Tag Archives: Refranes

Ojos que no ven, corazon que no siente

“The saying goes: Ojos que no ven, corazon que no siente. If the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t feel, literally. In English a close equivalent would be “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” My grandmother Victoria would use this saying very often. She was actually my main source for Spanish sayings and proverbs, lo que llamamos ‘refranes’ (what we call ‘sayings’), ‘El refranero popular’ (popular proverbs). Much of it is not recorded and has been passed down from generation to generation. She, in her daily speech would sprinkle constantly ‘refranes’. And my other grandmother and other ladies would use them constantly. To a level that I don’t hear anymore in the younger generations, even my parents, as those ladies who were all born at the turn of the 20th century. And they would constantly, constantly use these popular sayings. Because of the circumstances they were my babysitters after school, I was exposed to their speech everyday. We would gather at my maternal grandmothers house and my paternal grandmother would join us everyday. And there we would have an after school snack, ‘la merienda’ and a number of other neighbors routinely would join and come also. “Las mismas viejas venian todo los dias. Jaja.” (The same old ladies would come every day. Haha.) My grandmother Encarna and grandmother Victoria. So I learned a lot of these ‘refranes’ directly from my grandmothers. Now talking to you I can clearly see that later generations would not use as much these refranes or popular sayings in their everyday speech. To the point that every situation, every conversation, whether happy or festive or sad or even, because then there was a point there were some children shows on television shows. My grandmother had a television; and they would react to these shows and situations or the news with ‘refranes.” Tengo una lista de refranes muy larga. (I have a very long [mental] list of sayings.)  But this one that I’m telling you about was very widely used by my paternal grandmother. She would use it many different ways. For family members and relatives or for more removed situations. She would often use it with the meaning of ‘don’t make someone suffer unnecessarily.’ And her second most favorite one was “Donde las dan, las toman.” *laughs* The donde is very undefinied but in English it could be “what goes around comes around.” Siempre estaba diciendo esto. (She was always saying this.) I remember she would use this a lot from the small children. Like if one of the kids would hit another kid, and then the kid tripped she would say “Donde las dan, las toman.”

It’s kind of sad really, up until that generation, those people were not all necessarily educated but they had all of these refranes in their “acervo cultural” (cultural heritage, cultural tradition). It was a big part of their cultural baggage. And today we don’t use them; we’ve lost them. Maybe because now we’ve become more rational or whatever and we don’t have to rely so much on what the collective thinking had to say on things. They feel probably that they don’t need to fall back on what the collective thinking has to say because all these sayings are collective thinking on anything and everything. On the weather. There was a time when people relied on those things more to interpret daily life, both in the natural world and in human relations and on other levels. I remember them talking a lot about the weather and using sayings. They were constantly using sayings to interpret everything going on around them. That’s my point. That has been lost. People don’t do that anymore.”

The item that has been collected here is the saying, “Ojos que no ven, corazon que no siente.” But what I found most compelling about this conversation was my fathers reasoning for why many of these sayings or “Refranero Popular” have been lost. Western society focuses more and more on science, the official and the logical. Some sayings still exist, but as he explained this is not what people nowadays rely on to interpret the world around them. These sayings were not just whimsical sentences, they were modes of interacting with their surroundings and explaining phenomenon. Now, we tend to base our thinking and statements on what the latest study has discovered or the newest schools of thought.

It was interesting for me to watch my dad tell me this story. He was kind of sad. And not only because he was nostalgic, thinking about his grandmother and their times together, but also because he was realizing that a part of the culture he grew up with is disappearing.

Más que carretas

“I heard this saying from our uncle who got it from our great-grandmother, Vioto. It says:  ‘Tiran más tetas que carretas.’ She would use it to mean that women had more power, particularly over men than almost any other force. Like ok, go ahead and do what you want but you know I’m going to win in the end.”

Literally, the translations is: boobs pull more than carts. After doing some research I learned that the ‘cart’ is referring to a cart that is pulling oxen. Also, there are various versions of this saying with slightly different wording, but the the idea is the same. Most people have interpreted it to mean that a women’s body is her greatest tool and that is the driving force. However, I believe that the way in which my great-grandmother used it was not explicitly about the breasts or body of a female, but about the power of a woman’s influence overall. The context in which she used it was to show female dominance, something that was not very common in the mid-1900’s.

