My friend first heard this from her father. The translation is “To love from afar is love for idiots.”
My friend initially interpreted this proverb as a criticism on being unable to act on emotions for another person. To “love from afar,” as in, to love without actually confessing it to the person, is love for idiots.” She’s learned, however, that the proverb is more often used in context of long-distance relationships. So being geographically far from your significant other and choosing to continue to love them is foolish. My friend doesn’t have a particular significance attached to this proverb, but she did think that it was rather interesting.
I agree with my friend’s understanding of the proverb, though I wonder if other people beyond her do think of the proverb in the same sense that she originally thought of it (with “love from afar” being similar to “love within the mind”). I find it interesting that this proverb discourages love if it’s from a distance. It suggests that there is a belief that a relationship is only wise or legitimate if it’s grounded in physical reality. I’m not entirely sure why that would be the case, but perhaps love was often presumed to be associated with marriage. So a real relationship should be properly consummated, either through sex, marriage, or person-to-person interaction.
This proverb has also seemed to regain some significance with the advent of the internet. Maybe the idea of a “long-distance relationship” through webcamming is still considered unwise by most people in this community. If that’s the case, then this Mexican proverb affirms that the idea of physicality is essential to romantic relationships (as a college student in the United States, I hear comments about the futility of long-distance relationships often, and a proverb like this seems particularly fitting for that situation), and that this way of thinking is important to multiple cultures.