Spanish Word of the Day Archive
Monday September 9, 2013

araucaria, noun:
monkey puzzle tree

The araucaria araucana or monkey puzzle tree is a fascinating tree. The national tree of Chile, it was beloved of Victorian gardeners and can be seen in many parks and gardens. Its English name has no connection with its original habitat, since no monkeys live within range. The name stuck after someone said ‘It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.’
Its Spanish name, araucaria, derives from the name the Spaniards gave to the indigenous inhabitants of Chile, araucanos. The current term for these indigenous peoples is mapuche. The legendary Chilean singer and songwriter, Violeta Parra, referred to the araucaria in one of her most powerful last songs ‘Maldigo del Alto Cielo’ I curse the heavens above:

Maldigo a la solitaria Figura de la bandera, Maldigo cualquier emblema, La Venus y la araucaria, el trino de la canaria ...
I curse the solitary Figure of the flag, I curse any emblem, Venus and the araucaria, The trill of the canary ...

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