Tag Archives: Mexican Proverb

“Dios en mi. El en ti, la sangre de cristo, me alibre de ti” Mexican proverb and narrative

Main Piece

Informant: My grandma tells me this story about a lady who lived three towns over when she was living in Mexico. There was a time when bulls got out and were running through the streets because they escaped, and this woman was in the streets and caught off guard and a bull was running straight towards her. And there was a prayer that she said over and over again watching the bull run over.  When the bull came up to her it stopped right in front of her, they made eye contact, and the bull  just walked away. She told everyone in town the prayer she told herself to protect her, and it spread across town and that is how my grandma heard it. The prayer went like this:

“Dios en mi. El en ti, la sangre de cristo, me alibre de ti”

It roughly translates to “God is with me. The Devil is with you. The blood of Christ protects me from you.” 

She always tells me to say this whenever I am in danger, whenever I don’t feel safe, to just recite it over and over again and now I do whenever I am scared shitless. There is nothing else to do! Haha. 


The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC studying Lighting Design. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. 


One day the informant was driving while I was in the passenger street and we had to take a very dimly lit dirt road. When he was driving I heard him reciting a  prayer in Spanish while we were taking this road, and since I speak Spanish fluently as well I could understand it was some sort of protection prayer. After we got off of the road I asked him what he was reciting, and asked him about it once more in our interview to get more of the context. 


Coming from a very Hispanic city and a Mexican family, the informant was taught this folk proverb and accompanying narrative through in Spanish and through word of mouth. It offers a sense of protection and security, and ties into the religious nature of Hispanic communities. Since this story was passed down from his grandmother, it also is a signifier of identity not only to his family, but to his culture as a whole.

Friends Proverb

MG: Cual is tu favorito dicho?

Which is  your favorite proverb?

CG: “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres. Como si te juntas con personas inteligentes seras inteligente y si te juntas con personas malosas tambien vas a ser cosas malas.”

Tell me who you are with and I will tell you who you are. Like if you are around people who are intelligent you are going to be intelligent too and if you hang out with people who do bad things you are also going to do bad things.

English proverb: “A man is known for his friends”

Context: I asked CG for her favorite proverb and this was the first one that came to her mind.

Background: CG is my mom and she was born in Mexico. She came here when she was 17 years old and she still remembers these proverbs that old wise people would tell her. She believes it especially because the people who you are around can strongly influence who you are. She has told this one to me before and when she told me the proverb many stories of her using this one on me came to mind.

Thoughts: This is a well-known proverb and I was not too surprised to find that there is an official English version of this proverb. Growing up my mom would tell me this whenever she would advise me to choose my friends wisely. She has always explained to me that even if I did not do bad things with my friends, people would automatically make assumptions on who I was by the people I would hang out with. This is a common Mexican proverb used in families within the context of gangs. There is a large amount of young people in the Latin American culture who are involved in gangs and this proverb is used to discourage them from being friends with gang members.


Mexican Proverb

Main Piece: Mexican Proverb


Original – “El burro sabe más que tú”


Transliteration – “The donkey knows more than you”


Translation – “The donkey knows more than you”




This proverb is also from my Mexican nanny, Mirna, and this one is more of an insult. My nanny says she likes to use this one especially in America because more often than not people do not understand Spanish and it is easy to offend them without even knowing. Donkeys are a large part of Mexican culture in agriculture and just life in general. They tend to be more of a source of power for hauling goods or farm equipment, and aren’t necessarily thought of as being the brainiest.

My nanny says that this was your generic grade school insult, and it was never really meant for too much harm, sort of an elaborate version of just telling someone their stupid. She and her siblings would use it on each other, and there is no profanity used in it so it was never really frowned upon by elders when they heard it.




My nanny has actually been saying this to me for a long time now, as she would talk to me and my siblings in Spanish at a young age to give us an understanding of another language while we were still apprehensive to it. Of course we would get into our usual shenanigans and she would say this to us and we would think it was funny not really knowing what it meant, but now knowing what it means it only really seems fitting as something you would say to a child, as an adult would think you were being childish if you just said “a donkey knows more than you.”

I was just told this in a face to face conversation so the real context of using it is not there, but I can see how it would be more so used between childhood friends on the playground or in instances like that.


My thoughts:


It is interesting to see how a culture’s lifestyle has an effect on how they insult each other, and even though it may be seen as something not very effective in offending someone, it can be thought of as more playful banter because obviously a donkey is not a smart animal. I doubt there is much of a real world application for this insult but it is interesting to me how it is more of an intellectual insult as opposed to simply telling someone the

Stubborn as a mule

The informant, J, is 18 years old born and raised in Coachella, California. His mom is from Delano, California, while his dad is from Indio, California. He is majoring in Print and Digital Journalism with a Media, Economics, and Entrepreneurship minor. He also considers himself Mexican.

J-“In the Mexican folklore there is a saying, ‘mas terco que una mula’. It means more stubborn than a mule in English”

What does the saying mean to you?

