Author Archives: Cecilia Sweet-Coll

Mexican proverb – El que nace para maceta…

My informant is a 46 year old bicultural/binational/bilingual woman who works as a psychotherapist, born to a White American father and a Mexican mother. She grew up in both the United States and Mexico but currently lives in Mexico City with her husband and two young sons.

This proverb is a common one according to her, and usually spreads among women—she couldn’t remember who told it to her, but knew it was one of the women in her early adolescence. She told it to me over breakfast at a restaurant as an example of how fatalist Mexican proverbs can be, and how that reflects Mexican cultural attitudes.

“El que nace para maceta no sale del corredor”

“Quien dice eso? De donde lo aprendiste?”

(shrugs) “Pues las vecinas, Paula, las abuelas, mi mamá, mas bien las mujeres.”

“Y que significa?”
“Osea si eres pendejo así te vas a quedar.”

“Como dirias que significa pendejo?”
“Ay pues, tonto, así menso, pero extremadamente.”

Translation:

“He who is born for the pot (plant pot) does not leave the hallway.”

“Who says that? Where did you learn it?”
(shrugs) “Well the [female] neighbors, Paula, grandmothers, my mom, mainly from women.”

“And what does it mean?”

“Like if you are a dumb bastard that’s how you’ll stay.”

“What would you say “pendejo” means?”

“Oh well, stupid, like idiotic, but extremely.”

When I inquired as to why she thinks this type of proverb is so common, she had this to say:

“Pues aqui en Mexico, todos somos medio fatalistas. Este tipo de modismo disculpa la gente la gente como es, y es como si no hay nada que puedas hacer para que las cosas sean distintas. Los mexicanos se afligen, pero tambien se consuelan con ese tipo de pensamiento de que ya pues ni modo, sabes?”

“Well here in Mexico, we’re all pretty fatalist. This kind of proverb excuses people from how they are, and it’s like there’s nothing you can do so that things can be different. Mexicans torture themselves, but also console themselves with this type of thought that, well, that’s it then, there’s no other way, you know?”

In terms of its cultural relevance and attitude, I think she hits it spot on. It implies that a person who is one way, who is born one way, can never really change, and this reflects a prevailing attitude about the inflexibility of life situations, and a perceived lack of control over oneself and one’s situation.

Family pizza

My informant is a graduating college senior from Atlanta, Georgia. She is very close with her family and family rituals mean a lot to her. She doesn’t remember how this tradition started, but essentially her family gets together to make pizza every year on the days before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. This interview was conducted at a sushi restaurant on a sunny afternoon out.

“Ok so the day before Thanksgiving or New Years my family and I make pizza and invite our significant others over and eat the pizza. It’s always really fun, I do the crust and then my mom makes the ingredients and my brother, who usually has a girlfriend, puts the pizza together, so that he’s the one that brings everything together.”

“Nice!”

“Yeah. It works out.”

“So, do you have a normal recipe for the pizza?”

“Usually we do like, green peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, sausage, sausage, mucho queso, lots of queso, like shredded cheese not actual, you know, like melted queso… yeah. I don’t know, maybe sometimes we do like pineapples, sometimes my brother and I like to put pineapples on the pizza.”

“Nice. Do you make it from scratch?”

“Yeah we make it from scratch. We get the dough, and then I put the flour on it and I roll it out, and then I put cheese in the crust and turn it up and that’s when my brother gets there and is like—“ “Oh so you put cheese in the crust??”

“Yeah.”

“Oh shit! That is next level.”

“It’s pretty fun. And it ends up being like a lot of food so you can only eat like two pieces at a time.”

“Nice. Cheese crust pizza day before Thanksgiving or New Years.”

“Yeah, just cause it’s like, family time. And it’s pretty darn delicious, cause it’s from scratch obviously.”

“And when did you guys like, start this tradition? … Did your parents start it? Did you just decide you wanted pizza?”

“I think we just like did it, and then we were really into it—…Raquel’s so beautiful I can’t help it, I have to just sorta say it, ok back to the story—um. I don’t know! Maybe like five or ten years ago, we decided like, we should be together on the days before Thanksgiving and New Years, so, sometime in the past ten or so years.”

“You just made it once and got really into it.”

“Yeah. Whenever my mom’s trying to do family bonding she like, goes to the grocery store and gets the dough, gets everything ready, leaves it out on the counter the day before… yeah.”

Obviously family rituals are important to her but this one seems to stand out, as it is one that she can still engage in while in college, since it happens over the holidays when she goes home anyway. Considering age/time of life, it makes sense that this would be the first thing she would think of, as she can still engage in it.

Mexican proverb: Arbol que nace torcido…

My informant is a 46 year old bicultural/binational/bilingual woman who works as a psychotherapist, born to a White American father and a Mexican mother. She grew up in both the United States and Mexico but currently lives in Mexico City with her husband and two young sons.

