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How to find some Latin spirit

April 26, 2011

Sadly no La Boca style flavour here, but look on the bright side, you're less likely to get knifed as you walk down the street

As a pasty Brit, I am clearly unqualified to write this post. However, as a hispanophile (that’s a word, right?), I have some experience in rooting out the pockets of Latino culture in Ginebra, as they call it.  Not for me attempted integration into Genevois culture a la Geneve Girl  – French lessons, cheese munching and yodelling. No no no.  I like to be wilfully contrary and insist on learning Spanish, eating empanadas and dancing tango. (Well, that’s a lie. I don’t dance except when very, very inebriated, in true British style).

In fact, it’s not at all hard to find. There are a LOT of Latinos here. Sometimes I hear more Spanish on the tram than French. Including the time when I overheard a rotund Mexican woman bitching about how big my suitcases were (seriously, I despair) only for me to turn round and smugly explain that I could understand her perfectly well thank you very much [insert florid Mexican slang here], and she should think before she bitched, next time. Ha. Living the dream. It’s the small victories that count, right?

So, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Jonction is probably the neighbourhood one could best describe as the Latin quarter. Plenty of Latino bars/cafes etc here.
  • Tierra Incógnita – I can’t recommend this place highly enough. Hidden away in the back streets of Plainpalais near MAMCO, it is a bookshop/cultural centre/language school/cafe/restaurant/bar all rolled into one. Friendly people, some excellent concerts and film screenings, and what’s more they sell empanadas and for those of you with an Argentine-style sweet tooth, alfajores.  Mean pisco sours too.
  • There’s a load of places you can do dance lessons in Geneva. For salsa, I’ve been recommended DAME-2.
  • For excellent Colombian arepas (cornbread stuffed with all sorts of goodies – an excellent hangover cure), go to the Carouge market at Place du Marché on a Saturday and seek out the lovely ladies just opposite the Bio cinema. Be prepared for a slow queue, but it’s worth it.
  • There’s a Latino bodega on Rue Caroline just near Pont des Acacias (Carouge side) – for mate, real corn tacos and other hard-to-find South American groceries.
  • Filmar – annual Latin American film festival, next edition in October/November
  • Noticias de Ginebra, en español
  • For Spanish lessons, if you work for the UN or an accredited NGO, the UN language school is the best bet.  Tierra Incógnita (see above) is a great option too, especially if evening classes suit you best. You can also do conversation classes there over lunch. Language tandems/intercambios are a great way to practice and can easily be arranged over Glocals (choose ‘Language Exchange’ under ‘Things to Do’).
I’ll add to this as I think of more things. Please comment with any suggestions!
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