Mexico’s tourism website tripped up by strange translations

SANTIAGO • The sometimes literal nature of automated translation programmes has tripped up plenty of tourists — or in the case of Mexico, its entire tourism board.

Operators of the website were left red-faced last Friday when the English version of the tourism information portal suddenly sprouted a series of comic or literal translations.

Confusion escalated to the point where Mexico’s government issued an apology. By Saturday, was itself on holiday, showing a picturesque image of a street in Mexico and a giant banner that reads “New website coming soon”.

State names such as Guerrero and Hidalgo were rendered on the website as “Warrior” and “Noble” — proper English translations for Spanish 101, but not what would appear on a map or when doing a hotel search.

The popular Yucatan resort town of Tulum was rendered as “Jumpsuit”, while the town of Aculco appeared as “I Blame”, and the city of Ciudad Madero became “Log”, according to the Associated Press.

It only took a couple of hours for “Warrior” and “Jumpsuit” to trend on Twitter. Some users offered the Mexican government free help with translations, while others asked what the direct translation of the Mexican president’s last name, Lopez Obrador, would be. More bitter commentators demanded the resignation of Miguel Torruco, the official in charge of Mexico’s tourism department.

The blunders come at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is already making tourism difficult for many areas of Mexico. The country has the third most deaths in the world after the US and Brazil, with a total of 469,407 cases and 51,311 deaths (at press time), according to information from the Health Ministry last Friday night.

The US State Department last Thursday issued a “do not travel” advisory for Mexico due to Covid-19, and also urged increased caution due to high rates of crime and kidnapping. — Bloomberg