“The saying goes: Ojos que no ven, corazon que no siente. If the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t feel, literally. In English a close equivalent would be “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” My grandmother Victoria would use this saying very often. She was actually my main source for Spanish sayings and proverbs, lo que llamamos ‘refranes’ (what we call ‘sayings’), ‘El refranero popular’ (popular proverbs). Much of it is not recorded and has been passed down from generation to generation. She, in her daily speech would sprinkle constantly ‘refranes’. And my other grandmother and other ladies would use them constantly. To a level that I don’t hear anymore in the younger generations, even my parents, as those ladies who were all born at the turn of the 20th century. And they would constantly, constantly use these popular sayings. Because of the circumstances they were my babysitters after school, I was exposed to their speech everyday. We would gather at my maternal grandmothers house and my paternal grandmother would join us everyday. And there we would have an after school snack, ‘la merienda’ and a number of other neighbors routinely would join and come also. “Las mismas viejas venian todo los dias. Jaja.” (The same old ladies would come every day. Haha.) My grandmother Encarna and grandmother Victoria. So I learned a lot of these ‘refranes’ directly from my grandmothers. Now talking to you I can clearly see that later generations would not use as much these refranes or popular sayings in their everyday speech. To the point that every situation, every conversation, whether happy or festive or sad or even, because then there was a point there were some children shows on television shows. My grandmother had a television; and they would react to these shows and situations or the news with ‘refranes.” Tengo una lista de refranes muy larga. (I have a very long [mental] list of sayings.) But this one that I’m telling you about was very widely used by my paternal grandmother. She would use it many different ways. For family members and relatives or for more removed situations. She would often use it with the meaning of ‘don’t make someone suffer unnecessarily.’ And her second most favorite one was “Donde las dan, las toman.” *laughs* The donde is very undefinied but in English it could be “what goes around comes around.” Siempre estaba diciendo esto. (She was always saying this.) I remember she would use this a lot from the small children. Like if one of the kids would hit another kid, and then the kid tripped she would say “Donde las dan, las toman.”
It’s kind of sad really, up until that generation, those people were not all necessarily educated but they had all of these refranes in their “acervo cultural” (cultural heritage, cultural tradition). It was a big part of their cultural baggage. And today we don’t use them; we’ve lost them. Maybe because now we’ve become more rational or whatever and we don’t have to rely so much on what the collective thinking had to say on things. They feel probably that they don’t need to fall back on what the collective thinking has to say because all these sayings are collective thinking on anything and everything. On the weather. There was a time when people relied on those things more to interpret daily life, both in the natural world and in human relations and on other levels. I remember them talking a lot about the weather and using sayings. They were constantly using sayings to interpret everything going on around them. That’s my point. That has been lost. People don’t do that anymore.”
The item that has been collected here is the saying, “Ojos que no ven, corazon que no siente.” But what I found most compelling about this conversation was my fathers reasoning for why many of these sayings or “Refranero Popular” have been lost. Western society focuses more and more on science, the official and the logical. Some sayings still exist, but as he explained this is not what people nowadays rely on to interpret the world around them. These sayings were not just whimsical sentences, they were modes of interacting with their surroundings and explaining phenomenon. Now, we tend to base our thinking and statements on what the latest study has discovered or the newest schools of thought.
It was interesting for me to watch my dad tell me this story. He was kind of sad. And not only because he was nostalgic, thinking about his grandmother and their times together, but also because he was realizing that a part of the culture he grew up with is disappearing.