Cinco De Mayo for Spanish Learners

May 2, 2009 · Posted in Hispanic Culture, Mexican Culture, Mexico · 1 Comment 
La Bandera de México

La Bandera de México


¿Cuándo es el cinco de mayo?

Es el martes en 2009.

Most people who do not live in or near Mexico think that cinco de mayo is Mexican Indpendence Day. Well, it’s not- no lo es.  Cinco de mayo commemorates a unique and inspiring even in late 19 century Mexican history.  It’s more about what cinco de mayo represents that anything else: unity and patriotism.

Cinco de Mayo: the Battle of Puebla

On May 5th, 1862 The Mexican army under General Zaragosa was faced with the well trained, tricked out French troops sent to  support the current rulers of Mexico.  They were King Maximilian and his wife Queen Carlota who were puppets of France’s Napoleaon III.  Napolean III was sure of a victory which would make Mexico essentially dependent on France, almost as a colony.

The Mexican army thought fast. Mexico’s horsemen and cavalry were superb, and they knew the terrain in Puebla, Mexico beyond well.  When the French ordered their troops to chase Mexican Colonel Diaz’s cavalry, they sent their soldiers to their death.  Mexico out-rode, our chased, and out faught the French to win the Battle of Puebla, or la Battalla de Puebla.

Unity & Patriotism

Cinco de Mayo honors the victory of the Mexican army over the most elite army of Europe, the French.  The unity of the many indigenous groups and the energy of the young country came to vanquish the establishment French.  It’s a day for celebrating Mexican culture, the diversity of Mexico’s native peoples, and the drive of the Mexican army.

Teaching & Learning Ideas & Activities

A national holiday is the best way to bring several aspects of Spanish into the learning experience: language, culture (food, music, art) and one of our favorites, geography. So many tangential units can come form Cinco de Mayo: the history of Mexico, the French in Mexico, French cultural influences there, and most importantly the vast indigenous cultures of Mexico.

For a lesson for Spanish Students Click Here.

For a lesson for Beginning Spanish Students or Young Learners Click Here.

For activities for preschoolers click here

Link to Great 5 de Mayo crafts

Spanish Mother’s Day Make a Card

Feliz Da de la Madre! It’s almost here on May 10th, or el 10 de mayo.  I can say with experience and authority as the mother of three, that home-made cards are the ones that are kept in the keepsake shoe box.  And won’t your mom be impressed with a Mother’s Day card in Spanish? Ages preK on up can do this. Here is some Spanish vocabulary for a card:

Spanish Greetings for Your Mother’s Day Card2-04-08_07b

  • Feliz Día de la Madre – Happy Mother’s Day
  • para – to
  • de – from
  • Mi Querida- my dear . . .
  • Madre – Mother
  • Mamá – Mom
  • Abuela – Grandmother
  • Abuelita – Grandma
  • Tía – Aunt
  • Te quiero – I love you.
  • Pienso en ti – I’m thinking of you.
  • Te extraño – I miss you.
  • Eres especial- You are special.

Use these expressions to create a special Spanish Mother’s Day card for Mom, Grandma, a favorite aunt, or a special friend.
Choose both greetings and your favorite quotes for your card.  Decorate with crayons, markers, photos, paints, and/or glitter.  She’ll love it

Click here for a few Spanish Mother’s Day card templates

Mexican Snack: Una Quesadilla

It’s always a good time of year to snack!  The best, or some of the best snacks, or meriendas, are Mexican.  The ingenious quesadilla is perfect.

The quesadilla (Keh-Sah-deeyah) is a staple of Mexican meals and snacks.  There are countless types of quesadillas depending on personal tastes, family recipes, and most importantly the region of Mexico.  A quesadilla can be a familiar combination of flour tortillas and Monterrey jack cheese in the northern, border area of Mexico, or it can be a hubcap-sized tlaluda with special cheese and poblano chiles from Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
A quesadilla is a blank canvas. It usually consisits of a tortilla, shortening, and cheese, but the possibilities for adding to it are endless, and encouraged.
The quesadilla can be eaten for breakfast, el desayuno, or for a snack, a merienda. The protein of the cheese and the carbohydrate of the tortilla are both filling and balancing.

Try to make Spanish sentences with the vocabulary and verbs below about making quesadillas.

