Discussing Similarities in Cultures in Spanish

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Would you like to be able to talk about the cultural similarities between different Spanish-speaking countries? This lesson not only gives you a few basic topics you can discuss but also a context for making comparisons.

Definition of Culture

Think about the characteristics that make your community different from another. When you identify those characteristics, you identify your culture. Thus, culture is the set of specific characteristics a community displays that makes it unique. Culture includes food, music, painting, literature, traditions, and more. For instance, we associate Mexico with tacos, mariachis, Día de los Muertos, and Frida Kahlo.

Like Mexico, every Spanish-speaking country not only has its own culture, but also many similarities. When you discuss this topic, keep in mind it is best to make comparisons based on facts rather than personal taste. This way, you avoid the possibility of offending a person from a specific country.

Similarities in Spanish-Speaking Countries

There are similarities among Spanish-speaking countries because, first, Latin American countries were conquered by the Spaniards. Thus, many traditions are inherited from Spain. Second, Spanish-speaking countries maintain ties, which means they often share music, art, and other cultural expressions. Let's learn about the most relevant similarities.

Food

There are lots of foods Spanish-speaking countries share. However, each country makes food with their own touch, and ingredients can vary. Let's look at two examples.

  • First, cebiche or ceviche (pronounced: seh-BEE-cheh) is a dish made with raw seafood and seasoned in lemon juice with salt, cilantro, and other herbs. The name of this dish can be spelled either way, and it is part of the national heritage of Perú. However, other Spanish-speaking countries like Ecuador or Mexico (just to name two) prepare it. In Ecuador, people make it with fish or shrimp, and in Mexico people might add a spicy touch.
  • Second, the famous empanada (pronounced: ehm-pah-NAH-dah) is dough with a variety of fillings, which can include green peas, ham, cheese, chicken, and pork. The empanadas were probably introduced in Spain by the Arabs. Today, empanadas are prepared in just about all Spanish-speaking countries, and the fillings vary according to the products each country has available. The empanadas made in Chile and Argentina are particularly famous.

If gastronomy is an aspect of Spanish-speaking countries you want to discuss, you can always find a few recipes for the same dish on the Internet. This way, you can make comparisons using más...que (more than) menos...que (less than) or tan...como (as...as). Alfredo, a chef from Argentina compares empanadas:

  • Las empanadas mexicanas pueden ser más picantes que las chilenas. (The Mexican empanadas can be spicier than the Chilean ones.)
  • Las empanadas argentinas son tan deliciosas como las chilenas. (The Argentinian empanadas are as delicious as the Chilean empanadas.)

Just remember to include an adjective in the middle of the comparative expressions.

Holiday Traditions

There are many similarities among Spanish-speaking countries when it comes to holiday traditions. Here are two major examples:

  • La Navidad (pronounced: lah nah-vee-DAD) means ''Christmas'' as you probably know already. The food different Spanish-speaking countries consume during this holiday is similar, and it can include not only lechón (leh-CHON), which means ''roasted piglet'' but also pavo al horno (PAH-boh ahl OHR-noh), which is ''baked turkey.'' Christmas also means similar customs in Spanish-speaking countries. Exchanging gifts with family and friends, having a Christmas tree and a manger, and going to midnight mass, are traditions people share across the Spanish-speaking world.
  • La Semana Santa (lah seh-MAH-nah SAHN-tah) means ''the Holy Week'' or ''Easter.'' A huge similarity among countries is the procesiones (proh-seh-see-OH-nehs), which means ''processions.'' These are parades in which people carry images of Christ as they sing or pray. Here is a good comparison: La procesión de Semana Santa en la región española de Castilla y León es más grande que la procesión de Toledo. (The Holy Week procession in the Spanish region of Castilla and Leon is bigger than the procession in Toledo.)

Translation: The manger is an important Christmas tradition in Spain and Latin America.
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