New Edition of A.A.'s Spanish 'Big Book': Alcohólicos Anónimos

Widens Gateway to Sobriety for Spanish-Speaking Members

March 1, 2008

NEW YORK—The third edition of Alcohólicos Anónimos, the Spanish-language edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, affectionately dubbed the Big Book and perhaps the world’s bestselling and most heavily thumbed nonfiction book of all time, is now available, reports the General Service Office (G.S.O.) of Alcoholics Anonymous.
     This expanded version reflects current membership, including the rising numbers of Spanish-speaking women and young people.  This latest edition also reflects the sweeping population changes that have occurred since publication of the second edition of Alcohólicos Anónimos in 1990, during which the Hispanic population of the United States jumped from 22.4 million to more than 42 million in 2005.  Today in Puerto Rico, Canada and the U.S. alone, A.A.’s Spanish-speaking members number more than 47,000; they meet in approximately 1,900 groups.
     The first, 1986 edition of Alcohólicos Anónimos contained the basic, 164-page text of the English-language Big Book, setting forth the A.A. principles of recovery from alcoholism, the forewords and shared experience of A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob S., titled “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare.” But unlike the English Big Book, it did not contain personal stories of recovery. Those would come later, in 1990, with publication of the second edition, which contained 14 new stories—12 originally written in Spanish by Spanish-speaking members from Ecuador, Mexico and Puerto Rico, and two that were translated from the English, “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three” and “Women Suffer Too.”
     The 2007 version, which is representative of members in many more Spanish-speaking countries, contains three original recovery stories from the first edition of the English Big Book, published in 1939, including Dr. Bob’s story, 12 carried over from the 1990 edition, and 32 new ones, for a total of 47.  These were selected from 173 compelling narratives submitted by Spanish-speaking members, young and old, around the world.
     The new edition of Alcohólicos Anónimos is similar in page count to the latest English-language Big Book.
     In the new, third edition of Alcohólicos Anónimos, the patterns that emerge are as similar as the anonymous storytellers are diverse.  From the Mexican boozer who was called “little owlbecause he slept in the hills at night, and the Ecuadorian ship’sofficer who crashed on the rocks of alcoholism, to the Puerto Rican drunk who lost his identity only to regain it in A.A., their differing tales are the stuff that invites identification.
     For a time during the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s, as A.A.’s Spanish-speaking membership suddenly burgeoned, a number of translations undertaken independently in several Spanish-speaking countries were in circulation.  G.S.O. would purchase for distribution certain translations of the Big Book that were popping up around the world. But there was a problem: The adaptations frequently disagreed and, moreover, contained numerous regionalisms the likes of the word “hangover”: Mexicans would rue their cruda; Colombians, their guayabo; Central Americans, their goma; and Ecuadorians, their chuchaque.  G.S.O. translators finally settled on resaca, which also means “undertow.”  Used widely in Caribbean countries and Spain, it is generally intelligible to the greatest number of Hispanic people.
     The content of Alcohólicos Anónimos has been a joint effort spanning 20 years. During this time G.S.O. has worked to develop a standard Spanish translation of the English-language material together with CIATAL (the Ibero-American Committee on Translations and Adaptations of A.A. Literature) and then through direct contact with the G.S.O.s of Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America and Spain.  
     Many A.A. books, pamphlets and other audiovisual materials have their Spanish-language counterparts, including the magazine La Viña, published by the A.A. Grapevine, and the newsletter Box 4-5-9.  Along with Alcohólicos Anónimos, these have gone far in helping Spanish-speaking alcoholics everywhere to transcend language barriers and become part of mainstream A.A.
     The new, third hardcover edition of Alcohólicos Anónimos costs $6.00.  Copies may be obtained through A.A. World Services, Inc., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163; or

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Spanish Big Book Third Edition

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