If you’ve ever had the chance to travel or live around Latin America, you’ve probably noticed a few very distinct things that make the different cultures in the continent so alike and yet uniquely different at the same time. Let’s take the food, for example, the differences from what you can eat in a place like Ciudad de Mexico can be incredibly different from what you might get in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both places will surely dish out delicious offerings but in totally different scopes.
Music too can be a perfect example of how the cultural melting pot that is Latin America works. While in Colombia you would jam to some vallenato or cumbia, go to Uruguay, and tango and candombe are front and center.
Everything in Latin America is just as alike as it is different, starting from the way Spanish is spoken throughout the continent. But what makes it different? Let’s get to it.
Understanding The Origins of Spanish in Latin America
It’s very easy to map out the moment in history where the Spanish language made its first appearance in Latin America. With the initial “discovery” and colonization of the land by Christopher Columbus and company in the late 15th century, the Castilian Spanish language, known as “Castellano” was introduced to a continent where local indigenous languages had ruled all means of communication until then. After the process of “hispanización” was put into practice by the new coming Spanish conquistadores, Spanish began to be established as the primary language in the region.
The said process was of course met with some clear resistance to change. It was basically a move to put aside generations of languages and mannerisms that had influenced the lifestyles of the indigenous people in order to usher in a new era of thinking, speaking, and acting. One of the major players in the establishment of Spanish as the main language in Latin America was the Catholic Church through their Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries. Said religious explorers took it upon themselves to start teaching Catholicism to the local children in Spanish, allowing them to grow up mastering a new language as well as a new religion.
At the end of the day, after all the efforts made by the Spaniards to establish their language on the natives, it became clear that meeting halfway was the way to go if a prosperous future was to be had. Mexican and Peruvian indigenous tribes are recognized as two of the biggest native influences into Latin American Spanish becoming what it is today.
Tu, Usted or Vos, The Latin American Debate
Alright, so let’s really get into Latin American Spanish. Before we start though while trying to grasp the whole concept that is Spanish in Latin America, having a helping hand like a translation company in hand will always be a step up towards achieving full understanding. The first thing you need to know is the different ways in which a person can use the Spanish version of the “You” pronoun.
Depending on where you are in Latin America you will see how locals refer to each other either as Tú, Usted, or Vos, all three of them basically meaning the same thing, “You”. While Tú and Vos are usually used in a more relaxed speaking environment, Usted is usually saved for when speaking with someone who commands a higher level of respect.
Tú and Vos are usually seen more in places like México, certain parts of Central America, Colombia, and in the bottom part of South America like Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay while Usted is seen more around places like Perú, Bolivia, and Ecuador. If ever in doubt just remember this simple rule of thumb, the older the person the more appropriate it will be to use Usted rather than the other two.
Understanding Latin American Spanish Is An Exercise in Patience
Understanding the universal usage of Spanish in Latin America usually becomes more of a game and exercise in patience and understanding than any other thing. While in México and Central America an avocado is known as an “aguacate”, if you travel down to South America you will see that the delicious fruit is known as “palta”. A banana is known as a “plátano” in México, banano in most other countries in the continent, and a “cambur” in Venezuela.
A car is a “coche” in México, a “carro” in Central América and some parts of northern South America, and an “automóvil” in the southern part of South America. Let’s say you have a nice t-shirt on, if you were in Venezuela people would complement your “franela”, while in places like Costa Rica and Colombia your “camiseta” would get the comments and in Argentina your “remera” would be the talk of the moment.
Yes, Latin America is a melting pot of cultures that every day strive to be their best version of themselves. So if you’re ever in Latin America just make sure you take your time to really soak in all of the different cultures and variations of the way Spanish is spoken.