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noun (ah-BWEH-loh / ah-BWEH-lah)


Your abuela is the mamá of your mamá or papá, and your abuelo is the papá of your mamá or papá… in other words, these two words mean grandmother and grandfather. “Abue” is a common nickname for grandparents, like “grannie” or “grandpa.” A great grandfather is called a bisabuelo, and a great great grandmother is called a tatarabuela. Can you guess what a great grandmother and a great great grandfather are called?


noun, masculine (ah-peh-YEE-doh)


In Spanish, people don’t have a “first” name and a “last” name, they have a nombre (or several nombres) and two apellidos. What, you say? Two? Why two? Well, you know how sometimes people ask you what your mother’s maiden name is? In Mexico (and many other Spanish-speaking countries), your mother’s maiden name would be your second last name, or apellido materno (maternal last name), while your father’s last name would be your first last name, or apellido paterno (paternal last name). So, for Luca’s official name, Luz O’Reilly Morales, the O’Reilly is not a middle name, as we might imagine, but her father’s last name, and Morales is her mother’s last name. Traditionally, the father’s last name goes first, and the mother’s last name goes last, but some states in Mexico, including Guanajuato, where our story takes place, are now allowing the order to be reversed—which just goes to show that nothing is set in stone! Also, not everyone has a mother and a father, so there are exceptions to the rule.


Another thing that’s different in Mexico than in the U.S. with how last names work is what happens when you get married. Nowadays, the most common practice is for women to keep their last name exactly the same as on their birth certificate. But traditionally, and at the time our story takes place, when women got married they would adopt a nombre de casada, or married name. For this they would keep their paternal last name, or apellido paterno, drop their maternal last name, or apellido materno, and then add their husband’s paternal last name—tacking it on to the end with a “de” (of). This is why Luca’s mom’s married name is “Mrs. Morales de O’Reilly”, and her aunt’s name is “Mrs. Morales de Flores.” It’s common for people to introduce themselves only with their paternal last name for simplicity (that’s why we call Luca’s dad Mr. O’Reilly only), but all official documents will ask for both names.


How does your last name work? If you had been born in Mexico at the time of our story, what would your last names be? How about your parents’ last names?


noun, masculine (ah-POH-doh)


Luca’s first name is Luz, but her family nicknamed her “Luca” after her great grandpa or bisabuelo. This makes "Luca" her apodo, or nickname. She also has a second apodo, La Chiquita Picosa! Apodos are very common and popular in Mexico, and they aren’t always as loving as Luca’s! Some nicknames are meant to be funny or to call attention to a personal trait, and most have a story behind them. They often start with the article “el” or “la,” like El Ciclón (the Cyclone). What are some nicknames at your school or in your family? Have you ever had a nickname you liked or one that bothered you?

Arena Modelo

proper noun (KAH-tah)


This famous arena in the Colonia Doctores neighborhood of Mexico City was originally used for boxing matches, until professional wrestling promoter Salvador Lutteroth converted it into the main arena in the capital for lucha libre. After a very successful ten years (1933 to 1943), the venue became too small to accommodate the huge crowds attending matches, so Lutteroth built the Arena Coliseo in downtown Mexico City with money he won in the lottery, and the Arena Modelo became the location for his wrestling school, instead. With time, even the Arena Coliseo proved too small to accommodate fans, so an even bigger aren, the Arena México, was built in 1956 in the location of where Arena Modelo once stood. The Arena México is still, to date, the largest arena for lucha libre in the country!


noun, masculine (ah-TOH-leh)


Atole (from the Náhuatl atolli) is a delicious hot drink of Mesoamerican origin made from cornstarch. It is sweetened with sugar or piloncillo (unrefined brown sugar that comes in a solid block) and is often flavored with cinnamon, chocolate, anise, vanilla, and other flavors. When it is flavored with chocolate, it is also known as champurrado.


noun, masculine or feminine (kah-REE-nyoh)


Cariño is a term of endearment like “dear” or “sweetie.” Cariño also means a cuddle, caress, or care and love (in which case it's a masculine noun: el cariño). If you need some love and attention, you can say necesito cariño.