J-“It literally means what it translates to. It means that someone is being very stubborn or hard-headed and doesn’t want to change how they are thinking”

When would you use this?

J-“You would tell someone they are more stubborn than a mule, again if they are being really stubborn and don’t want to listen to reason. If they keep insisting about something and they want to be right all the time. I always yell this at my brother since he’s always thinking that he is always right”

Analysis- It can be seen that the proverb originated in a specific area of Mexico at a specific time. Mules were used to help with farming and pulling the ploughs. They are also known to be very stubborn and do not like to listen or do what the owner wants them to. Farming is also more common in northern Mexico. Therefore, the proverb must have originated somewhere in northern Mexico during the farming period before the industrialism changed agriculture and machines, instead of mules or donkeys, were used to turn the fields and harvest the crops.

Wise Devil

The informant, J, is 18 years old born and raised in Coachella, California. His mom is from Delano, California, while his dad is from Indio, California. He is majoring in Print and Digital Journalism with a Media, Economics, and Entrepreneurship minor. He also considers himself Mexican.

J-“My family really likes proverbs and saying. We many times have arguments through just proverbs. One of them is ‘mas sabe el Diablo por Viejo que por diablo’(more knows the devil for age than for devil)”

What does that mean to you?

J-“It means that older people have more wisdom since they have gone through more. They have more experience”

When would you use this?

J-“It is mainly used by parents on their children when the child argues. They tell them that to tell them that they know what’s best because they have already experienced something like that”

Do you use it?

J-“I rarely use it since I am not that old, but I do tell it to my younger siblings when they argue with my parents or even sometimes when they argue with me”

Analysis- The proverb shows that the Mexican culture is one that respects its elders and that has high respect for them since they are the ones with the wisdom. They also like to test their wisdom and ability through all the different proverbs that they have. The family is even teaching the young children by telling them the proverbs and using them on them.

Love from a distance


The informant is a first generation Mexican-American student. She said that she spends a decent amount of time in Mexico still (she usually visits a couple weekends during the school year and goes for slightly longer periods during the summer). She visits a lot of family in Mexico, including her grandma, a lot of cousins, and aunts and uncles. Outside of Mexico itself, she has a lot of Mexican friends from growing up in the Los Angeles area.


The informant described to me the first time she remembered hearing this proverb. She was talking with one of her friends (who is also Mexican) about her some problems she was having in her long distance relationship and her friend responded with this phrase. The informant described her friend’s tone as somewhat joking, but with real sentiment behind it. She said that she heard that phrase countless more times during the 9 months she was still in that relationship from various other Mexican friends and relatives.


Amor de lejos amor de pendejos

Love from a distance is love for idiots


This proverb was obviously more significant to the informant because she was actually in a long distance relationship and this is something people would say to her quite often. I also thought it was interesting how this proverb seemed to lose something in translation. The original spanish rhymes and has a good flow to it, where the english phrase is somewhat awkward. I asked the informant if she would say this phrase to me in English (I don’t speak spanish) and she said that she would probably just avoid using the proverb if she couldn’t say it in spanish because “it won’t sound the same.” In this way, the proverb is a way of connecting her to fellow spanish speaking people

In a closed mouth, flies do not enter


The informant is a first generation Mexican-American student. She said that she spends a decent amount of time in Mexico still (she usually visits a couple weekends during the school year and goes for slightly longer periods during the summer). She visits a lot of family in Mexico, including her grandma, a lot of cousins, and aunts and uncles. She learned this proverb from one of her uncles during these visits.


The informant said that the first time she remembers hearing this proverb is when she was a young child and was talking incessantly about pokemon. Her uncle said it to her and she said he essentially meant, “shut up, kid.” Since then, she says that she and others use it to let someone know they are being too long-winded.


En boca cerrada, no entran moscas

In a closed mouth, flies do not enter.


The informant found this proverb very funny and she seemed eager to pass it on to me, so that she can now say it to me in Spanish and I’ll know what it means, even though I don’t speak Spanish. I think she desires to perform this proverb so badly because it allows her to say something kind of rude to the people she cares about, but in a playful way, so that it is hard for the person to get mad. She also seems to use it to identify with her Mexican roots and her close connection with her family in Mexico. This is something they apparently all say to each other.

Ganale Al PRI

Ganale al PRI

            “’Ganale al PRI’ se refiere a anos atras en cuando la corrupcion en Mexico era demasiada que aunque toda la gente sabia que no votarian a favor de el partido del PRI, ellos de todos modos salian ganando. Entonces por eso se empeso a decirle a la gente muy terca que “ganale al PRI”… En realidad no me acuerdo donde fue que lo escuche por primera ves, solo se que es algo muy comun para nosotros los Mexicanos.”

