Thursday, August 30, 2012

Viva Espana: More Thoughts on Equatorial Guinea

I've traveled to 8 countries in Africa each with a unique culture, feel, andvibe but nothing could've prepared me for the culture shock that was EquatorialGuinea. I'd first learned of the country when deciding on what language to takein college. Friends who knew that I wanted to focus on Africa pushed me tostudy French but growing up in a Latino neighborhood meant that I could roll my"rr's" better than I could pronounce throaty French words. Afterdeciding to stick with Spanish I often shrugged, “at least I can move toEquatorial Guinea” knowing it was the only Spanish speaking country on thecontinent. At that time it was just a smart alec retort to people whoquestioned my lingual choice rather than an actual destination. Fast forward 8years and there I was boarding a plane to Malabo, Guinea Ecuatorial - look atGod!

After spending nearly two years in Mexico, hearing Spanish coming fromAfrican faces was a bit jarring at first. To complicate things people spokeSpanish with a Spanish accent but English with an African accent...I kind ofwanted to hear what Spanish with an African accent sounded like - better lucknext time. Downtown Malabo could easily be Puebla, Mexico or San Jose,Dominican Republic - the Spanish influence in the city is unmistakable. Theculture of the Spaniards is actually felt a bit stronger in Equatorial Guineathan in Latin America. The language is spoken much closer to the Queen's(Isabella) Spanish than the multi-faceted accents spread across Cuba, Colombia,Mexico and other former colonies. Perhaps the lack of Spanish colonialneighbors stunted that next phase of cultural development. I did notice thatthe word “Bano” didn’t translate which became a bit problematic in the weehours of the morning.

Beyond the architectural and historic references to the former colonialpower, present day connections to Hispanic culture were alive and well. On ourfirst night we went on a "beverage" run only to discover that ourside of the road vendor only sold Spanish spirits (bummer for Ciroc aficionadoslike me). Brandy, Gin, and an interesting pineapple drink (not juice) all madein Spain, we had never heard of any of them…but made do. Every nightclub had atleast one set of salsa, merengue, and you guessed it - Reggaeton. If I closedmy eyes for a moment, I could've easily transported myself to Mexico City,Veracruz, or Oaxaca with my ears.

When one of the drivers heard that I lived in Mexico heconfided that he wants a Mexican wife and asked if I could bring him one? Igave him the major side eye and told him he’d been watching way too manytelenovelas. At least ask me to bring you a Beyonce! Lol.

Saturday marks one week back from the adventure so staytuned for more recaps of my trip.




  1. The trip was very interesting in terms of the spanish colonization and the mix of spanish, portuguese and french speakers but I kinda disagree about the accents. A lot of the Guineans sounded like Africans speaking spanish and at times it was a pause trying to decipher some phrases, even for a native Spanish speaker from Latin America. A lot of their mother tongues are Fang or Bubi from their respective tribes. Go to some places in Central and south america, (esp. Colombia) there you'll find African-descendants who look very west african speaking spanish and some languages created FROM african languages with the same sounds/words. The connections are amazing.

  2. I think that's an amazing viewpoint. I wish I could've picked up on that...I heard them speaking Fang often. I know columbians def have an African itiration of Spanish in their communities. I wonder if the same can be founf in Veracruz, Mexico where the African influence is preserved a bit more.