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Spanish in Mexico

It Could Lead to Dancing

The trickiest part of registering for Spanish language classes in Mexico is choosing one from among the many. “City of Eternal Spring” was the description that fired my imagination and drew me to Cuernavaca for two weeks.

Choosing the Spanish Language Institute was an ambitious commitment to independent study. Six hours of daily classes plus after-school assignments required discipline that would unhinge the fragile. The strict but smiling rule about Spanish being the only language spoken on campus initially created blinding frustration but eventually made linguists of us all. Optional activities included evening dance and cooking classes, Latin films, and café discussions. Half-day excursions were offered after classes. Fees for these were in addition to the $150 weekly tuition. Half-day excursions began at $14, full-day trips at $18; weekend tours were priced between $130 and $180 and included accommodations.

The school, housed in colonial-style facilities, is located in a residential area of Cuernavaca, one and one-half hours away from Mexico City. A driver will pick you up at the airport for $60. The economical alternative is the direct public bus, Pullman de Morelos ($10). Another option I recommend is negotiating a realistic fare to Cuernavaca with a taxi driver at the airport.

Staying with a Mexican family offers a cultural experience not easily acquired at hotels. Homestays range between $15 and $22 per person per day and include three meals. Standards vary dramatically. I suggest requesting accommodations in the home of Rosita Partida, the housing director. Her hacienda offers sumptuous surroundings and a short walk from the school. Or inquire about a private cottage within other family compounds.

The home of my adopted family even provided me with luxurious creature comforts. The inviting blue of a swimming pool sheltered by citrus and eucalyptus trees provided a languid atmosphere for sliding into workbooks or into reverie.

The diversity of the colorful characters who comprised the student body enlivened the disciplined days. Inspired by the wit and patience of the teaching staff, my energies were easily focused--Mexican delicacies literally became food for thought at the late morning break. Although familiar with the success of language immersion programs, I was astonished by my verbal proficiency within two weeks. With my newly acquired Spanish language skills, an additional three weeks of solitary travel was not daunting.

Daylight hours after classes were spent poring over the eclectic art collection at the William Brady museum or poking through the open air market, Centro Commercial, for heaps of medicinal herbs and buckets of flowers. Indigenous artists selling their handiwork beside Palacio de Cortes offer the best selection and deals on silver and textile goods. The Diego Rivera mural on the second floor of Palacio de Cortes provides an insightful pictorial history of the conquest of Morelos State. The Marco Polo, a restaurant popular with students, has balcony seating for observing the color of local life. La Strada offers inspiring classical music and big salads as well as pastas and pizza. The ultimate dining experience in Cuernavaca is Las Mananitas, located within the hotel of the same name. Sumptuous gardens contain sculptures by Francisco Zuniga, flamingos strolling with peacocks, and swans gliding on the pool. The food is splendid too. Entrees begin at $15.

For a balance of the mind and heart, the night life demands studious attention. At Zumbale, a steamy tropical setting which includes an indoor waterfall, couples fitted together like puzzle pieces flaunt their salsa moves. At Barba-Zul, American dance music pounds the night away. Harry’s Bar provides nostalgia for foreign students yearning for home and each other--though rumors about suspect ingredients in mixed drinks suggest that only bottled beverages are a safe bet.

Optional weekend excursions to archaeological and historical sites propelled me out of bed and into the school van by 9 a.m. We meandered throughout 2,000 years of history and its consequences, modern-day Mexico City. We witnessed grand European architecture built upon the foundation of an exotic Aztec civilization. Architectural feats of spiraling European churches competed with the stunning heights of Teotihuacan, predating the Aztec empire. The quiet beauty of hot springs at Las Estacas, the ancient ceremonial center of Xochicalo, the silver relics and picturesque ambiance of Taxco--all provided a stunning diversity of sights. The financial and logistical advantages of these treks in groups of four to eight persons outweighed any thoughts I had about herd-like excursions. Guided by the overview school trips provided, I subsequently visited Mexico City and Taxco on my own, fortified with information.

Classes are offered year round. Students range in age from 18 to 80. Kay Rafool at Language Link,, provided a smooth passage for registration, forwarding vital information by mail and cheerful answers by phone: (800) 552-2051, fax (309) 692-2926, or email:

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