Today we have a story in which a young child learns about other cultures. He also learns about friendship, togetherness, and world peace, but not until EPCOT Center opens. No, this story takes place way in the past, and the young child is me.
Let me ask you a question that I think I know the answer to. Did many of you, as young children growing up on a yearly diet of Walt Disney World, ever collect park maps? I think you probably did. And if you were like me, you spent your formative years hiding in your room, poring over every little inch of marketing blurb, trying not to think about what the kids at school were saying about you, or wondering why mommy always had that worried frown on her face whenever she caught you tracing that logo for Adventureland (the cool one, with Shere Khan in it) .
|Seriously! Shere Khan! How’s that for a rare character these days?|
At the time, we just had the one park, so I had a nice tidy collection of Magic Kingdom guide maps. You kids may not realize it, but these were actually booklets — stapled and everything — and each land had its own page, and each shop and each ride and each restaurant actually had a sentence of two describing what it was. There would be a whole section devoted to photo tips, to let you know what speed you should shoot for fireworks, and where you could buy film, and even how to get it developed (do not worry if you didn’t understand any of that last sentence. Digital technology ruins everything).
When you go to the park as kids, you tend to focus on the rides, and ignore shops and restaurants. Not so at home, when it is just as fun to read the marketing copy for the New Century Clock Shop as it was to read the blurb for Space Mountain. One day while reading the map, I found a little restaurant in Adventureland that I had never heard of before. In fact, it seemed to be written in a language I had never heard before. It was called El Pirata Y El Parico and it is here that my journey begins.
There were many other shops and locales surrounding this restaurant on the map, many of which featured “Spanish curios,” and so I used my awesome powers of deduction to learn that this new language was probably Spanish, and I also began to develop a vague understanding of what a curio was (which I think is something like cross between a “curiosity” and an “oreo”).
|In case you were wondering, the Spanish version of disney.com does not translate the restaurant name into English. It also doesn’t translate “Blast-off Burger” into Spanish.|
Since the restaurant was was across the street from Pirates of the Caribbean, it was not too far a leap to guess that “Pirata” was the Spanish word for “pirate.” I’m not joking when I say I decoded this restaurant title like a cryptogram. It was a shorter step still to figure out that “El” meant “The“, and a breathtaking leap of logic to understand that “Y” meant “And.”
For the longest time, the “Parico” eluded me. But at some point I stumbled across a picture of the sign (maybe I even saw it in the park), and finally guessed at the last word. At last I had the whole picture of what this restaurant was about. The Pirate and the Parrot!
And after all that, what did any of this have to do with hot dogs?
|Sure, it’s tacos now, but back then…|
Anyway, I share all this with you because last week El Pirata Y El Parico opened under a new name: Tortuga Tavern. This obviously ties in with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and maybe they’re hoping it will engender some goodwill towards the restaurant (restaurante), since normally it never stays open past the afternoon parade.
|Whoops, scratch that idea. This was shot at dinner time at the “new” Tortuga Tavern.|
Think of all the learning that has been lost. Now kids will never know the pleasure of decoding foreign languages in theme park guide maps, and some day blogging about such sad activities to a vast audience of potential hecklers. A bit of mystery has been lost from Adventureland.
On the other hand, maybe Disney is not as careless about such lost opportunities as it appears.
|Same sign as above, only this time from inside looking out towards Pirates. Hey, wait a second…|
By the way, all my code cracking skills as a kid were not up to parsing shop names as cryptic as “Mlle. Lafayette’s Parfumerie,” which once graced the storefronts of Liberty Square. Do you realize how old I was before I finally figured out what the heck “Mlle.” stood for? It was after High School, I’ll tell you that. And no, it is not “Milliam.”