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Easy Patterns for Getting by in Spanish

Learn Spanish

Learn Spanish

I want to share with you a handy conversation pattern that you can add to your Spanish repertoire today.

It’s an easy pattern that helps you get-by in the language.

I call it a conversation pattern because you can use it to say a lot with a little.

In Synergy Spanish you can use conversation patterns to make as many as 88,000 phrases from
just 138 words.

The great thing about patterns like this is that as well as being authentic everyday Spanish, they feel natural and familiar to English speakers.

You can use them right away.

Here’s today’s pattern.

Estoy a punto de cumplir cincuenta años.
I am about to turn fifty years old.

Estoy a punto de tener un fiesta.
I am about to have a party.

Estoy a punto de hacer las decoraciones.
I am about to make the decorations.

All you do is attach a verb to estoy a punto de and you’re speaking with real Spanish sentences.

Estoy a punto de hablar más español.
I am about to speak more Spanish.

See how natural those phrases feel?

That’s because it’s an everyday conversation pattern.

Conversation patterns are powerful and easy to speak with.

These speaking patterns allow you to take just 138 words and make as many as 88,000 Spanish phrases.

There’s no faster or easier way to get by in the language than starting with these speaking patterns.

Synergy Spanish is filled with conversation patterns like these.

And when you are ready, you can take your Spanish into the real world and speak confidently with your amigos.

Why don’t you add a new dimension to your life by getting by in Spanish the easiest and fastest way possible?

Marcus Santamaria
Spanish Communication Coach

Mexicali Drug Tunnel to U.S. Found!

Calexico Drug Tunnel House

Calexico Drug Tunnel House

U.S. authorities on Wednesday seized a cross-border tunnel that ran the length of four football fields from a restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico, to a newly-built house in Calexico, California, following an investigation that netted more than a ton of marijuana and resulted in four arrests.

The drug raid has started with Mexican police entering El Sarape restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico, and capturing two men, Zuleth Yesennia Duarte Medina and A‎drián Guadalupe Armendáriz. El Sarape is located on Bravo 140, Centro, 21000 Mexicali, B.C., Mexico with a telephone number of +52 686 554 2287.

Prosecutors say the first tunnel shipment occurred Feb. 28, leading to the seizure of 1,350 pounds of marijuana in Los Angeles.

The tunnel was the 12th completed secret passage that U.S. authorities have discovered along California’s border with Mexico since 2006. They have found more than 75 along the entire U.S.-Mexico border in the last five years, mostly in California and Arizona—many of them incomplete.

“This house and tunnel were constructed under the watchful eye of law enforcement,” said Laura Duffy, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California. “For the builders, the financiers and the operators of these passageways, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We will seize your drugs and your tunnel before you even have a chance to use it.”
Two men were arrested Wednesday in Calexico—one at the tunnel house and another at a house believed to have been used to store drugs—and charged drug trafficking crimes, authorities said. Two women were arrested Tuesday in Arizona, including the purchaser of the Calexico house.

A fifth suspect has been arrested regarding the drug tunnel in Calexico. His name is Agustin Enrique Cruz. He has been indicted on five counts, including construction, financing and use of a tunnel, money laundering, maintaining drug related premises, among other counts.

Homeland Security Investigations said another house and a warehouse in Calexico were designated to store marijuana until drivers could take the drugs farther north.
Cruz along with a co-conspirator traveled from Arizona to Calexico on several occasions throughout November 2014 and December 2014. In January 2014 Cruz and the co-conspirator found the property on Dool Avenue and Third Street in Calexico and purchased it for $240,000.

On June 18, 2015, based on the wiretap, the co-conspirators discussed the funds needed to construct a house on the property. On July 28, 2015, it was determined the cost would be $86,000. In September 2015 agents saw Cruz and the co-conspirator at the property on Third Street.

During a court authorized wiretap over Cruz’s phone, agents intercepted calls where Cruz and his father discussed the conditions inside the tunnel, which had become operational at that point.

Two of the other suspects arrested in Calexico, Joel Duarte Medina and Manuel Gallegos Jiminez, were in court on Thursday, March 26, 2016, but did not enter a plea.

Brad Pitt’s film “Dr. Q” Tells the True Story of an Illegal Immigrant Turned Famous Neurosurgeon

Born in the tiny village of Palaco, just outside of Mexicali, Mexico, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa was the oldest of five children in his family. Quiñones-Hinojosa crossed into the United States illegally in 1987 when he was only 19 and began working on farms near Fresno, California in order to earn enough money to afford English lessons.

