folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

“Tu No Pintas Nada”

Cuban culture in general is incredibly vibrant and colorful. With recent tourism to Cuba rising, foreigners often underestimate how vibrant the buildings, cars, and clothes are in Cuba. And this powerful expression also transfers over into language and proverbs. When visiting home recently, my aunt and grandmother came over to share common Cuban vernacular with me. But this one came from my mother.

The idiom is: “Tu No Pintas Nada”. Phonetically, it’s easy to pronounce since it utilizes the same Latin alphabet. It’s literal translation is “Do not paint anything.” However, when one says the idiom to someone they really mean that something does not concern them.

My mom was the oldest of three children, witnessing and remembering the most out of her siblings. Also as the oldest, more emphasis was put on her by her father to be successful. As a child if she expressed interest in something else besides school, she would be shut down by her father through this idiom. It was also a common retort amongst my mom and her sisters, as they constantly got into fights when they were children. My mother’s personal interpretation for the idiom is that for one to achieve their objective, they must not get caught up in distractions that could get them off task. There’s a time to paint, “pero ahora (but right now) tu no pintas nada.”

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