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.”
“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.