Brad Pitt as Dr. Q. and the real Dr. Q.

From there, he attended San Joaquin Delta College and completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley with the school’s highest honors. Next, he earned a degree from Harvard Medical School with honors and became a U.S. citizen.

Today, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa is known simply as Dr. Q, the internationally renowned neurosurgeon and neuroscientist who leads a cutting-edge research to cure brain cancer.

In his memoir, Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa tells his amazing life story-from his impoverished childhood Mexico, to his harrowing border crossing and his rising from being an illegal immigrant to an American citizen and gifted student at the University of California at Berkeley and at Harvard Medical School.

Packed with adventure and adversity-including a few terrifying brushes with death- before becoming Dr. Q it is a story about the importance of family, of mentors, and of giving people a chance.
His success story is as improbable as it is traditionally “American.”

Now Brad Pitt, partnering with Disney, is developing a movie based on Quiñones-Hinojosa’s life. Pitt will play the lead role of Dr. Q.

Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who have been working on the film since 2007 and have recruited Matthew Lopez to write the script. Interest in the project came about when studio executives heard Dr. Q’s story on a radio program.

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, is now the Director of the Brain Tumor Surgery Center at Johns Hopkins.

There’s plenty more to discover about Dr. Q now, thanks to the forthcoming movie and his book, available on Amazon, Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon.


Imperial Valley Desert Museum – Ocotillo, California

Imperial Valley Desert Museum

Imperial Valley Desert Museum

Saturday, January 23, Jim and I visited the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. It’s just south from Highway I-8 at the Ocotillo exit.

What an unexpected surprise! The museum is a first-class place, and much larger, at 10,000 square feet, than we had expected. The exhibits were as professional as any we had seen, and that even goes for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Neal Hitch, the Executive Director and person in charge, has done a really great job!

The artifacts housed and on display at the museum come from field classes conducted by the Imperial Valley College along with survey and data collection projects and private donations dating way back to the 1970s.

Native Americans have lived in the region around the museum for over 9,000 years, and originally they spoke a common language, Core Yuman which has now evolved into ten languages. Many artifacts of the early native Americans who lived in the area, and who still live in the area, today, are on display.

For those who don’t know, Imperial County has a population of 176,584. The county is an agricultural area growing 2.6 billion pounds of lettuce annually and is home to 51,000 beehives. We found that out at the museum.

Museum Exhibit

Museum Exhibit

Inside the museum, there are many exhibits which are of interest to everybody, from researchers to students to adults and to children. There is really something for everybody—even a gift shop.

Computers are available, along with telescopes and even a library for children. This is the place for a family outing.

Part of the museum is dedicated to the curation, study and preservation of artifacts. This is, of course, of prime interest, not only to scientists, but to local educational institutions, as well.

Area for study, preparation and curation of artifacts

Area for study, preparation and curation of artifacts

Internet computers and telescopes are available

Internet computers and telescopes are available

Ideas for new activities for the museum range from hikes and off-roading trips with experts, to live webcams to watch desert wildlife; designing walking trails and signs on the museum’s property.

The museum has purchased (and is still purchasing) much of the surrounding land, and will be setting up trails and other outside exhibits and activities. The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is well on its way to becoming a major site, not just locally, but for the entire state of California and beyond.

The museum has many activities. Here are some that are coming up in the very new future:

  • Saturday, February 6: FriendRaiser, Dinner with an Expert: Nicholas Clapp “ld Magic”: 5-8pm. $30 per person.
  • Thursday, February 18: State of the County address. 6:00pm On Thursday, February 18, the 2016 State of the County Address will be held at the museum. The keynote speaker will be Chairman Jack Terrazas. This is a great opportunity for the county to see the results of the work the Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society has been working toward for nearly 40 years.
  • February 26—March 6: Imperial Valley Expo, Mid-Winter Fair.

Address: 11 Frontage Rd, Ocotillo, CA 92259

Contact information:
PO Box 2455
El Centro,
CA 92244, (760) 358-7016, Website:

Museum Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 10-3pm Monday-Tuesday: Closed

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Gift shop

Gift shop

Items being prepared in curator's area

Items being prepared in curator’s area

Interactive exhibit

Interactive exhibit








Address: 11 Frontage Rd, Ocotillo, CA 92259


Cartels Killing Mexico’s Mayors

On January 2, 2016, hired killers from the Los Rojos cartel set off for the home of 33-year-old Gisela Mota, the first female mayor of Temixco. The killers smashed the front door open and, in front of her terrified family, they beat and shot her several times, killing her.

