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.
“Árbol que nace torcido jamas su tronco endereza”
“Que la gente no puede cambiar, aunque quiera… no es su culpa, que así está la cosa.”
Translation: “Tree that is born twisted never its trunk will straighten”
“What does it mean?”
“That people cannot change, even if they want to… it’s not their fault, that’s just how it is.”
A more semantic translation would be “the tree that’s born twisted can never straighten its trunk”.
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.
She also informed me that the proverb is used in “a song about a homosexual”; I looked it up, and sure enough:
“El Gran Varon” by Willie Colón
“No se puede corregir
A la naturaleza
A lo que nace doblao
Jamas su tronco endereza”