proper noun (KAH-tah)


The town of Cata (or Mineral de Cata) is on the outskirts of the city of Guanajuato (though today the city has grown so much it's practically part of the city). It is the location of an important mine that was owned and operated in the 1800s by the British company that hired Luca’s Irish great grandfather, the United Mexican Mining Company. Cata is also home to a beautiful church, the Templo del Señor de Villaseca, built in the 1700s with pink stone in the churrigueresque style (a very, very ornate Mexican style of architecture based on Spanish baroque architecture).


noun (chee-KEE-tah / chee-KEE-toh)


Common term of endearment that means “little one.” When it’s referring to Luca, it’s doubly appropriate as Luca’s apodo is La Chiquita Picosa!


noun, feminine (koh-MEE-dah)


Comida means food in general, but also refers specifically to the main meal that is served in the middle of the day, usually between 1 and 4 p.m. It’s like lunch in the U.S., but it’s the largest meal of the day and served a bit later. This is why, traditionally, after eating the comida you’d have to take a siesta to digest!


noun, masculine (deh-POHR-teh)


Deporte means sport. Some of the most popular sports in Mexico, besides lucha libre, of course, include futbol (soccer), box (boxing), and béisbol (baseball).

Distrito Federal

place name, masculine (ehl dees-TREE-toh feh-deh-RAHL)


When Mexico gained its independence from Spain, its first constitution designated it as a republic with 31 states and a federal district, or Distrito Federal (D.F. for short), as the capital. The Distrito Federal was home to the country's executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and was not defined as a state so that no one state would hold a higher position above the others (similar to Washington D.C.). However, in 2016 D.F. was renamed Ciudad de México (Mexico City, or CDMX for short), and it became a 32nd federal entity with its own constitution. It still serves as the capital of the nation.

Enchiladas Mineras

noun, feminine (ehn-chih-LAH-dahs mee-NEH-rahs)


This delicious and filling dish dates back to colonial times in Mexico, when miners needed a hearty lunch to get through a full day of grueling work! Since then, it has become a favorite in Guanajuato for locals and tourists alike. Download our recipe to try it out at home.


adjective or noun, male (ehk-soh-tee-koh)


In lucha libre, an exótico is a male luchador who fights in drag or in feminine costume, subverting masculine stereotypes. Exótico luchadores first appeared in the 1940s and were seen as playfully challenging traditional macho roles in Mexican culture. Not all luchadores who perform as exóticos are gay, but they often are, although most kept this secret until the 1980s. Most exóticos fight as rudos, not técnicos, and are very popular with audiences.


noun, masculine (ee-tah-KAH-teh)


A portion of food that is packed up to take on a trip, to work, or to school. After a party, hosts will often offer guests an itacate so they can take home leftovers. The name comes from the Nahuatl word itacatl, meaning provisions for travel.

La Revolución Mexicana

noun, feminine ((lah rreh-voh-loo-SYOHN meh-hee-KAH-na)

100 years after Mexico started fighting for its independence from Spain, Mexico had a national revolution to liberate itself from the rule of Porfirio Díaz, a ruler who declared himself president 8 times in a row, ruling Mexico for over 30 years. His rule was known for civil repression, foreign investment, and concentrating prosperity in the hands of the wealthy, including the creation of huge plantations called hacendados that made it impossible for smaller rural farmers to make a living. Since the Revolution, presidents in Mexico can only serve one six-year term.



noun, feminine (mee-HEE-tohs)


Supper, or a light meal or snack usually eaten in the early evening between lunch and dinner. It has it’s own verb, merendar, as in “¿cuando vamos a merendar?” (When are we going to have supper?)


noun (mee-HEE-tohs)


This contraction of mis hijitos, which means “my little children,” is a term of affection used by parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents alike. You don’t have to be related by blood to use the term! Friends of the family, godparents, neighbors, or anyone else wanting to refer to children lovingly will use this term.


noun, feminine (RAH-yah)


If you’re studying Spanish, you might know that raya means “stripe” or “line,” but in this case it refers to the payment manual laborers such as farm workers, masons, and miners receive on a weekly basis. The term was informally adopted from the name for the infamous stores called tiendas de raya that existed on haciendas throughout Mexico. (Haciendas were large estates that served as plantations, factories, or mines.) 


