Learning Spanish from political cartoons

I get my news in Spanish from El Colombiano, Medellín/Antioquia’s principal newspaper (plus from lots of great blogs, of course). I know there are better newspapers out there, but it’s just habit. When I lived in Bogotá, I read El Tiempo; in Medellín, I switched to El Colombiano, trying to be as regionalist as my new Paisa neighbors. (Also had a soft spot for Q’hubo, the local lurid rag for scandals and the scantily clad) It’s nothing amazing and certainly has its flaws, but I like it well enough. It also obviously lets me stay on top of what’s going on in Colombia. Today I wanted to share one of my favorite features of El Colombiano: their political cartoons.

Cartoons are always a fun way to learn more Spanish–I like Condorito, Mafalda, and Macanudo. I also enjoy Aleida. With political cartoons, though, you also learn about what’s going on in that part of the world, find out what people are talking about on the street, and get a feel for local humor and politics. You come across extremely cultural references to things that took place maybe 100 years ago but that are still fresh in locals’ memories and that still incite their passions and influence their actions. For me, reading political cartoons is like getting a secret peek into the imaginario colectivo of a society. Don’t stare, don’t point, don’t laugh, don’t ask nosy questions. If you want to make sense of what you’re seeing, research it on your own time. I don’t know, it’s just so intimate, like getting to eavesdrop on a culture’s inside jokes. At the same time, of course, cartoons are often very funny, irreverent, and insightful.

I really like reading the caricaturas on El Colombiano’s website because I find them to be very well-organized. Just go to the page, and you can then choose the cartoons from this year or any year since 2009. For each year, the cartoons are neatly categorized by month. Choose your month, click on a day, and then just use the left or right arrows on your keyboard to go from one day to the next. I have not found the cartoons sections on other Spanish-language newspapers’ websites to be anywhere near as easy to navigate. If you know of any or have a favorite political cartoonist to recommend (in either digital or print form), please let me know! You can find El Colombiano‘s main page for caricaturas here.

Viewing some of this year’s cartoons from a purely language perspective (with maybe a tad of culture thrown in), let’s see what kinds of things we can learn. Some feature important Colombian words, some good general words in Spanish, some cultural references, some political references. And some were just plain funny. These cartoons are by Esteban París and by Emerson Gaviria Cortés.

Key Colombian vocab

mercar, hacer mercado; mija/mijo; lechona (marrano) de navidad

guayabo – hangover

culebra – debt

ome; comuna; vos (many people don’t know that it’s used in Colombia)

More voseo

Words/grammar that I’ve blogged about before

Hamburguesa a caballo

Me tocó

Signos de admiración, puntos suspensivos, comas


Propiedad de EC, Elcolombiano.comSombreros vueltiaos

Tanja Nijmeijer, kind of like Colombia’s Lori Berenson in a way

??? I know a Chucho (Jesús), and I know three different meanings of chucha, but this one has me scratching my head. Well, as the singers of Qué difícil es hablar el español made clear, it’s a tricky word.

Which one was your favorite? (I liked the snail one, the marrano one, and the guayabo one.) Could you understand them pretty well? Pick up any new vocabulary? Do you read the political cartoons of any cartoonists or newspapers? If you’re artistic, I could totally see how making your own cartoons could be a great way to help memorize and practice vocab.

2 responses to “Learning Spanish from political cartoons

  1. lol believe it or not I learned some stuff as a kid when I watch speedy Gonzalez, ‘from looney toons. and when baby sitting my little cousin. She loves Dora explorer lol. But I definitely think that can work. I think in addition to this for grownups that dont like cartoons, they can watch a movie they already like and know the lines of and set it to a spanish audio with subtitles so they can learn that way. Win win! nice a fun topic!


  2. Pingback: Another blog birthday | Vocabat

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