Archive for the ‘speaking spanish’ Category





Originally Published the Week of Sept. 24, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications


The times they are a-changing.


Jilly just sent me down to our corner mercado a few blocks away to pick up some things for home.  It’s your usual typical Mexican neighborhood market.


All the basics are there.  Meat, milk, tortillas, fruits and veggies.  They might not have 30 different kinds of mayonnaise or mustard like back in the U.S. but, they’ve got 3 or 4 to get you by.


But, little-by-little, I’m noticing some real changes in the aisles and shelves.  And it’s indicative of the changing culture and tastes of the locals.


Gluten-free tortillas?

Lactose free almond milk?

Non-GMO organic parmesan and cheddar cheese?

Basil…mint leaves…portabello mushrooms?


Are you kidding me?  But yea.  How long until there’s a sushi counter?


Back-in-the-day, I remember having to “smuggle” in stuff like ordinary cheese…Polish sausage…mushrooms…steaks…wasabi for sashime…Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage…bottles of wine!


All the things you couldn’t get back then and craved.  All of us would bring things down for our friends and neighbors too.  Everyone got a turn at being the “burro.”


Personally, I would bury the treasure deep in my luggage or ice chest.  Always put it under your underwear.  No custom inspector ever goes below the lair of underwear!


Or put a layer of women’s hygiene products over it.  It worked every time.  Inspectors stopped digging immediately! You’d watch them rustle around but when they hit the layer of underwear or sanitary pads…they’d look up at you.  Smile.  Close your luggage or ice chest and move onto the next person.


Of course, this was all pre-911.


But nowadays, you don’t have to bury booty in your luggage.  You can find almost anything.  It’s a little pricier, but when you really have to have extra virgin olive oil…well…


It’s a far cry from my first “shopping experience” more than 20 years ago, when I moved to a little pueblo south of the East Cape.  It was really not much more than a concrete block house on a dirt road.


The owners lived in the back.  A kids bicycle was propped against an outer wall. I had to step over the family dog who could care less except for his siesta.


But, it had a sun-faded sign that said, “Mini-Super San Juanita”and there weren’t many other choices.


Bare concrete floors housed some shelves and tables while some lightbulbs strung from the ceiling provided light in the windowless room.


Crates and 5-gallon buckets on a table held the fruit and vegetables of the day in varying degrees of ripeness.  Especially in the hot Baja climate.


Six potatoes…several dozen tomatoes…3 or 4 bunches of rather dark bananas…1/2 a bucket of white onions…5 heads of soft lettuce.  No worries about an artificial waxy “sheen” on the apples.  There was a soft layer of dust on everything.


A cold case held the really important stuff.  Of course, lots of Coke and bottles and cans of Tecate beer.  Plus lots of other sugary soft drinks.


Another cold case had cold cuts and some varying types of cheese and meats. The the only ones I could identify were hot dogs.


Not to say the meat was bad.  As I found out over the months, it was actually not too bad at all.  But, just at that moment I certainly couldn’t identify it as it was wrapped in plastic wrap with no labels.  The flickering light in the case also glowed over a couple flats of eggs.


Shelves had the usual staples.  Some cans of soups and sauces and vegetables.  Soap and shampoo.  Spam and of course, cups of Maruchan noodles.  And lots of candy and junk food.


Insofar as I lived 10 miles outside of the little village down a dirt road, I picked what I needed and proceeded to the register where a smiling lady (presumably Juanita ?) helped me out.


I needed something from the chilled meat counter.


That’s when I think I made her day.


I asked for eggs.


She said “How many, Senor?”


“A dozen, por favor.”


“Verdad?  Really? More than one?” She perked up.

“Uh… por favor. Claro!  Sure!”  


She explained to me that most people only buy 2 or 3 at a time.  She rang it up.


I also wanted some of that wrapped cheese too.


She handed me one slice.  And rang it up.  One slice.


I wanted the whole pack please!


Another big smile.  Cha-ching.  She rang up 10 slices of yellow cheese.


I also wanted to buy some hot dogs.  She went back to the case.  Took a knife.  Cut it open and pulled out…ONE hot dog.  Cold and wet!


I smiled back as she handed it to me on a piece of wax paper.


Uh…hmm…” Todos por favor.” 

“All of them. Can I have the whole pack of hot dogs?”


“Claro, senor! Of course!”


Seeing the bemused confusion on my face, she explained that most folks can only afford one hot dog…maybe one egg or two…a slice of cheese…even one cigarette or just one beer at a time.


I pretty much cut her inventory in half!


But, I think I made her day when I said that I also needed some paper.  I had eyed a stack of stationery behind the counter that included…you guessed it…individual pens…pencils…erasers and a ream of paper.


She picked up the ream and pulled out…one sheet! A single piece of paper.


I told her that I needed about 50 sheets!  It was her eyes that got wide this time.  She meticulously counted out…25…26…27… 28…


Fifty sheets of paper and put them in a zip lock bag for me and rang it up.


“Adios, Senor, come back soon!”


I walked out the door into the bright dusty sunshine with two bags of groceries that would hopefully hold me for a week.


I un-wrapped one slice of cheese and one cold hot dog and started to munch.


With a smile, I stepped over the sleeping dog.  Who still couldn’t care less.


That’s my story!