This proverb is a common one according to her, and usually spreads among women—she couldn’t remember who told it to her, but knew it was one of the women in her early adolescence. She told it to me over breakfast at a restaurant as an example of how fatalist Mexican proverbs can be, and how that reflects Mexican cultural attitudes.

“Árbol que nace torcido jamas su tronco endereza”
“Que significa?”
“Que la gente no puede cambiar, aunque quiera… no es su culpa, que así está la cosa.”

Translation: “Tree that is born twisted never its trunk will straighten”

“What does it mean?”
“That people cannot change, even if they want to… it’s not their fault, that’s just how it is.”

A more semantic translation would be “the tree that’s born twisted can never straighten its trunk”.

When I inquired as to why she thinks this type of proverb is so common, she had this to say:

“Pues aqui en Mexico, todos somos medio fatalistas. Este tipo de modismo disculpa la gente la gente como es, y es como si no hay nada que puedas hacer para que las cosas sean distintas. Los mexicanos se afligen, pero tambien se consuelan con ese tipo de pensamiento de que ya pues ni modo, sabes?”

“Well here in Mexico, we’re all pretty fatalist. This kind of proverb excuses people from how they are, and it’s like there’s nothing you can do so that things can be different. Mexicans torture themselves, but also console themselves with this type of thought that, well, that’s it then, there’s no other way, you know?”

In terms of its cultural relevance and attitude, I think she hits it spot on. It implies that a person who is one way, who is born one way, can never really change, and this reflects a prevailing attitude about the inflexibility of life situations, and a perceived lack of control over oneself and one’s situation.

She also informed me that the proverb is used in “a song about a homosexual”; I looked it up, and sure enough:

“El Gran Varon” by Willie Colón

Chorus:

“No se puede corregir

A la naturaleza

A lo que nace doblao

Jamas su tronco endereza”

http://www.lyricsg.com/64018/willie-colon/el-gran-varon-lyrics

Lowest Prices Joke – Son

My informant is my cousin, a 9 year old boy born and raised in Mexico City to a half-white, half-Mexican mother and a Mexican father. He has an impressive repertoire of jokes that he knows, and impresses and cracks up the family every time he tells them, usually over the traditional Mexican mid-afternoon meal, which is the heaviest meal of the day and is typically eaten with family or friends, the same way dinner is here. He is very popular in school, probably in part because of his sense of humor as well as his natural charm.

This joke was performed over “comida” as the mid-afternoon meal is called, during an hour-long family-wide exchange of jokes. He learned this joke at school.

“Una mamá vio a su hijo gateando por el supermercado y le preguntó: Que andas haciendo Lucas? Y el niño le responde: ando buscando los precios más bajos.”

Transliteration: “A mom saw her son crawling around the supermarket and asked him: What are you doing Lucas? And the boy responds: I’m looking for the lowest prices.”

I have another take on this joke from my informant’s father, who says he heard the joke in a more regionalist sense, where the mom was replaced by a person from his hometown of Hermosillo and the son was replaced by a person from the rival town of Nabojoa. I think it makes sense that the younger boy knew this version because of what it has to do with being young and misunderstanding things.

Lowest Prices Joke – Father

My informant is a 47 year old psychotherapist from Hermosillo, Sonora, in northern Mexico, who currently resides in Mexico City with his wife (my aunt) and two young sons. He told this joke at a family meal in Mexico, during a very long exchange of jokes among family members.

“Anda un vato de Nabojoa en el supermercado así gateando en el piso todo así *lowers down* y entonces anda en el super aqui y se encuentra con un vato de Guaymas, y que le dice “y que andas haciendo guey” “pos aqui buscando los precios mas bajos!”
Es regionalismo, la gente de Guaymas y Hermosillo se sienten superiores a los de Nabojoa.”
“Donde lo oiste?”
“En el estadio de beisbol, en un juego entre los Naranjeros de Hermosillo y los Mayos de Nabojoa.”

Translation:

“A dude from Nabojoa is at the supermarket like that crawling on the floor all like this” (lowers down) “and then he’s in the supermarket there and he finds himself with a dude from Guaymas, and who tells him ‘and what are you doing man’ ‘well I’m just here looking for the lowest prices!’ It’s regionalism, the people from Guaymas and Hermosillo feel like they’re superior to those from Nabojoa.”

“Where did you hear it?”

“In the baseball stadium, at a game between the Hermosillo Naranjeros and the Nabojoa Mayos.”

I have another take on this joke from my informant’s son, who knows a different version where the guy on the floor is just a son and the guy asking him what he’s doing is a mom instead. I think it makes sense that the younger boy knew this version because of what it has to do with being young and misunderstanding things. His father, on the other hand, associates the joke with a rivalry between his hometown and another Sonoran town, especially since he heard it at a baseball game between his hometown team and the opposing team. So while his son uses the joke to play on his identity as a young person and a son, his father uses it to play on his identity as a person from Hermosillo.