Original Transcription: “A buenas horas mangas verdes!”
English Transcription: “The green sleeves arrive at good hours!”
This expression is used when something that you strongly hoped for happens or presents itself when it is no longer useful. The speaker using the phrase would have an exasperated or sarcastic tone. The phrase in Spanish omits a verb. If the meaning of the phrase were fully written out, it would be, “las mangas verdes llegan a buenas horas.” Despite the missing verb, the listener would understand the meaning of the proverb due to its commonly known history.
According to my informant, this expression has a long history. “Los mangas verdes,” or the green sleeves, were an armed political group in fifteenth century Spain. Their official name was La Santa Hermandad, and they were commissioned by the queen to track down criminals. Once they found the criminals, they would put them in prison. However, the green sleeves were notoriously known to arrive late. Often times, the green sleeves would arrive at the scene of a crime after the thief had already fled, thus failing to fulfil their purpose.
The phrase ridicules the failures of the early Spanish criminal justice system, and one would have to know the history of the green sleeves to fully understand the proverb. The fact that the proverb is still used today is significant because the phrase connects Spaniards with their history.