VOCABULARIO de cocinar

  • La tortilla
  • La estufa    The stove
  • El queso    The cheese
  • La mantequilla    The butter
  • La margarina    The margarine
  • El sartén    The frying pan
  • La espátula    The spatula
  • El cuchillo    The knife


  • prendo= I turn on (the blender)
  • corto= I cut
  • unto= I spread (butter)
  • pongo= I put
  • doblo= I fold
  • volteo= I turn over
  • saco= I take out
  • organizo= I organize

Check  back tomorrow for a simple recipe in Spanish with some activities.

Making Cascarones-Spanish Confetti Eggs

I remember making and buying cascarones, or confetti filled eggs, at my elementary school’s Halloween carnival in El Paso, Texas. We loved running around the Mesita School gym cracking the cascarones over each others’ heads.
Origins of Cascarones in Mexico
This is the time of year for more traditional casacarones. In 19th century Mexico, one of the few ways that young couples could show public affection was to crack a cascarn or two over each others’ heads at dances during carnaval before Lent, or Cuaresma.
Over time, children adopted the custom during Lent. Now everyone is in on the fun right before Ash Wednesday, and some break them out again at Easter, or Pascua.

Making Cascarone

It’s easier to do than it seems; time and patience are the key. MATERIALS: 1 dozen eggs, large bowl, fork, knife, pyrex dish, glue, tissue paper, confetti, egg dying kit, paint, stickers, glitter glue
Part I.
1.  Gently tap one eag on the small tip of it onto the counter until an area is cracked
2.  Carefully peel away at least a dime sized hole of egg shell and membrane
3.  Hold egg hole side down over a large bowl to drain its contents
4.  Rinse the inside of the empty egg shell without breaking it.
5.  Place in a pyrex dish.
*Repeat for as many cascarones as you’d like to make.
6.  Let the emptied and rinsed, intact egg shells dry overnight or for several areas in a safe place
Part II.
1. Use the Easter egg dye kit and dye the egg shells slowly and carefully.  Let them dry for a couple of hours.
2.  Decorate the egg shells with paint, stickers, or glitter glue . . . use your imagination.
3.  Fill each decorated egg half way full of confetti
4.  Glue a small piece of tissue paper over the hole in the filled egg shell
You’re ready to crack your cascarones over as many heads as you have confetti-filled eggs.  See this link for directions with photos.

un cascarón

un cascarón

Spanish Speaking Culture: the History of Chocolate

Haciendo Chocolate Caliente en México.

See the Spanish video above from Mexican chocolate manufacturer Mayordomo of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Divine is my synonym for chocolate! Most of the world loves chocolate in its now myriad of forms, and most of us don’t think about where chocolate came from.  It’s just one of the wonderful, ubiquitous things that IS.

Chocolate, or cho-coh-lah-teh as we say, comes from Mexico! Learning Spanish is also learning about Spanish speaking culture, and here are the basics about some ancient Mexican culture.  An excellent way to learn about Spanish speaking culture is to learn about it in Spanish, or en espaol.



  • El tribu de los Olmecas llevaron el cacao a México antes de Cristo. The tribe of the Olmecas brought cocoa to Mexico before Christ, or Before the Common Era.
  • Los Aztecas bebieron el cacao como una bebida muy amarga.  The Aztecs drank cocoa as a bitter beverage.
  • El explorador Hernán Cortés llevó el cacao a España. The explorer Hernan Cortez brought cocoa to Spain.
  • Los españoles añadieron aúzcar y canela al chocolate. The Spaniards added sugar and cinammon to chocolate.

Hispanic Culture Activities for All

Call me biased, but Hispanic culture is just the most fun of all!  In all ways!  The food, music, art, dance, sculpture- you name it.  All twenty Spanish-speaking countries have tons to offer.

Did you know?

  • Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain.
  • Ten percent of Spanish nouns are Arabic.
  • There are about 200 words for horse in Spanish.

Click here for Hispanic Cultural Projects

Free Spanish Worksheet: Los Tres Reyes Magos

Los Tres Reyes Magos by

Los Tres Reyes Magos by

January Sixth, or Epiphany, or in the Spanish speaking world el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos is almost here!  Los Tres Reyes Magos, or the three Wisemen, bring children presents and treats.  Sometimes they are put into a child’s shoe, and sometimes they are placed under the Christmas tree.

Download our free Tres Reyes gift to you, a Spanish coloring sheet.  Click here.

For more information on el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, search this site for the article from a couple of days ago.  Qué tenga un feliz día de los Tres Reyes Magos!

