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Latin American Spanish Greeting

SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- I was privy to learn a new greeting in Latin America the hard way: “Where is the mother?” a man asked me as I was walking through the streets with my baby Petra in my arms. What!?! does this guy think that I am not capable of going for a walk alone [...]

SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- I was privy to learn a new greeting in Latin America the hard way: “Where is the mother?” a man asked me as I was walking through the streets with my baby Petra in my arms.

What!?! does this guy think that I am not capable of going for a walk alone with my own baby?

No, he was just saying hello.

A more personal greeting that hola, buenas, or adios in Latin America is to look at you squarely, and without any prior introduction, ask you where someone is that they know you are associated with. I suppose this greeting is to say, “Hey, I know you. I know you so well, in fact, that I know that your family, your wife, your children, and I am going to show you that I know you by asking where these people are.” This seems to be a greeting of endearment. It is my impression that this is a way to say that I am a part of the community, that I am known. And being known in Latin America is to have a place, and a sense of place is a novel thing for a traveler to posses.

So when I walk down the streets of Suchitoto alone, people call out to me, “Where is your baby?” When I am with my baby they call out, “Where is the mother?”

They are not worried that I may have misplaced my family members somewhere, they are not implying that my loved ones have given me the slip, no, they are just saying hello.

Filed under: Central America, El Salvador, Intercultural Conflict, Language

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • Bessie May 10, 2010, 2:45 am

    Great story! We visited Suchitoto for a few days – it was charming and like most of El Salvador, the people are incredible. Thanks for writing.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 10, 2010, 11:27 pm

      Hello Bessie,

      Thanks for getting in touch! We appreciate it.

      Walk Slow,

      Wade

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  • Halong Kayaking Tours December 21, 2010, 11:45 pm

    Compare how you think the gestures and body language of Navtive spanish people are similar and different from English when greeting someone or saying goodbuy.

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  • hen weekend in barcelona June 1, 2011, 5:30 am

    This summer i am planning on going to a spanish speaking country to improve on my spanish skills. So far i have been taking 3 years of spanish, so i know the basics pretty well. I want to know the difference between a homestay program and spanish language school program. And what would be better? Thank you

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    • Wade Shepard June 1, 2011, 7:52 am

      It all depends on the quality of the school and instruction as well as your attribute for acquiring languages and your current level. Most homestay programs also includes school instruction, so that it is what they have dubbed, “total immersion.”

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