Salvadoran Joke – “Mato Tunco Tu Tata”

Context: This folklore is in the form of a Joke that is very common in El Salvador. It is used throughout the country, and seems to be unique to the Central American country,

Explanation of Folklore: I interviewed F about a joke that is commonly told in El Salvador. The joke goes as follows. One asks, “Mato tunco tu tata?” (Did your father kill a pig?) where one then answers yes, then the response is a follow up question “Le tuviste miedo al machete?” (were you scared of the machete?) and then the other person answers no. Finally the joke teller flinches at them as if they were to hit them with a machete, which usually provokes some sort of scared reaction from the other person.

According to F, this joke is super common among the Salvadoran people of all ages. It is also a very old Joke that is commonly known.

Analysis: The Premise of the joke is to prank the other person by following a storyline of a father killing a pig. The Jokester implies that the father used a machete to slaughter a pig, and that the other person was scared of it, which is why they flinch, emulating a machete swing.

F informed me that this joke is old enough that it is very popular among the older generations. It is a joke that has made its way through different generations and still remains relevant. F said that the joke is so popular in the country, that the mainstream media and popular culture in El Salvador have incorporated the joke in marketing, commercials, and even restaurant names. The Joke uses uniquely Salvadoran slang. The word “Tunco” is Salvadoran slang for Pig. It also uses “Tata” Salvadoran slang for father. This joke is uniquely Salvadoran, and is very connected to the countries own cultural identity and expression. F was not sure when the Joke came to be, he only informed me that it was very old, and that generations of his family and country had kept it going

Personal Analysis: This is a Joke I grew up hearing all of the time. I have distinct memories of my grandfather telling it to me, as well as my mom and dad. One of the reasons it stuck out to me is due to its unapologetically Salvadoran perspective. The use of colloquial slang makes it an ode to cultural expression, and that is very fascinating. Due to the specificity of origin, there do not appear to be any regional variations and Oicotypes. In terms of origin, I theorized that this might be a post colonial joke due to its specific choice of language.

Both “tunco” and “tata” are uniquely Salvadoran words, that are based off of the indigenous Nahuatl language. This pre hispanic language was melded with Spanish to produce much of the Salvadoran slang used today. This leads me to believe that the joke has origins in a post colonial El Salvador. Additionally, the mention of a pig implies a post colonial environment as well. Pigs are not native to El Salvador, and were introduced by the Spaniards. Once again these context clues can be utilized to help bring these theories of origin to play.

Folklore as humor is very common, and can be observed all over the world. It is a clear example of humanistic oral folklore that is passed on through word of mouth. In the case of this Joke, it is interesting to see how specific to El Salvador it is, since there are no other accounts of this joke anywhere else in Latin America. It is fascinating to see how this joke stayed within the confines of the Country, and how relevant it remains to this day.