“’Beat the PRI’ refers to years ago when corruption in Mexico was big and even though all the people knew they were not going to vote for the PRI party, they still ended up winning. Therefore, we began to tell really stubborn people, “beat the PRI”… to be honest I cannot remember where exactly I heard this for the first time, all I know is that it is something very common for us Mexicans”

The informant is a native Valparaiso, Zacatecas; in the country of Mexico. She was born in the year of 1952 and lived in Mexico until the age of 26 which was when she migrated to the United States of America. As a native Mexican, proverbs, myths and other sorts of folk tales she knows, all have been influenced by her Mexican culture. Furthermore, she learned most of her proverbs from the household setting, from family members, friends and others who she was in direct contact since according to her, she had no recognition of what a TV was; media did not influence her knowledge of folk tales, people who she had contact to were the ones to influence her knowledge of folk tales. She grew up hearing these proverbs and other folk tales constantly on a day to day basis from people all around her. Because of the constant exposure, the proverbs and other folk tales have now become a part of her daily life vocabulary.

The fact that the informant does not recall where she first heard the proverb or who she first heard it from can hint that this may have been because the proverb is a really common line for the Mexicans residing in Valparaiso, Zacatecas; the place where the informant grew up in. This specific proverb takes upon a very literal situation, the corruption among a specific electoral party and then uses it to sort of mock any future situations which may relate to the same task. In my opinion, I find it to be a brilliant way to make fun of a very difficult time in Mexican history while still using the proverb to not forget about the time either. I guess this proverb serves to keep that part of Mexican Culture reality alive and by it being kept as it is, it is in some way there to make sure that future generations know about a time when corruption among the electoral party PRI was very present.

Lo Que Menos Puedes Ver, En Tu Casa Lo Haz de Tener

Lo Que Menos Puedes Ver, En Tu Casa Lo Haz de Tener

“’Lo que menos pudes ver, en tu casa lo haz de tener’ se refiere a un refran que dice que no es bueno admirarse de la demas gente porque uno nunca sabe. Por ejemplo, si yo ando a dice y dice que hay unas chamacas bien locas que ni le hasen caso a sus padres, por andar de habladora, alomejor hasta mis hijas me salgan asi. Por eso es major mantener la boca cerrada porque como dicen, en boca cerrada, no entran moscas… este refran me acuerdo que lo desia mucho mi mama, no estoy segura si fue de ella en que lo escuche por primera vez pero se que ella lo usaba mucho tambien. Tambien he escuchado esa frase mucho en las telenovelas, alomejor se deve a que es una frase muy comun para nosotros.”

“’What you can least tolerate, you shall have it in your home’ refers to a proverb that states that it’s not good to talk about other people because you never know. For example, if I’m going around talking and talking that there are girls who are really crazy who don’t even listen o their parents, for being a big mouth, my daughters may end up being like that as well. That’s why it’s better to keep your mouth shut because as they say, in a closed mouth, no bugs go in… I heard this proverb from my mother who used to say it a lot. I’m not sure if I first heard it from her but I do know she used it a lot. I’ve also heard this phrase a lot in Spanish soap operas, maybe this is because it really if a very common phrase among us.”

My informant is a native of Guadalajara Mexico. She was born and raised there until the age of 16 which was when she migrated to the US. She is now 42 years of age and has 6 kids of various ages. Even though she has lived most of her life in the US, she still maintains strong ties with her Mexican heritage through her mother. She is really attached to her mother and therefore most of the things she has learned have been passed on by her mother. She is now also sharing her knowledge with her oldest children and continues to bestow Mexican culture among all her children. Since she migrated to the US she has focused on working and after getting married, to being a housewife. She has not had any formal institutional education, so most of her knowledge comes from others in her daily life.

It was interesting to collect this particular proverb because even though I’m not from Guadalajara, people in Zacatecas, from where my roots come from, also use this phrase a lot. This goes to show that some phrases aren’t necessarily original to one specific place, it can be homogenous to several locations. Furthermore, commonalities among different groups can help bring people together which is why I was able to get along so well with my informant.

El Que Madruga, Dios Lo Ayuda

El Que Madruga, Dios Lo Ayuda

“El que madruga dios lo ayuda translates into the English saying, early bird catches the worm or something like that. But for us, we don’t use birds or worms, we use god, haha… anyway, this is a saying that just about anyone uses so that people are on time but I think since it used the word ‘God’ it may have be made so that we get up early to go to church I guess. Anyway, I heard this all the time from everyone, especially my mother who wanted me to be up at the crack of dawn doing chores and stuff and now I too catch myself telling my daughters the same thing. I guess since it was so common in my life growing up that I now use it in my own vocabulary.”

My informant is a 41 year old Mexican descendant who was born in Mexico but has lived in the USA for the most part of her life. She maintains most of her ties to her Mexican culture while living in the USA so therefore, most of the things she knows has been passed down by her mother and other relatives. She does not necessarily learn her “cures” for different thing via a specific book or other published material, but rather from relatives in her daily life.

In my opinion, this is a very interesting proverb because it uses a concept that is similar to another culture yet makes it its own to mean the same thing. In other words, the proverb when said in Spanish directly refers to the culture’s religion and in English it refers to its surroundings yet when translated, they essentially mean the same thing. So even though the proverbs use completely different similes, the idea is the same. This is fascinating because one can see how one’s culture can determine how one explains a similar situation.