Tongue Twisting Place names: An Excercise for your Spanish Pronounciation

I have to admit that all my memories of different places have sort of melded into one big impression of Central America. Even though each country has had its own quirks and isms, things kind of start to feel the same after a while. Not in a boring way, but in a  comforting, familiar type of way. As my spanish has improved I’ve also gotten more comfortable in all the new places, and a little bit more confident in my travels alone.

Every time I open my lonely planet Central America shoestrings book, I have to think for a second what chapter to open to because I can never remember what country I’m in. Trying to remember the name of the town I’m in would take even longer, but one can always rest assured that every single city has a parque central with an iglesia (or two or three) within walking distance, with all the things, information or amenities you could ever need all in one square.

the main church in Comayagua's central park

Once I remember what town I’m in, spelling or pronouncing it is almost always an issue, especially in El Salvador when there was one day we went to Ataco, Apaneca, Ahuachapán and Juajúa all in one day with 5 different buses, and the only words I could think about to help me remember was ‘jube jubes’ and ‘a taco.’ Trying to say ‘jubejubes’ or ‘taco’ to the different bus drivers taking us around didn’t seem to help much, except put a big, confused smile on their face.

Tegucigalpa took some practice, but I still can’t say Quetzaltenango or Quetzaltepeque. Sometimes the same town existed twice or the names were so similar I almost ended up on the wrong bus headed in the totally opposite direction. Frankly, I can’t believe that hasn’t happened yet.

Every Latin American country seems to have an endless supply of town names beginning in San or Santa’s, like San Ignacio, Santa Maria, and every country so far has had a town called Agua Caliente. Towns beginning in ‘Ch’ were tricky in Guatemala because of cities like Chichicastenango, Chimaltenango (not Chalatenango in Honduras), and Chiquimula, not to be confused with neighbouring Chiquimulilla. Other tongue twisters included Huehuetenango, Cuauhtemoc and a bunch of towns beginning in the letter ‘X’ which I’m still not sure how to pronounce.

A floating house in San Pedro, one of the many San- towns, but not the same as San Pedro Sula

Each country has also had its own special Spanish accent or slang words to make things more difficult, and towns where Maya inhabitants still thrive often had one Spanish name and one Mayan name, like Xela which is actually the same place as Quetzaltenango but not the same place as Xel-ha, Mexico. I guess as long as I can remember my own name I’m doing just fine 😛

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