Here is a site that provides numerous variations of this saying: http://hombrerefranero.blogspot.com/2011/03/tiran-mas-dos-tetas-que-dos-carretas.html


Mexican Refranes (Proverbs)

Here is a series of Mexican proverbs that my informant told me she uses or hears every day as she told me verbatim:

“If you are with bad people, like when somebody tells you a refrán. That means something to make you think about the things you doing.”

“Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.” (Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are)

“If you have bad company, if you have bad friends people can tell you hey you don’t do that because you have a bad friends but you say im not doing anything bad and then people say ‘Dime con quién andas’ ok? tell me who you’re with and I tell you who you are. ‘y dire quién eres’ people are going to think you are the same you have with bad people, but you are not bad. But people are going to think you are the same. ‘Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.’ Tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

“Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.” (Those who walk with wolves learn to howl)

“You are still with bad people and then you are not bad, you are a good girl but the other person are a bad person. No no bad only they are younger they… you are with a people but you are not bad and then we say ‘Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.’ Those who walk with wolves learn to howl. You learn to do the same.”

These two are similar in that they are about who you surround yourself with, in the second case, “wolves.” They’re about how you should be careful because we are easily influenced by others, and perceived in terms of people we choose to be with, even if you are good. Wolves are dangerous vicious animals that run in packs, so this is a warning not to get involved with bad people, who can turn you and make you “howl,” or be bad like them.

“Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.” (Be good without looking at who)

“‘Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.’ Be good no matter who are. Be good with a person no matter how a person is. That’s one we use more. Be good no matter. Be good without looking at who.”

This refran is about being good to everyone, no matter who they are, how they may seem. Treating others well is very important to my informant and she believes strongly that you shouldn’t judge others.

“Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces.” (Tell me what you’re showing off and I’ll tell you what you lack)

“This is a nice one. You know especially we in Mexico, maybe you know people like this. People who, how how you use the word when you have friend and they said ‘Oh I have this Oh this cost me a lot money Oh this very expensive Oh mine’s is better oh blah blah blah.’ They always telling you they have the best or you know if I get if I have my dog oh yes I have dog and then I have a shoes oh I have a shoes or I have a new bed or some ‘I have this’ all the time I’m telling you what I have ok. They always telling you what they have. You know people like this. ‘Blah Blah blah.’ They are always trying to tell. And they they say ‘Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces’ That means persons talk about they have they have when you realize what they have they have, really they don’t have nothing. That’s why. You telling me you have a lot a lot and maybe when I go to your house, you have nothing.”

Because my informant comes from very humble beginnings in León, Guanajuato, México, she can’t stand materialism and thinks that people who are obsessed with things and showing off are either fake, liars, or as the proverb suggests are lacking otherwise. This lack is likely a more metaphorical lack, like they have something perhaps emotionally or spiritually missing from their lives or are unhappy. This saying has probably become even more applicable since she moved to the United States, where image and things is a part of daily life and are even more in your face.

“No soy monedita de oro.” (I’m not a gold coin)

“If you have somebody… I don’t know if I say in the right way or no. Ok, you ah you like me, ah? Because if I say ‘I love you’ (Te quiero) that means I want you, and if I say you don’t want me, you don’t want me ah? This is when you have somebody and that person don’t like you and we say this most of the time, all of the time all the time because you know you find most of the persons they don’t like you. We answer ‘Oh good, I’m not gold coin.’ ‘No soy monedita de oro.’ If you are gold coin, everybody want you. If you are not gold, not everybody want you. Somebody can say ‘Oh I don’t like her,’ or somebody say ‘Well, I don’t like you.’ Well good, ‘No soy monedita de oro’ and everybody loves gold, so it’s good that they don’t all want you. Not everybody loves me. We use that every time, everyday, all situations. That’s the most popular in Mexico. ‘No soy monedita de oro.’”

I found this refran to be the most interesting because the connotation or the reason why she says it seems somewhat contradictory at first. I’m not a gold coin is considered a positive thing. It’s good that you aren’t gold because then everyone doesn’t like you, everyone doesn’t want you, love you. This tells me that self-esteem in Mexican culture has a different slant in that it truly comes from the self as opposed to from affirmation from others, and also in the sense that not being perfect is a good thing. This saying emphasizes uniqueness and the imperfection of humanity as good and safe. It’s not as important that everyone love you because not everyone is good and you shouldn’t want everyone to love you. That she ends telling me this particular refran, which she explains to be the most popular and commonly used one she knows from Mexico, it really highlights the motif that you need to be cautious with people. You don’t want everyone to like you. It’s almost a giant Freudian defense mechanism, because again, the other motif is that not all people are good, or good for you to be around, though you should treat everyone well (even if you don’t like them).