Swimming With Dolphins

I WAS HORRIFIED to read about Roxanne Roberts's participation in a "swim with dolphins" (SWD) program, just one of many programs that seek to exploit the human fascination with these intelligent creatures ["Everyone's On Board," Oct. 2]. These programs pose a threat to the safety of both human and dolphin participants.

Marine mammals can be aggressive, whether in captivity or in the wild, and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service reports numerous cases of people being bitten, pulled underwater or seriously injured while trying to feed or swim with dolphins. Captive dolphins are equally prone to this type of behavior, and have inflicted serious physical injury to swimmers, including lacerations and broken bones.

SWD programs are no less injurious to the dolphins themselves. The very nature of these animals makes them unsuitable for confinement or regular interaction with humans. Moreover, most foreign facilities capture their dolphins from the wild, a process that is highly traumatic and sometimes fatal for dolphins.

It's laudable that Roberts taught her son about saving dolphins from fishing nets, but she would set a better example if she refused to patronize these programs.

Kumar Vaswani

North Bethesda


WHOEVER SUGGESTED that tourists can take in colonial Dutch architecture in the Virgin Islands town of Charlotte Amalie was either befuddled by the sun or the powerful local rum [Caribbean Port-O-Matic, Oct. 2]. The Virgin Islands were purchased by the United States from Denmark, and the Danes can take credit for its unique architecture. You have to sail a few islands south to see remnants of Dutch settlement.

Brian T. Petty


Spanish Lesson, Cont'd

BILL TOPOLSKY states in his letter, "All Spanish words ending in 'n' or 's' are accented on the last syllable, unless an accent mark indicates otherwise" [Message Center, Sept. 18].

He has it backward. The mnemonic I learned in junior high Spanish was "Vowel, 'n' or 's', second to last," meaning that any words ending in "n" or "s" were accented on the penultimate syllable, unless an accent mark indicated otherwise. Thus, Cancun, Mexico and ingles are all written with accents, while casas ("houses"), hablo ("I speak") and hablan ("they speak") are not. The corresponding rule was "Consonant other than 'n' or 's', last," as in calor ("heat") and feliz ("happy"), written without accents.

If Cuetzalan is correctly written without an accent, then the correct pronunciation is cuet-ZA-lan.

Liza Recto

Lexington Park, Md.

IN SPANISH, words ending in "n" or "s" are accented not on the last syllable but on the next-to-last syllable (for example, casas is pronounced CAH-sas, not ca-SAHS), unless an accent mark indicates otherwise. Of course, Cuetzalan is not a Spanish word.

Deborah Weinberger


THE RULES are as follows:

1. Spanish words ending in consonants, other than "n" or "s," are stressed on the last syllable.

2. Spanish words ending in a vowel or "n" and "s" are stressed on the penultimate syllable.

3. An accent (a, e, i, o, u) on the stressed vowels supersedes Rules 1 and 2, and the stress is placed on that accented vowel.

As for the pronunciation of Cuetzalan, it should be kwet-zah-LAHN -- not because the word ends in "n," but rather since it has a written accent over the final vowel (Rule 3).

Tony DiSalvo


BILL TOPOLSKY'S correction of the pronunciation of the Mexican town of Cuet-Za-LAN is accurate but not for the reasons he cited.

In particular, Spanish words ending in "n" or "s" (or a vowel) are accented on the penultimate, not the last, syllable -- unless there's a written accent mark. Cuetzalan is accented on the last syllable because it's not Spanish -- it's Nahuatl, one of the primary Mexican indigenous languages.

Think of the more familiar Mazatlan, accented similarly. The Nahuatl ending "-tlan" roughly means "place," so it's found at the end of many Mexican place names.

Steve Stearns


New Orleans, Cont'd

WHEN I READ Steve Hendrix's piece on New Orleans ["An Icon Imperiled," Sept. 4], I could see the old places and taste the old gumbo. It was a beautiful piece of writing, and I have passed it on to all those dear New Orleans friends of mine that I have been able to locate. Thanks for the pleasure in reading it.

Gail S. Cleere


MAY I SUGGEST that you inform your readers that Mobile, Ala., has a fantastic family-friendly Mardi Gras experience?

Check the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association's Web site at www.mamga.com. You will truly enjoy!

Richie Coleman Scott

Fort Washington

Write us: Washington Post Travel section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Fax: 202-912-3609. E-mail: travel@washpost.com. Provide your full name, town of residence and daytime telephone number. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity.