ABANICO; a secret language

In Spain, the fan, or abanico, is a popular object among ladies, especially during the hot summers, and the menopause 😉

In addition to the practical function of cooling, the abanico also serves as a fashion accessory with a rich history. For example, did you know that the earliest mention of it can be found in the chronicle of Pedro IV of Aragon, from the late 15th century? But the ‘abanico’ is much more than just a ‘mobile air conditioner’ in Spain, it can be used to communicate without saying a word.

Users of an abanico have their own language

The way a fan is held or moved can mean several things. The most important thing to know is that the front of the fan indicates ‘yes’ and the back indicates ‘no’. Depending on where you hold the fan on your body, you can convey a certain message, turning the fan to confirm (front) or deny (back) something. By holding the fan under the eyes with the front, the wearer indicates “I want to see” or with the back “I don’t want to see”. When the fan is held under the mouth, it says “I want to talk” or “I don’t want to talk”.

By tapping the fan on your own shoulders, time can be indicated. For example, 3 times on one shoulder and once on the other means half past four. Do you want to express jealousy or anger or show that you never want to see someone again. Then you hit your hand a few times with a closed fan. If you want to indicate that you are thinking about something, let the fan dangle closed, upside down from your hand.

The difficult “language of the fan” got a bit lost over the centuries. But you can count on the older Spanish ladies having whole conversations with each other, without the people around them noticing.

Oh, and proper fanning is done from the wrist, not the whole arm. Good to know!

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