The cartels are now fighting for political to control towns and rob the their resources.

Arturo Beltrán Leyva

Arturo Beltrán Leyva

Morelos State had long been used by drug lord Arturo Beltrán Leyva to fly in cocaine from Colombia before taking it north. In 2009, American D.E.A. agents located Mr. Beltrán Leyva’s whereabouts. The D.E.A. informed the Mexican marines who, in an attack, killed Beltrán Leyva and four of his men.

Without their leader, men who had worked for Beltrán Leyva formed their own splinter cartels, including Los Rojos and Guerreros Unidos, and went on a killing rampage. The two cartels now fight over turf in Morelos and neighboring Guerrero State, leaving piles of bodies.

These new cartels continue to traffic drugs, but have also used their assassins to get involved in Mexico’s local politics – including  contracts for valuable building projects, the right to name the town police chiefs and forcing mayors to give them 10 percent of their budgets. In this way, the cartels are getting money even from the United States, which provides the Mexican government with about $300 million a year in drug-war aid.

Corruption is part of Mexico’s culture and is as old as the country itself. Narcos have been bribing politicians as long as they have been smuggling drugs to Americans. Mayors, governors and federal officials have turned a blind eye to opium fields and meth superlabs—they like the money.

With more than 2,000 mayors in Mexico, the combined profit is worth billions of dollars a year. Sometimes cartels even put one of their own men directly in as Mayor. This was the case in  Iguala, whose mayor, José Luis Abarca, is now in prison on organized crime charges, accused of being a member of Guerreros Unidos. Dozens of his police officers are also in jail, accused of being cartel me in uniform.

In September 2014, the Iguala police and men from the Guerreros killed or kidnapped more than 40 students. dern Mexico. icy reform, meaning wider legalization of some drugs, like marijuana, and better addiction treatment to reduce the use of others, like heroin, can help bleed the gangster financing. But with cartels now diversified into a portfolio of crimes and taking over the political establishment, it won’t stop them.

Yet, Mexico also needs to fight narco-corruption that infests its police and politics at state and federal levels. Unfortunately, many of the people in the Mexican government have links to cartels, including the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and the opposition. With so much money and power in the narcos’ hands, it is not likely that a solution can be found.

The Spanish Fountain of Youth

Learn Spanish

Learn Spanish

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
– Sophia Loren –

My mother is 71 and I turned 50 this year.

I while back we were reflecting on how 49 and 69 sound so much younger than 50 and 70.

But then we decided to change our attitude. It’s an imaginary difference and only matters if we let it.

The wrong attitude reminds me of how circus elephants are shackled.

“When young, circus elephants are attached by heavy chains to large stakes driven deep into the ground. They pull and yank and strain and struggle, but the chain is too strong, the stake too rooted. One day they give up, having learned that they cannot pull free, and from that day forward they can be “chained” with a slender rope. Because it believes it cannot, it cannot.”
– Gavin de Becker –

I like that last line from the quote:

“Because it believes it cannot, it cannot.”

The same goes for age, if you believe you’re too old then  you’re too old.

I see it all the time, an imaginary  barrier of what is possible.  People believe that they are too  old to speak Spanish.

That’s not the case. Traditional  methods don’t work for teenagers  either.

No tiene que ver con la edad (age has nothing to do with it).

They all study a foreign language  in school.  Good luck finding a  teenager from those classes  who can converse in a foreign  language. You’d have more  chance finding one who doesn’t  text while he eats his lunch.

Age is not the barrier. Poor  teaching methods are the barrier.

Traditional language study methods numb the mind.

Neither you nor a teenager can learn anything with a numb mind. You need an active, engaged stimulated mind.

When you speak to learn instead of learning to speak it brings your mind to life.

It gets your brain firing and increases your energy.

You realize the barriers are imaginary and you are capable of so much more than you have been doing.

As Sophia Loren said at the  start of this blog…

“When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Throw any ideas of age barriers  out of your mind now.


Marcus Santamaria

My system teaches you Spanish, the easy way – not the academic way. With only 138 words you will be speaking Spanish.


