“Después del niño ahogado, tapar el poso.”

“Después del niño ahogado, tapar el poso.”

“After the drowned child one must cover the well.”

“Esta expresión se dice cuando ha habido un problema que ya se sabía que podía venir pero nadie hace nada para resolverlo hasta que sucede el problema. De acordarme de la primera vez que lo oí no me puedo acordar, pero se escucha en muchas situaciones, por ejemplo si en la Ciudad de México hay una ley que prohibe que se construyan los edificios más altos de cuatro pisos, y alguien decide construir uno de cinco y se cae durante un terremoto, ya van a saber que no deben de repetir el error otra vez.”

“This expression is used when there has been a problem that was consciously known, but no one bothers to resolve it until the problem actually happens. I do not remember the first time I heard the expression, but it is heard in many situations, for example if in Mexico City there is a law that prohibits the construction of buildings taller than four floors, and someone decides to build one with five floors and it collapses during an earthquake, they will know not to repeat the mistake again.”

My mom, the informant for this proverb, was born and grew up in Mexico, living the first 30 years of her life in Mexico City. As a native Mexican, she knows a lot about the customs and culture of the country. Besides that, she also grew up in a family that, like most Mexican families, uses proverbs very frequently in everyday speech. She therefore learned most of the proverbs that she knows in a household setting, from family members and friends. She remembers most of the proverbs that she heard while growing up given the fact that they were constantly repeated, and also because of their very memorable format, often using rhymes, alliteration, and rhythm to convey their message. Today, many of them are part of her everyday vocabulary.

The fact that the informant does not remember the first time she heard this expression, or from whom she heard it, stems from the fact that this is a very common proverb in Mexican culture. It takes a very literal situation, the death of a child in a well, and turns it into a metaphorical warning, essentially stressing the belief that one learns from mistakes and situations that have gone wrong. The idea of “covering the well” safeguards that the mistake will not be repeated again, and that the person to whom the proverb is addressed will learn from such errors and move on. This proverb acts as a good warning in my opinion, especially since it makes it’s point through such a grim scenario (that of a child drowning in a well).