This proverb was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and is 20 years old. The proverb “camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente” translates into English literally as “a shrimp that falls asleep gets carried by the tide.” It is similar in meaning to the American saying “if you snooze, you lose.” It can be interpreted in terms of laziness, opportunity, or devotion, depending on the context it is used in, according to her.
My friend first related it to laziness. To her, the “tide” represented life since, it is always moving, and the shrimp represents lazy people who refuse to move with it. It is something that her mother always used to say to her and her siblings in order to motivate her to stay focused at school, and she thinks that it was very encouraging. As she grew up, she related it to opportunity when comparing the tide to an opportunity, and if you “sleep” on it you can miss it. It was her dad who gave it this meaning as he was encouraging her to apply to jobs and network as she got to college. When she had a bad experience with a close friend, another good friend said it to her comparing the tide to toxic people.
Even though I am from a Latin American country myself, I had never heard this before, but it is hardly surprising since Latin Americans have a reputation for being lazy so I could see why this would be popular. Like most proverbs, this one can be interpreted differently by different people depending on context, and I think it is really interesting how one person could use the experiences she was having at a certain time in her life to assign different meanings to a phrase she has been hearing since she was a child. It speaks to the universality and flexibility that some proverbs can have when looking at them from different perspectives.