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Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004. Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico http://www.tailhunter.com. They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz Malecon waterfront. If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com
Or drop by the restaurant to say hi. It’s right on the beach!
Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International


Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

U.S. Mailing Address: Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA 91942

from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report: http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”




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Speaking Spanish


Originally Published the Week of. Aug. 15, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications

Among the many goofy signs hanging on the walls in our Tailhunter Restaurant in La Paz. One reads:

(You are my friend!)

For the unsuspecting, if you don’t understand Spanish, it really means “You are an idiot.” Hehehehe…

After more than 2 decades down here, I’m kinda proud that I sort of have a handle on Spanish. By the same token, I regret that I’m not better at it. I should be fluent.

I think I have a good ear for it. I can parrot it back. It might not always be grammatically correct, but I can get my meaning across. My problem is that I don’t understand it as well as I should. So, sometimes I fake it.

If you’ve ever listened to a native Spanish speaking person or, better yet, tried to listen to your captain talking on the radio or even listening to a Spanish radio station…HOLY COW…it sounds like one continuous word!

I pretend I understand!

I’m sure English sounds the same to a native speaker also.

On the other hand, my wife Jill is fearless with the language. She understands Spanish way better than myself. She doesn’t speak Spanish as well. But, she doesn’t care. She goes for it. She just talks!

I wish I was more like her.

I still find myself having to think about what I want to say. Formulating in my small brain how to properly articulate it…then, I say it.

But, I’ve had my ups-and-downs.

Like many of us, I had Spanish classes in high school. I even had several college semesters of it. But, I couldn’t talk my way out’ve a Taco Bell.

To learn a language, you really have to live the language where you “think” in Spanish. I’m getting better.

But, you see, I pick up my Spanish from the folks I’m surrounded by on a daily basis. Those are my employees, my fishing captains and my drivers.

That’s a bit like someone who learns English working on the shipping docks, fishing boats or construction sites.

My Spanish reflects that.

And, since my “teachers” don’t exactly instruct me from some language book, my conversation innocently often comes out “unfiltered” and I’ve had some awkward social moments.

For example, caballo is a horse. Cebolla is an onion. I once asked the waiter for some “grilled horse” on my hamburger. You can imagine his face.

Worse yet, on a different occasion, I thought another waiter was going to bust-a-gut  laughing.  Cola is a tail. As in “lobster tail.” Culo is slang for a certain rear  human orifice. Yup…THAT one.

People sometimes curse and call someone a “culero.”  Like the guy who cuts you off in traffice and calling him a “jerk” is too mild.  You get the idea.

I was invited to dinner and the clients told me to order whatever I wanted. This was in the early days. Wow…whatever I want? Really?

So, I whipped out my Spanish and asked the waiter for the “culo de langosta” (lobster orifice). With melted butter of course!

The waiter grinned…took a breath to compose himself… and very nicely corrected me.

“Culo is not on the menu but we do have COLA de langosta!” He probably went back into the kitchen and told his buddies, “BAHAHAHA…You’re not gonna believe what some guy just ordered…”

I’ve had some fun with it too. Especially as I got better.

I”ll have some young guys down here who are going out on the town a bit.

I’ll say, “You guys want to great pick up line for the senoritas? Would like to know how to ask a girl to dance?


“Walk up to a girl and very politely say, ‘Dame una nalgada.’”

I make them practice that phrase. Over and over. Lock it in! The girls will really love it!

The phrase really means “Give me a spanking.”

Yea, my mom and dad always said I had a rascal streak in me!

I get some funny comments and looks the next morning. Mostly taken all in good fun.

The best honestly, however, is listening to tourists try out their Spanish. God bless ‘em for the effort. It’s appreciated.

It’s one thing to order a plate of tacos and pronounce it “TAY-koe” instead of “TAH-koe.” I get it.

But, especially owning a restaurant and fishing fleet and often the visitors do two things.

For one, they will add “El” to the beginning of everything. And they will add “O” to the end of every word.

So giving Spanish their best shot, “I want a taxi to take me to the hotel” becomes “I want-O an el-taxi-O to take me-O to the el hotel-O.”

Definitely an “A” for effort. Bravo!

Or conversely, when a local doesn’t understand the tourist, the tourist just says it louder the next time . And then louder again!

Right. Maybe if I just say it even louder I’ll be understood!

In all honesty, I love Spanish. I love being able to speak it and I envy those who have mastered it where it just rolls so smoothly on command like so many other gringos who have re-located here.

I’ve taken my Spanish to other countries and I’m pretty proud of it.

In Costa Rica, I was asked “Where did you learn your Spanish?” I told them I lived I Baja, Mexico. They said, “Well, you have an accent!”

Wow! Me? I have an accent? Right on. Give me a high-five!

But yes…there’s different dialects of Spanish too. Kinda like “English spoken by people in Great Britain compared to Alabama compared to Massachusetts compared to Australia.

Spanish in Spain is different from Mexico City. It’s different in Baja. It’s different in East Los Angeles!

Knowing another language is a wonderful ability.   It’s like having a super power.

It’s like knowing a secret code that will open so many doors to communication and understanding. It’s one of my most valued treasures. I keep practicing and learning.

Five new vocabulary words a week.

Next time you come visit, don’t be afraid to use it! If we don’t understand. Just say it louder!

Andale! Viva Mexico, Cabrones!

That’s my story!

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Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com

Or drop by the restaurant to say hi.  It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!



Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International



Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
U.S. Mailing Address:  Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA  91942

from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:  http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:


“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”


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