Free Mexican Holiday Recipes- La Nochebuena

December 24, 2008 · Posted in Mexican Culture, Spanish Vocabulary · Comment 
Fresh Mexican Spices for Christmas Dinner

Fresh Mexican Spices for Christmas Dinner

One of the most exciting of Hispanic holidays is La Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve.  All of the anticipation and preparation of the Christmas season or Las Navidades culminates in La Nochebuena. This is the time for your favorite dress and a new hairstyle, and when the best eavesdropping occurs as your aunts and cousins critique everyone’s outfits as they come through the door, steamy dishes in hand.

Parties of exteneded, multi-generational families gather with their own delecacies, and dressed and ready to go to church . . at midnight!  Or, often at 11 pm, the misa del gallo, lasts a full hour at least.  Families then return to the hosts’ and eat a rich meal full of the favorites of varying Hispanic cuisines.  I remember  a couple of baked turkeys accompanied by green chile and cheese tamales, a steamy pot of pozole stew, calabacitas casserole, and lots of chile con queso.

Buñuelos were also served, and sparingly.  They were perfect, cinammon dusted deep-fried cookies my mother got from nuns or elderly ladies who drove them to our house in the trunks of their cars.

In most Spanish speaking countries children open all of their presents on Christmas Eve, or La Nochebuena, and they get to look forward to a few more on Epiphany (Jan 6) when the three Wisemen, or los Tres Reyes, come into to their rooms to leave goodies in their shoes.

There isn’t a more wonderful night all year so full of family, food, faith, and fun!


  • La Nochebuena= Christmas Eve
  • La Misa del Gallo= Midnight Mass, or church service around that time
  • La Comida= the meal
  • Tamales de Chile, Queso, y Pollo= Chile, Cheese, and Chicken tamales
  • Pozole= hearty soup or stew of white hominy, green chile, and chicken or pork
  • Buñuelos- deep-fried, lacy cookies in a butterfly shape dusted by cinammon.  Often made by nuns.

Spanish Holiday Day of the Dead Lesson & Activities: Día de Muertos

October 30, 2008 · Posted in Mexican Culture, Mexico, Spanish Vocabulary · Comment 
Una Calavera (

Una Calavera (

Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is almost here.  Sound creepy?  Well, it’s not.  Some Americans, or really many people, mistakenly think that Día de los Muertos is a Mexican Halloween.  It’s not.  No lo es.

Día de los Muertos is the opposite of morbid and macabre.  It’s a spectacular, colorful, happy, but respectful time to honor loved ones who have passed away. Think Memorial Day to the thousandth power.

History of Día de Muertos

Día de Muertos is celebrated on November first and second.  When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico in the 1500′s, they came upon the native peoples, the Aztecs as one group, celebrating their dearly departed and the after life itself in August.  As the Spanish Roman Catholic missionaries made headway in Mexico, they combined the native memorial celebration with their own All Saints’ Day.  The dates for Día de Muertos evolved into the first two days of November.

Celebrations, Imagery, & Symbols

Mexicans have an ingenious way of combining symbols and adding a distinct humor to the heavy concept of death, or La Muerte. La Muerte is both personified and humorized into the dancing, laughing skeletons. The colors used on decorations, pastries, and candles are bright and contrasting.  Here is a little vocabulary.

Da de Muertos Vocabulary

  • death= la Muerte
  • candle= la vela
  • bread of the dead= el pan de muerto
  • candied skull= la calavera
  • decorative crepe paper hangings= papel picado
  • decorative memorial= la ofrenda
  • parade= el desfile

Read more description and detail about Day of the Dead and learn and practice basic Spanish within the context of Día de Muertos.

Dia de Muertos

Dia de Muertos

Learning Spanish Numbers & Conversation: Telephone Games & Activities

Practice Spanish Numbers & Telephone Conversations

Practice Spanish Numbers & Telephone Conversations

You’re on your cell so much every day like the rest of the world.  We all talk on our cell phones so much, why not try it en español? There is no better way to practice Spanish conversation and Spanish numbers. The spontaneous nature of phone calls without the visual cues of people’s faces and gestures makes them challenging, but fun.

Spanish Telephone Games: Fun Numbers and Conversation Activities
You can get lots of Spanish numbers and phone-calling practice in the e-book, Spanish Telephone Games: Fun Numbers and Conversation Activities. My former colleague French teacher, Diane Farrug and I created this e-book.  You’ll find all sorts of activities and games for Spanish numbers, cultural activities on phone-calling in Mexico, and sample Spanish phone conversations.

More learning Spanish and learning French e-books are coming from our partnership, Foreign Language House. Here’s the address for our e-books.

**This site won’t currently enable links; sorry you can’t just click on the address to get there now.

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