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Coffee Farm Spanglish
4 November 2007

Libro Some of our coffee pickers speak English, most speak only Spanish.  I took Spanish in high school but that was a long time ago and the Spanish I learned in school is a little different than the Spanish used on the coffee farm.  Here's a partial list of some of the more important words and phrases I need on the farm:

café - coffee - Obviously the most important word on a Kona coffee farm.  There may be more accurate words for distinguishing unpicked cherry from processed coffee but I simply use the word café for everything.  I do distinguish the different colors though.  Café rojo is ready to be picked, café verde still needs more time and café negro is old and needs to be thrown away.

piscar - to pick - My Spanish dictionary doesn't list this word.  I couldn't get any of the online translators to find it either.  It may be specific to Mexican coffee pickers, I don't know.  Whatever the case, they use the word so I do too.  It conjugates just like any other verb.
¿Cuántos piscadores están aquí hoy? - How many pickers are here today?
¿Es usted piscando solamente el café rojo? - Are you picking only the red coffee?

Costal costal - sack - There are two types of burlap bags:  vacío y lleno - empty and full.  I hand out empty bags, the pickers fill them up, then I collect the full bags.  Hence there are two phrases I find myself saying repeatedly:
¿Quién necesita otro costal vacío? - Who needs another empty bag?
¿Cuántos costal llenos usted tiene? - How many full bags do you have?

The burlap bags only last a few rounds before they're too ripped and rotten to reuse.  The pickers aren't happy when they spend all day picking a bag full of coffee then have the bottom of the bag rip open while loading it in the truck.  If it were up to the pickers they'd use a new bag every time.  The ripped and rotten bags are sometimes abandoned in the field where I discover them several months later wrapped tightly around my mower blades.  So I try to I inspect every bag before sending it back into circulation and I throw away the bad bags.  "Este costal es basura."

Hilo aguja y hilo - needle and thread - If the bags are only half full then they can be tied shut with a short length of string.  When the bags are stuffed to the bursting point that they need to be sewn shut with a needle and thread.  I try to keep careful track of the needles because they get lost easy and they're surprisingly expensive.  I also try to convince the pickers to not stuff their bags so full but my poor Spanish doesn't seem to be getting the point across.

Lluvia sol o lluvia - sun or rain - "No necessita trabajar en la lluvia."  I tell them they don't have to work in the rain but they're getting paid by the pound so ultimately the decision is theirs.  If it is a light rain or early in the season then the pickers will usually keep on picking.  If it is one of the super heavy tropical downpours we get then they will sometimes find shelter until the rain lets up.  When working in the rain it doesn't take long to get soaked to the bone.  When the hot sun comes out and you can be dry within an hour.  Then the rain comes back and soaks you to the bone again.  You certainly can't be a Kona coffee farmer if you're afraid of the rain.

raíz, rama, hoja - root, branch, leaf
arbol, línea, campo - tree, line, field
I think I learned the word for tree in high school Spanish class but I don't remember learning all the different parts of a tree.  I'm slowly learning the names for all the various parts of a coffee farm.  It's useful to be able to say things like:
Este campo tiene veinte tres lineas de árboles. - This field has twenty three rows of trees.

Of course there is plenty of Spanish slang to learn too.  I won't go into all the colorful words.  There are two rather important terms though:
compadre - cabrón - I'm either one or the other, depending on the day.




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