The tiendas de raya were stores run by the hacienda owners where workers could buy food, clothes, and other provisions for credit against their wages, or by paying with special coins or money minted by the hacienda owner that could not be used anywhere else. Goods in the stores were often sold for very high prices, and workers’ wages were very low, so workers would end up owing so much money to the store that they could never pay it back! The bosses then had control over the workers, effectively making them into indentured servants or slaves that could not leave the hacienda. But why were the stores called “tiendas de raya,” you ask? Since most workers did not know how to read and write, they would sign with a line (una raya) instead of a signature.

In our story, Luca’s dad, Mr. O’Reilly, works in the mine offices in Guanajuato, and is in charge of taking the money for payments to the foreman (el capataz) of the mine in Cata. The reason Mr. O’Reilly travels to Cata on Saturdays is that Saturday is the last day of the 6-day work week, the day workers receive their payment.


noun, feminine (rrah-dyoh-noh-VEH-lah)


Before television existed (and even after), radio series like today’s soap operas were a great source of family entertainment. In Spanish these radio series are called radionovelas. The first radionovela in Mexico came out in 1932 and was based on The Three Musketeers. The golden age of radionovelas in Mexico started in 1941 with the series “Ave sin nido” ("Bird without a Nest"), Luca’s aunt’s favorite program!


adjective, masculine (rrahn-CHEH-roh)

A rancho is a farm, so ranchero refers to things that come from a farm, like the delicious ranchero cheese, or queso ranchero,  that tastes so good on top of the enchiladas mineras that Luca and her mom prepare for the hostel guests in Chapter 6.


Señora - Señorito
SEÑORA / SEñor / SEñoritA / Señorito

nouns, feminine and masculine (seh-NYOHR-ah / seh-NYOHR / seh-nyoh-REE-tah / seh-nyoh-REE-toh)

Traditionally, señoras and señores are married and señoritas and señoritos are single. All four terms were originally meant to indicate someone of a higher social class, though in present times this distinction has faded, with one exception. Though the term señorita is now commonly used to refer to any young woman, referring to a young man as a señorito is a direct reference to his social status, and often in a mocking way, as in a young man who is well-off and lazy because he has not had to work for a living.


When Luca’s mother says Luca will be a señorita soon, she is not only saying that she will soon grow from being a girl to being a young woman, but also that she expects more "refined" and "proper" behavior from her, based on the societal expectations of the time (many of which are still in place today). Do you feel there are roles and behaviors that are expected of you based on your gender?


Si No A lo mejor

(see / noh / ah-loh-meh-HOHR)

Yes, no, and maybe: among the most useful words you can learn in another language! Don't forget to put the accent mark on the sí or it will mean "if." "Si le quitas el acento, ya no quiere decir sí." (If you remove the accent, it no longer means yes.)



noun, feminine (sohl-dah-DEH-rah)

Soldaderas were women who participated in military duties during the Mexican Revolution, including combat, cooking, and nursing. A few came to hold positions of command and were referred to as coronelas or generalas (coronels and generals), though no formal ranks actually existed in the revolutionary army. Soldaderas were also known as adelitas, most likely due to Adela Velarde Pérez, a nurse from Ciudad Juárez who inspired a famous song about the Revolution.


Soldaderas were more common in the north, where Pancho Villa led the fighting, than in the south, where Emiliano Zapata led the fighting, because in the south the revolutionary forces could often take refuge in villages instead of having to set up camp. This shows how, even when breaking gender norms, the participation of soldaderas in the revolution was still largely limited to what was considered “women’s work,” including providing company for male soldiers. Some soldaderas disguised themselves as men in order to be able to participate in direct combat while avoiding discrimination and harrassment.

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