- “Ponte Las Pilas”- Hispanic Proverb
Context : CL is a Mexican American student at USC. Her parents are from Michoacan, Mexico and her family currently resides near Bakersfield, California. She’s not sure where this saying originated from but she knows that it’s mainly used a lot when people graduate. She thinks it’s a saying that’s become popular among people in Hispanic culture. While explaining it, she also thought of another similar saying: “Ponte Trucha”.
Description (From Transcript):
CL: Okay so “ponte las pilas” is like you have to constantly be on your guard… you have to like make sure that you’re on top of things, that you don’t fall behind… The literal translation would be “put your batteries on” or “put on your batteries”. Figuratively it would be like… you have to start grinding, working hard. I think “ponte trucha” is kinda similar, like stay aware.
Interviewer: What does trucha mean??
CL: *laughs* I have NO idea. My mom tells me this, like whenever… if we’re talking about something and she tells me something I didn’t know and I’m like “oh, what?”, she’s like “yeah, ponte trucha”.
Interviewer: ohhhh, like smarten up kind of?
CL: Yeah! Or like if I am telling her about something that happened to me and she’s like “oh, well you should have done this” and she’s like “ponte trucha”. I think I’ve only heard this from my mom. I think she got it from her family or friends or something. Both of my parents are from [Michoacan].
My Interpretation: The way that I interpret this proverb is that humans often work like machinery and when they put their batteries in, they function at their best. I also think it might be a common saying among Hispanic communities because they were so largely disenfranchised from higher education therefore when people graduated high school and decided to go to college, families encouraged them to work extra hard with this saying. As for the second phrase, I think it adds to ideas such as “working hard” and “working smart”. It also makes sense that parents would tell their children these phrases because they would want them to succeed and do their best in all contexts of their lives, whether it be in education or everyday situations like my informant described for the second phrase.
For further reading on this proverb, see:
Pearson. “Ponte Las Pilas – Meaning, Origin and Usage.” English-Grammar-Lessons.com, 2 Feb. 2022, english-grammar-lessons.com/ponte-las-pilas-meaning/.