Mexican cartel boss, El Chapo, threatens ISIS over drug trade

El Chapo

El Chapo

al Baghdadi, Caliph (Ruler) of ISIS

al Baghdadi, Caliph (Ruler) of ISIS

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of Mexico’s and the world’s deadliest and most successful drug cartel, has reportedly sent a threatening letter to Islamic State following the destruction of one of his cartel’s shipments.

El Chapo delivered the threat to ISIS leader. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, via an encrypted email which was later leaked by

El Chapo, who runs the notorious Sinaloa cartel, made it clear IS had “made a mistake” by destroying the cartel’s drug shipment. “You are not soldiers,” El Chapo reputibly wrote. “My men will destroy you…” he promised Al Baghdadi, “Your god cannot save you from the true terror that my men will levy at you if you continue to impact my operation.”

With the Middle East having become a burgeoning scene for cocaine, ecstasy and other party-based drugs, the Mexican drug cartels have been expanding their operational reach into these regions, hoping to heavily profit from the oil industries rich princes and wealthy businessmen who have been fueling the growing nightlife scene.

As drugs are not a part of the organizations ideology for ISIS, their fighters have been destroying shipments of drugs from the cartels.

El Chapo has made it clear that ISIS made a huge mistake by destroying his shipments. It’s clear from leaked emails that El Chapo is not only extremely mad, but definitely willing to step up and take the ISIS organization out if they continue to mess with his business.

It looks like it’s on. It would be ironic that the group that becomes Obama’s coalition partner is El Chapo’s drug cartel!

Why Tarlov and Spinal Injury Operations Fail in the U.S.

As my readers know, I underwent a Tarlov Cyst operation in Mexicali, Mexico several years ago. What many don’t know is that I am cured unlike most of those who have have a Tarlov Cyst operation in America.

The difference and reason for this is simple. My surgeon in Mexico ordered me to have one month’s bed rest after the operation. In the U.S. this is not the case as the surgeon usually prescribes post-operation opiates such as Oxycontin – this causes the patient to be unaware of most post-operative pain and move around normally – thereby generating scar tissue. As I spent a month in bed after my operation, little or no scar tissue developed, as I did not move around.

Drug Can Possibly Treat Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are notorious for being practically irreversible, with accidents or diseases to the area often resulting in long-term paralysis or other disabilities. But now new research indicates that an already existing drug may give hope to patients suffering from these types of injuries.

A newly developed type of spinal implant may give hope for paralyzed patients everywhere and one day help them to walk again, according to new research.
Spinal Implant May Help Paralyzed Walk Again

The substance epothilone, which is currently used to treat cancer and is already licensed on the US market, was shown to reduce the formation of scar tissue in injuries to the spinal cord, and also stimulate growth in damaged nerve cells in animal subjects.

Damage to the spinal cord rarely heals because the injured nerve cells fail to regenerate. That’s due to scar tissue that develops and molecular processes inside the nerves, which block axon growth and hinder nerve regeneration.

“The ideal treatment for promoting axon regeneration after spinal cord injury would inhibit the formation of scar tissue,” researcher Frank Bradke at DZNE (German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases) said in a statement. “However, it is also important that the growth-inhibiting factors are neutralized while reactivating the poor axons’ regenerative potential.”

In order to overcome these challenges and come up with a new treatment, Bradke and his colleagues relied on previous research. They already knew that stabilizing microtubules – long, tubular filaments inside a cell – would reduce the formation of scar tissue and promote axonal growth. Microtubules also control cell growth and movement. It turns out that epothilone doesn’t just help treat cancer, but it can even stabilize microtubules.

“It all depends on the dose,” noted Dr. Jörg Ruschel, the study’s lead author. “In higher doses, epothilone inhibits the growth of cancer cells, while low doses have been shown to stimulate axonal growth in animals without the severe side-effects of cancer treatment.”

Epothilone proved effective because unlike other cancer drugs, it can penetrate the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system, thus reaching the damaged axons directly.

Next, Bradke and his team hope to test the effect of epothilone on various types of lesions.

Money Laundering and Mismanagement in Calexico – Viva Mexico!

Money Laundering

No stinkin' badges

No stinkin’ badges

Rabobank’s Calexico branch was receiving so much cash that extra armored truck visits were required to haul off all the U.S. dollars being deposited.

This was due to huge deposits being made from businesses across the border in Mexicali. This all began way back in 2010.

The armored car trips, may be due to money laundering. Rabobank’s Calexico branch was closed earlier this year as U.S. investigators checked the bank for money laundering by the drug cartels.

