Tag Archives: Mexican Proverb

Arbol Torcido Saying

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Age: 50
  • Occupation: N/A
  • Residence: Los Angeles 
  • Primary language: Spanish 
  • Relationship: mother 


“Arbol que nace torcido, jamas su tronco endereza.”

No literal english translation

 Closest english translation to the phrase above : “tree that is born crooked, its trunk never straightens 


EP says the saying has different meanings; she states, “Puede ser una persona o cosa que estaba hecho mal desde el principio, jamas va ser derecha o jamas se va corregir.” It can be a person or thing that was made wrong from the beginning, it will never be just. The informant says it’s a “refran” or “dicho,” which in English means it is a proverb, a saying, or a riddle. She first heard the saying from her parents when she was about 5 years old. She said at first she didn’t know the significance or true meaning of it until it was explained to her. However, she told me that it was also one of those things that was common sense because you could put two and two together when it is said in a certain situation. She also remembers hearing the proverb told during specific situations. An example she provided me with was of a son who was always reckless as a child and continues to live a reckless life. 


I had never heard this proverb before, and at first I was confused because of how the words are phrased in Spanish. Once the informant further explained what it meant, I was able to draw my own interpretation of the proverb. I believe the saying refers to a person who is believed to be unable to change due to the way they were raised or grew up. I believe that from a young age, the way we are educated and what we learn from the people surrounding us leave an impact on us. There are various factors that will help shape who you will become when you grow up. A crooked trunk will never straighten because it was born that way. This could be interpreted in the context of a person that holds negative values and attitudes from a young age. This individual will find it more difficult to change these bad characteristics and habits because they have been instilled into their being. Adopting new habits and values is always possible, but it will be more of a challenge to do so. The person must be willing to change and put in the effort to become better and “enderezer”(straighten).

A Latin-x Proverb directed at Women

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Age: 22
  • Occupation: full time student
  • Residence: Los Angeles
  • Primary language: English
  • Relationship: Friend


“Calladita te ves más bonita”

English translation: “The more quiet you are, the prettier you look”


ES grew up here in Los Angeles, but her parents are from Mexico. The proverb pertains to her Mexican culture and household. She first heard the proverb above from her grandmother. Her grandmother would tell her “Calladita te ves más bonita” as a form of advice. ES told me, “I always interpreted it meaning that oversharing can be dangerous from listening ears, or the less you say the better.” She also told me that she remembers her and her aunt would use the phrase as a comeback in a lighthearted way to make each other laugh. ES pointed out that she never had realized it before, but the phrase is targeted towards girls/women. 


I also grew up hearing the proverb in my culture, and I greatly identified with the informants take on the phrase. When discussing the proverb with her, I too realized that it is a saying that isn’t really said to men/boys. In Spanish the ending of a word is meant to distinguish between genders. If the word ends with ‘a’ it is usually feminine. The words ‘calladita’ and ‘bonita’ end with an ‘a’ and are feminine. If it were targeted towards men, the words would end with ‘o’ and be considered masculine. Growing up, I never heard the saying told to my male companions. Sometimes in Latin-x culture, there can be a lot of toxic masculinity or “machismo.” Machismo means a sense of strong masculine pride, male overbearing control over the wife and family, and sexist ideology. Younger I didn’t really associate toxic masculinity with the saying, but now from an older, more mature point of view, I can acknowledge that it is present. ES and I were having a conversation about how in our latino culture, it is very much embedded into women from a young age to sit still, look pretty, and be quiet. Of course, we aren’t trying to stereotype our culture from this lens, we are simply acknowledging some patterns we noticed. 

Haz el bien, sin mirar a quien.

-Spanish proverb

-direct English translation: “Do the right (thing) without looking at who”

-Miguel’s colloquial translation: “..which means do right, without prejudice”

Miguel is a friend I met as freshmen at USC; however, we both call the Bay Area home. He grew up in Richmond, CA and his mom is from Guanajuato, Mexico but moved to Oakland, CA when she was 11. Although Miguel grew up immersed in Bay Area Chican@ culture, he actually didn’t hear this saying that much growing up. 

It is more significant for his mother, who heard it from parents and elder relatives. Findings from brief research online, i.e. a book of 6000 Spanish proverbs that is named after this one and numerous downloadable wallpapers of the phrase, would suggest it’s quite a common proverb, although origins are difficult to establish. 

In addition to stressing the importance of doing the “right” or “good” thing, this proverb commands listeners to do so with and for anyone. Not only does it ask listeners to act without prejudice, it implicitly requests that we are “good” even if someone else is “bad.” Neither prejudice nor bitterness justify maltreatment of people. One’s own judgment doesn’t either; in this sense, the proverb evokes biblical teachings that “only God can judge,” that individuals are in charge of their own fate/salvation/repentance and the actions or inactions of others should not determine/compromise one’s own. 

“El que se enoja no prospera”: Spanish proverb

  1. Original Text: “El que se enoja no prospera” (Spanish)
  2. Transliteration: “He who gets angry doesn’t prosper”
  3. English translation: “He who gets angry doesn’t prosper”

Context: The informant’s family is from Mexico, but her family currently resides in Concord, California. She is am 18-year-old freshman at USC studying Political Science. She says that this saying is a Mexican saying, and it is “all over Mexico, not just specific to one region”. She explains that it means “if you get angry, you’re just going to be stuck in it, and you can’t get ahead”. Her mother taught this phrase to her and her siblings when they were younger, and it stuck with her through all these years. The informant comes from a bilingual household, where Spanish and English are spoken.

Analysis: Per the informant, this saying is specific to Mexican culture. The fact that this saying was taught to the informant by a parent at a young age suggests that rejecting hate and keeping your peace is a value of Mexican society and culture. The message is instilled in children so they carry it through into adulthood — hopefully contributing this philosophy to their community. The saying is told by an adult to children, giving it more legitimacy and truth than if it were to be children saying it to other children. On another note, this particular saying uses the masculine pronoun “el”, which is indicative of Mexican (and overall Hispanic) patriarchal culture. 

Ponte las pilas: Proverb

Text: “Ponte las pilas” “Put your batteries on”

Context: NO’s relationship to this proverb stems from her Mexican culture and household. All her life, NO would hear this statement being said when it came to school and working hard within entering higher education. She would typically hear this proverb being said by her parents or other older relatives. In her family, they use this phrase as a way to give advice when she feels defeated, overwhelmed, or lazy. Oftentimes NO says it to herself as a motivator to get her work done. NO interprets this proverb as a motivator to get back into the ‘work mode’ and to be productive in life. 

Analysis: The cultural value that I see present within this proverb is the fact that Mexican culture usually revolves around the connotation that Mexicans are hard workers and they can accomplish anything if they simply put their mind to it. Given that this proverb is a motivator, I can claim that the personal values are expressed within the motivation, determination, and productivity that this proverb can emit to the receiver. Considering that I have heard this all my life within my Mexican culture as well, I see this proverb as an influential piece of advice that is told by older relatives for that extra ounce of motivation that you need when you find yourself in times of defeat, laziness, or entering a momentous time in your life (Ex: starting college, first day at a new job, going to a job interview). Considering its legitimate translation is “put your batteries on”, I consider this proverb to be an accurate concept considering putting new batteries in is hypothetically what you need to do in order to perform better given that the more “power” you put on, the more motivated you will feel to get back to work.