Mexican Spanish class offers more than the basics

Cetlalic alternative schoolBY JULIA STEINECKE

Our teacher, Lety, is a sturdy butch with a ready smile. She stands beside a whiteboard and covers it with words and pictures that illustrate Mexico’s derogatory but colorful gay and lesbian slang. Mariposa is the word for butterfly and for a gay man. Lesbians are thought to wear only blue jeans, so their nickname is Levi’s in Spanish, Livais — and, more specifically, quinientos uno, for the original 501 style.

I never thought I’d learn these things in a classroom, but this is no ordinary Spanish class. Cetlalic, or the Tlahuica Centre for Language and Cultural Exchange, takes its name from the city’s original inhabitants, whose own language is seriously endangered. The center was founded in 1987 as an alternative to the mainstream schools that were drawing thousands of tourists to Cuernavaca.

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