Tag Archives: spanish

Santa Barbara Fiesta Spanish Celebration


Collector: “Do you have any specific rituals or festivals you have participated in?”

Informant: “In Santa Barbara there’s Fiesta. We celebrate the Old Spanish Days the first week of August every year.”

Collector: “How do people celebrate fiesta?”

Informant: “There are parades with dancers and Clydesdale horses. We make paper mache eggs that are filled with confetti and you place confetti over people’s heads by cracking the eggs. Eating tamales, corn on the cob. They make all kinds of tamales and Spanish drinks. We have different concerts and bands playing mariachi in the center of town.”

Collector: “Is it restricted to only a certain group of people?”

Informant: “Anyone can join in. It’s a festival for the whole town to celebrate.”


The informant is a black forty-eight-year-old woman from Santa Barbara California.


After learning about Fiesta’s rituals, I found it interesting that the informant participated in Spanish cultural events when she was black. Though she doesn’t share Hispanic ethnicity, attended Fiesta annually as a child and it is now part of her identity. Thus it can be argued that one’s culture does not come from race, but from customs and traditions one participates in. The informant said Fiesta is for the whole town to celebrate. I found it ironic that outsiders felt welcomed in Fiesta, as it is very culturally specific to the Spanish. Instead of “othering” the community, this celebration brought people together.

Siete Infantes de Lara

Nationality: Spanish

Primary Language: Spanish/English

Age: 25

Occupation: Student

Residence: Madrid

Date: 3/28/2024


J.M- “The tale of the “Siete Infantes de Lara”, is a story in which seven Spanish brothers get double-crossed by their uncle because he’s holding a grudge. He sends them off to Cordoba on a mission that turns out to be a trap and they all end up getting killed. It’s a pretty sad turn of events. But then, their younger half-brother, Mudarra, steps up. Mudarra has both Christian and Muslim roots, which is significant to the story. He decides to go on a mission of his own to settle the score and gets revenge on the uncle for what he did. The whole story represents betrayal, and a quest for family honor amidst the backdrop of the old Christian-Muslim clashes in Spain.”


The participant was told this tale as a young boy by his parents. He describes it as an action filled story that also holds family values, and teaches the importance of loyalty. Recounts it as a bedtime story that made him value heroistic qualities.


Although this is a childhood story, it has many themes that help with instilling familial values and lightly explains historical tensions in Spain. The tale reflects the broader cultural and religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in medieval Spain, with Mudarra’s mixed Christian and Muslim heritage. It is also more than just a story of medieval conflict; it is a reflection on human values, the complexities of familial and political relationships, and the enduring quest for justice and honor


 MR is a student at Carleton University but currently lives in Texas with her family. Her parents are both Mexican immigrants and she was born in Canada, but they have all lived in the United States for over a decade. She is a linguist who speaks multiple languages. 

TEXT: ‘cafecito’

MR- It’s used when, like, you’re done with a meal and now it’s time for talking at the table. Maybe you have a cookie or like a little dessert or like a little cup of coffee or tea and you just table talk. You have cafecito to have table talk. Cafecito is commonly used by Spanish-speaking people because it’s just a diminutive of cafe (coffee), but me and my family and friends use it a lot more frequently and more versatile. My non-Spanish speaking friends know what it means when I ask for them to come over for a quick cafecito. 

ANALYSIS: The progression of cafecito as a phrase represents the values of MR and her bilingual family. Dinner time is an important time for many families, eating all together and not leaving the table until everyone is done. Sharing time together around a meal is crucial to MR’s lifestyle, and the evolution of the use of the word cafecito captures that. While the direct translation of the word just means coffee, when asking for some cafecito there is a desire for communal gathering and conversation, not just a drink. In a world where having a screen in front of your face throughout the whole day is becoming ever more pertinent, it’s important to have moments of true connection and honest conversations, without any added social pressures. Having cafecito after a meal allows for a calm and open area for people to commune and relax, with just good company and treats to keep one occupied. Using the word Cafecito in this way is also very reflexive of the bilingual experience. In many multilingual families, words and phrases quickly take on new or double meanings. The abundance of communication routes does not always mean that there are words that can capture what one means, and often there is a word in one language that better captures the feeling you are trying to convey in another. Cafecito evolved into a multilingual term, having various meanings depending on the sentence in which it is included and able to be used in multiple languages. The varying uses of the word Cafecito all represent the importance of community and communication in our modern world and the ways that language can evolve to fit our needs.