For similar reasons, perhaps, the Calexico branches of Banamex and Bank of America were also closed.

Rabobank, a Dutch bank based in Utrecht had been involved in an interest-rate scandal a couple of years ago. Now Rabobank has decided that it accounts in California would be limited to U.S. residents.

One of the suspected money launderers made huge deposits into a Rabobank account linked to the relative of a Calexico bank official.

Back in 2011, the U.S. seized assets from Rabobank accounts belonging to suspected money launderers, so this has been going on for some time. One of the accounts was linked to a Mexican cocaine-trafficking operation. In September, assets were taken from the former owner of a Calexico-area car dealership right on Imperial Avenue who admitted to laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking.

With Rabobank, Banamex and Bank of America being forced out of Calexico, the city is left with only Wells Fargo and Union Bank – and who knows what is going on in those banks. But what difference is that going to make? The money launderers, can drive to the Rabobank branch in El Centro which is only a couple of miles north – and they can easily afford the gas.

The money laundering scandal follows on the scandal involving the Calexico police department where things are so bad that a new police chief had to be brought in from Los Angeles.


On top of all of that, California Joint Powers Insurance Authority Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Shull will recommend the cancellation of Calexico’s liability insurance coverage, workers’ compensation and building insurance programs. This is because Calexico has not taken care of its affairs properly.

Of particular concern is the high rate of turnover several of the city’s key executive management positions have seen in recent years, including city manager, finance director and police chief.

Part of the problem is that, in comparison to similar cities, Calexico has by far the highest dollar amount of workers’ compensation claims.

As such, Calexico stands to lose its insurance coverage on January 1, 2016 and Calexico would have to pay millions of dollars for unpaid claims.

Mexican exchange rules in Calexico

Mexican exchange rules in Calexico

Collapse of the Mexican Peso

The collapse of Calexico’s banks and police department is followed by the collapse of the Mexican peso and the imposition of money-laundering restrictions on purchase of Mexican pesos with dollars. We took a photo of the new money exchange rules at a money changer’s in Calexico. The guy was screaming at us since I guess they want to keep all this undercover.

Americans need not apply

If you are an American who does not speak Spanish, employers in Calexico might as well put up a sign, “Americans need not apply.” You can’t get hired in Calexico or the surrounding area if you don’t speak Spanish – but you do not have to speak English! There are plenty of people working at Walmart in Calexico and El Centro who don’t speak a word of English.

Viva Mexico!

So what’s the bottom line?

Feds say 179,027 criminal illegals are loose on U.S. streets, and, in addition, nearly 1 million immigrants have been ordered deported but remain free in the U.S., according to the Senate immigration subcommittee.

The level of criminal behavior by immigrants, not just illegal, but legal as well has become a key part of enforcing immigration, border fencing and birthright citizenship.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains and deports illegal immigrants, appears helpless to do anything about the situation, stating, “ICE is unable to statistically report on the number of aliens who have been arrested for criminal offenses.” This includes sanctuary cities of which only about half have expressed interest in cooperating with ICE.

To be exact, there are 918,369 immigrants living in the U.S. who have been ordered deported including the 179,027 who have criminal convictions.

100 essential Spanish Words

Learn Spanish

Learn Spanish

Here is a list of 100 commonly used Spanish words.

100 essential Spanish Words

To fast-track your path to speaking Spanish, it’s essential to start with the most commonly used Spanish words.

Don’t make the dumb mistake I made.

Some of the first words I learned in Spanish were plughole, dish drainer and rasp.

How often would you expect to use those words?

Not once did I use those words in a decade of living in a Spanish-speaking country.

Instead, you should spend your time on the words that come up in almost every conversation.

Think about something you want to say and see how long you can go without using words like “and,” “in” or “have.”

These are words that are used all the time.

In fact, the top 100 words make up 50 percent of the language.

En cambio (In other words), 50 percent of everything we say uses the 100 most common words over and over again.

Don’t waste your time and energy on words that you’ll rarely use (like plughole, dish drainer and rasp).

It’s a hundred times more effective if you start speaking the most common words first, and the best place to start is with the 100 words that make up 50 percent of the spoken language.

I missed years of fun, conversations and friendships by focusing on the wrong words. Don’t make this mistake too.

Start with these Spanish words you’ll use every day.

100 essential Spanish Words


Marcus Santamaria Spanish Communication Coach
Synergy Spanish