Every culture has different ways of passing lessons from one generation to the next. Some invent narratives and folk tales, others teach through songs, and many others use religion to impart moral values to their children. In the Latino culture, when the younger generation goes to parents, grandparents or relatives for advice, the teachings we’ll most likely hear are two sentences long. Latinos use dichos (sayings) to share their wisdom with each other, without having to give a speech.
A common scenario may be when you’re telling Mami about an application you want to fill out. Once you’re done explaining all the pros and cons, all she says is “Ay mija, camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente” (the shrimp that falls asleep is dragged by the stream). WHAT? You’ll probably spend the next few days trying to figure out what the shrimp has to do with anything, but when you get it, you’ll fill out that application. All she meant to say was that being idle will get you nowhere. You must be proactive in going for your goals.
Latino parents could lecture children about being responsible, not becoming a statistic or pursuing their dreams. However, they use sayings instead because the shorter the lesson, the more likely you’ll remember it later. That’s why los dichos are so useful: they stick. You spend years not hearing one, but in that moment of need, all your conscience has to tell you is “Si del cielo te caen limones aprende a hacer limonada” (If lemons fall on you from heaven, learn to make lemonade) or “A caballo regalado no se le mira el diente” (Don’t look at the teeth of a gifted horse).
Among the most popular of these valuable lessons we have:
- when thinking about divorce: “Mas vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer” (A known evil is better than an good yet to be known)
- for those who overdress to pretend status: “Aunque la mona se vista de seda mona se queda” (Even if the monkey wears silk, it stays a monkey)
- for the ones that criticize others: “El burro diciéndole al puerco orejón estando en la misma condición” (The donkey’s calling a pig “big ears” being in the same condition)
- for that cousin who just won’t move out: “El muerto y el arrimado a los tres días hieden” (The dead and the uninvited visitor stink after three days)
I must award a special place for grandparents’ all-time favorite, and single proof of their superior wisdom: “Mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo” (The devil knows more for being old than for being the devil).
There are so many dichos that it would be impossible to gather them all in one place. Also, these sayings vary from country to country. Some are specific to one place and others mean different things in different places. You can read more Spanish Sayings here and some old time refranes for your enlightenment.
For those who enjoy judging Being Latino articles, all I have to say to you is “Al que escupe para arriba le cae en la cara” (If you spit upwards it’ll fall on your face).