Did Don Juan speak Spanish? (Carlos Castaneda)
Thread poster: Stephanie Wloch

Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:59
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
May 23, 2005

Hi all Spanish translators out there!
When I first read a book of Castaneda it was nothing but absorbing and I really thought that all encounters with Don Juan were real.

But if you read about Castaneda there are some doubts about that.
Maybe it is interesting enough to focus on the language aspects

1. What are the Spanish translations like? Are they (linguistically) consistent?
I remember the dialogues (German version) as a bit overblown.
2. Did Don Juan spoke Spanish?

Last question because of this conclusion:
"Castaneda has Don Juan employ English/American slang and English/American idioms that have no equivalent in the Spanish language, which is indeed a serious problem if Don Juan only spoke Spanish to Castaneda, which is what Castaneda himself tells us. The absence of original field notes is also a problem for those of us who like to have something called evidence."

I am looking forward to your answers.

Con gracias anticipadas

Stephanie Wloch

[Edited at 2005-05-23 21:23]

[Edited at 2005-05-23 21:55]

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Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 06:59
Don Juan probably spoke simple Mexican Spanish May 26, 2005

If Castaneda's account is to be believed, Don Juan was from the Yaqui tribe. They have two main groups, one in Mexico and one near where I live in the US. They do speak Spanish as well as their native Yaqui. The younger members of the tribe in the US also speak English, because they attend American schools. The USA Yaqui version of Spanish may have English words mixed in. Usually these are names of common objects or concepts, but only the young ones know and use English slang.

In 1960, when Castaneda claimed to have met Don Juan, an old Yaqui man from the border regions would be very unlikely to speak fluent Spanish - that generation had not been forced to go to school and had never been formally taught Spanish. In the 1980s, an old Yaqui man I was talking to spoke only simple Spanish and we had to use his grandson to translate some of the Yaqui words into Spanish or English for me.

I am one of those who thinks Castaneda invented the sorcery and drugs.

As anecdotal evidence, I can provide some information: I asked an old Yaqui healer about Castaneda and he dismissed it as "cuentas de hadas" (fairy tales). The old man was an acquaintance of mine for more than five years before he would talk about healing practices with me. Even then he discusses them only in general terms, never mentioning specific ceremonies of his tribe, and never asking me about specific ceremonies - we trade herbal remedies and he has never mentioned the religious herbs, just the medical ones.

That makes me doubt that Castaneda could meet a Yaqui in 1960 and have any sort of knowledge about hallucinogenic drugs or sorcery by 1965. Shamans don't acquire apprentices in bus stations, they carefully evaluate them over a period of years before issuing the invitation.

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Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:59
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
very pleased with this insider's comment Jun 1, 2005

Muchisimas gracias, Tsu!
I am very pleased with your answer. More than I hoped:
the view of someone who met Yaqui people AND
asked them about Castaneda.
"Cuentas de hadas!"

Shamans don't acquire apprentices in bus stations.

That one convinced me!

The same unbelievable situations like in "Mutant Message from Down Under" (Marlo Morgan). A very interesting critique:

In conclusion; Marlo Morgan, you owe the Aboriginal peoples of Australia a big apology accompanied by the donation of all your considerable income from this venture to the cause of Aboriginal Health and Land Rights.
Chris Sitka
PS: In 1996 a group of Aboriginal elders, seriously disturbed by the book's implications, received a grant to travel to the States and confront Marlo Morgan about her book and to try to prevent a Hollywoodisation of it. She admitted publicly that she had faked it but this received little publicity in the USA. The Aboriginal people are very angry that this book continues to be promoted and sold widely because it gives a very false picture of their traditional culture and of their current political and social status. This is very damaging to their very real struggle for survival.

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Did Don Juan speak Spanish? (Carlos Castaneda)

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