Santa Ana, Manabi Province, Ecuador – The maps and online information spell this small city’s name with two words. Last week at high noon in the very-busy city of Portoviejo when I asked directions for Santa Ana, the locals asked back, “Donde?”
I repeated as clearly as possible, “Santa. Ana.”
“Arrrrrrriba Rio Portoviejo,” I described with hands and body English illustrating ‘up the Portoviejo River.’
“Oh!” one nice guard outside a bank smiled, “Santana!” and then walked me to the street, pointed left, told me to drive two blocks, take another left, then drive ‘muy largo’ —a long distance and —
I made an unspoken decision to drive that far and stop again to ask for directions.
Unable to take a left because of traffic cones and detour signs, I drove to the end, turned left, and a block later made another left turn. At the next block I turned right and drove until I reached a busy side street. One right turn and five houses later I saw a policeman. I parked, asked directions to Santa Ana and received the same baffled stare. “A donde?”
Learning quickly from my previous mistake, I shortened it to ‘Santana..’
“Oh! Santana!” he said while flattening his palm on his forehead as if to tap into his internal GPS system. He consulted his partner, who then pointed me straight ahead, said to turn left and drive until I reached the next traffic light… then a right at the next light, go until I crossed a bridge, and then something about a bus terminal…
After taking the next right and crossing a bridge that was way sooner than I expected, I rolled down my window at the next traffic light and asked the neighboring taxi for directions. He was too busy talking on his cell phone to reply…
“Santana?” I asked while stopped at the next light; a nice driver pointed me to veer right at the next intersection and said to drive past the terminal and keep going straight.. ‘Arrrrrrrrrrrriba’ Way on down the road…
Sounded easy, ‘Grrrrrrrracias,” I smiled, rolled up the window and followed his directions.
Uh oh… those directions took me past the terminal and the popular shopping mall. I knew that the outgoing road would take me to Montechristi, not Santa Ana. I asked two pedestrians crossing at the next light. They smiled and pointed in the opposite direction!
Making a legal U-turn, and headed back in the other direction, saw two people having lunch at a sidewalk cafe. I parked, got out, said the customary, ‘Buen Provecho!” and then confessed that I was a little bit lost and trying to go to Santana.…
They smiled, pointed in the direction I was heading and said, ‘Keep going straight….”
Which is what I did for the next 30 minutes…
Since that Driving 101 lesson, I have asked many Ecuadorians, “What is the correct way to pronounce Santa Ana.” If one could hit a pause button and slow down the audio, there is probably a very subtle hiccup between the two words, but it is difficult for me to hear those nuances.
I hear, “Santana.”
“Like the musician, Carlos Santana?” I asked one person.
“Yes! Exactly!” she laughed.
Those of you who guessed, “Poza Honda” on the last post – you were right! The bird, however, was not a gallinule….
Next Lesson? Can you pronounce these words?