Habla Hasta por los Codos

MR is a student at Carleton University but currently lives in  Texas with her family. Her parents are both Mexican immigrants and she was born in Canada, but they have all lived in the United States for over a decade. She is a linguist who speaks multiple languages. 

 ‘habla hasta por los codos’

MR- if someone who can talk and talk and talk forever, or someone who can talk to rocks, you’d say ’habla hasta por los cados’, which means that they could talk even with their elbows. Instead of their mouth they use their elbows would be a more literal translation of it. I don’t know where it came from but I first heard it from my mom, and since she’s from Mexico City I’ve always assumed it was a more popular phrase there.  

ANALYSIS: In every culture, some people never seem to know when to stop talking. This specific phrase reminds me of English terms like ‘chatterbox’ or ‘gabber’, which are used to describe a similar type of person. It’s a universally understood metaphor to describe a person who exists throughout every culture. The saying highlights the cultural value of knowing oneself and being able to read social scenarios. People who talk too much or talk over others are looked down upon, and often seen as brazen and self-centered. Metaphors like this one emphasize the resentment that is fostered toward self-serving individuals. Typically, people who can talk and talk and talk are not very good listeners, and many don’t enjoy it when a person only wants to talk about themself and never listens to what others have to say. The commonality of metaphors about these types of people showcases the importance humankind puts on being able to listen and communicate with others properly. Having playfully negative remarks to make about these people allows them to be made aware of their brazen talkativeness while also spreading a message about what is socially correct. While it is unclear how long this metaphor has been around, it has been popular within Mexican culture for many years and continues to be used, being spread to new generations.  

Spanish Proverb: Más vale solo que mal acompañado

Text: Más vale solo que mal acompañado

Translation: It is better to be alone than in bad company

Context: My informant – a 20-year-old international student from Oaxaca, Mexico – explained to me that this is a common phrase spoken in Mexico. The phrase is in Spanish, so I asked her if this was a common phrase used in various Spanish speaking countries, to which she replied in the negative; she has only heard people in Mexico state the proverb. In response to my question regarding where she first heard this phrase, she couldn’t remember, but she did hear it a lot from her mother while growing up. She interpreted it as a means of comfort from those she heard it from; instead of feeling sad in her solitude, she should rejoice in being in her own presence rather than in the presence of bad company. Additionally, she also remembered hearing the phrase in an episode of Como Dice el Dicho, a telenovela that creates stories revolving around common sayings in Mexico. The episode is called “Más vale solo andar, que mal casar,” translating to “It’s better to walk alone than to marry badly.”

Analysis: Given that my informant had heard the phrase in Como Dice el Dicho but it was uttered in a different manner, I was curious to see if the meaning behind it might differ from how she interpreted it. The episode’s title in English is “It’s better to walk alone than to marry badly,” and the description of the episode is that a young woman finds her boyfriend in bed with another, yet she ultimately ends up marrying him. However, as time goes on, their relationship becomes more complicated, leading her to understand the proverb the episode revolves around at the end of the program: it is better to be alone than in bad company (ViX). My informant had said that this phrase was more general, being spoken to provide comfort to anyone who might be uncomfortable in their solitude as it can be a better alternative to being with bad company. However, the episode from Como Dice el Dicho leads me to believe that the phrase might be more commonly used when it comes to romantic relationships, especially as a way to console someone when their partner is unfaithful or toxic.

In the Hispanic and Latino communities, there has been a phenomenon revolving around La Toxica/El Toxico, translating to “the toxic one” and used to refer to partners in relationships who are unhealthy for the other person (“La Toxica” And How We View Relationships). However, the phrase is more commonly associated with women, attributing their role in the relationship as the toxic one. In Como Dice el Dicho, the roles are reversed, with a man emulating the trope of “El Toxico” and a woman navigating her way out of the toxic relationship. The show challenges the stereotypical gender dynamics in relationships through this reversal and creates a space for viewers to evaluate their perceptions of gendered behavior. Because of this, I feel that the phrase “más vale solo que mal acompañado” is a way for Mexican women to feel independent in their lives and understand that instead of being tied to a partner who doesn’t treat her right, she is better off alone. The trope of “La Toxica” is disproportionately applied to women than it is to men, so I see “más vale solo que mal acompañado” as a way for women to acknowledge their agency in relationships. 


Banda, Monserrat. “‘La Toxica’ And How We View Relationships,” Compass Center, https://www.compassctr.org/post/la-toxica-how-we-view-relationships. 

“Más vale solo andar, que mal casar,” ViX, https://vix.com/es-es/detail/video-3711494.