Spanish Proverbs

The informant’s mother is from northern Mexico, specifically Sonora. She came to America during the Mexican revolution when she was very young (~1910).  She lived in the territory of Arisona before it became a state. The informant was raised in Arizona, but brought up bilingual. Her mother would speak spanish to her and her siblings because she did not want to kids to lose it.

The informant told me 3 Spanish proverbs that her mother used to say to the kids growing up.

1. “No hay mal que por bien no venga”

Translates roughly to “something good comes out of everything”

Context via informant: Let’s say something went wrong… you didn’t get something you wanted. Mom would say that meaning that something good will still come out of it.

Interpretation: This proverb exhibits a mindset focused on always looking at bright side.  It warns people against getting upset over things not always going their way, but instead believing that something better is on the way.

2. “Entre menos guros mas elotes”

Translates roughly to “The fewer the people who want something, the bigger your share is going to be.”

Context via informant: Mom used this proverb whenever somebody doesn’t want something (typically food).

Interpretation: The English equivalent for this proverb would be saying “more for me” after someone declines food or some object. It emphasizes that nothing will go to waste, and at times can make one feel guilty for not wanting what is so graciously given to him.  Someone else will make use of what you do not want. The food/thing in front of you is not worthless even if you do not want it.

3. “El diablo sabe mas por viejo que por diable”

Translates roughly to “The devil knows more because he is not rather than because he is the devil”

Context via informant: “Mom said this ALL the time. The idea is that experience mattered more than anything. If you’re the daughter and she’s the mom, you’ll never know more because she’s older. You can never catch up.  It was very discouraging.”

Interpretation: It makes sense that a parent would frequently say this proverb because parents will always be older than their children, meaning they will always be wiser. Older people know more, and they always will, because they will always be older than you.  It is emphasizes respect and reverence of elders. You should never stop respecting or listening to people older than you because they will always be wiser.