The only famous people I could give two hoots about serendipitously meeting here in Colombia are a very small number of politicians I respect and a few writers. Well, Shakira too (and her adorable son), but I’m never going to run into her in Bogotá. So, when Antanas Mockus (ex-mayor of Bogotá, defeated presidential candidate when I was here four years ago), who’s like a rock star for me, arrived at the polling station on Sunday with his mother just as my roommate and I were leaving, I was in awe. I was very happy to listen to him talk for a few minutes and then bashfully shake his hand.
As I went around afterward blasting those two hoots, I was a little unsure of how to best express what had happened. I shook his hand, but in Spanish you don’t use any of the verbs for shake: sacudir, temblar, agitar, menear.
A handshake is un apretón de manos. A hand squeeze. But could I say le apreté la mano? Nos apretamos la mano? Nos dimos un apretón de manos? The last thing I wanted to do was ruin my exploit by expressing it in some terribly nerdy way, but I was all thumbs.
The most recent book I read in Spanish was published in 1867, so I’ve got quite a bit of antique Spanish rattling around my brain. And since it was a tragic (and quite chaste) love story, everything was tearful embraces, fervent claspings of hands and impassioned grips that led nowhere between Efraín and María. The verb constantly used that I thus had emblazoned on my brain? Estrechar. I did tell one carful of friends I ran into that le estreché la mano a Mockus, but I felt kind of literary.
And then, by listening, I realized that it’s the simplest thing in the world: you can just say dar la mano. Oh. Le di la mano a Mockus. Nos dimos la mano. I shook Mockus’ hand (well, gave him mine and sort of made him shake it, really–the Spanish is more accurate here). We shook hands. Too easy.
As it turns out, all of these are perfectly valid ways of saying to shake someone’s hand in Spanish. But what are you doing shaking hands? This is the land of the (single) cheek kiss, ¡aprovecha!
I don’t have a picture, and, yes, I know this doesn’t make up for my girl-who-cried-wolf faux pas from the last post. Sorry to be a tease and ultimately all blog and no action. Mea culpa. While we’re on the subject, here are some other famous hands around town lately.