Spanish Pronto collaborates with El Hospital ISSTE (the "Social Security Hospital") in Oaxaca, México, as well as several hospitals in Mérida, Yucatan, to provide language immersion programs tailored to the needs of physicians, PAs, nurses and medical/nursing students. Immersion programs comprise 5 hour rotations in partner hospitals followed by 3 - 4 hours of daily instruction coordinated by Alan Archibald who also serves as roving facilitator during hospital rotations.
In the evening, students elect to dine, stroll or sight-see with local "mentors" supplied by Spanish Pronto, or, students may make private arrangements. (Sundays are "free," although Spanish Pronto will gladly coordinate exploration of Oaxaca city and state.)
The cost of ten day immersion is $850.00 plus roundtrip airfare currently ranging between $535.00 and $575.00 from the eastern seaboard.
A Cultural Note: Many people consider Oaxaca to be Mexico's most beautiful city. Oaxaca is graced with a peaceful colonial ambience and is home to Mexico's most diverse assortment of handcrafts. Oaxaca is situated in one of Mexico's most pervasively Native American regions with rich cultural influences deriving from the Zapoteca and Mixteca peoples. Merida, the capitol of Yucatan State, is a stately city where Spanish Pronto lodges students at Casa San Juan, a nationally registered historic building. The Yucatecan Minister of Health has graciously offered Merida's hospitals as teaching venues for Spanish Pronto students.
Spanish Pronto publishes "La Charla," a comprehensive Spanish language textbook written with medical personnel in mind. Recently, "La Charla" has been expanded with an extensive medical glossary.
Spanish Pronto has translated multiple documents for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the School of Public Health at UNC, Chapel Hill.
See Hispanic Health for an examination of cross-cultural issues relating to Hispanic patient care.