Authentic Mexican Proverbs

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Get acquainted with Mexican language-folklore... and some of our quirkiest idiosyncrasies: Ten selected Mexican proverbs for you to savor.


No hay que echarse alacranes al seno
Don't take scorpions under your wing
Avoid drawing towards you people that are likely to betray your confidence and hurt you.

"¡Agua!, cielos", dijo un pato cuando volar ya no pudo
"Water!, Oh Heavens!", said a duck when it could no longer fly
This proverb can be woven into conversation, by way of exclamation, to highlight a situation where there seems to be no way out.
When a duck in the air realizes it´s no longer able to fly, its options are not many. The best it can hope for is water - to make a soft landing.

Todo lo conserva el alcohol, menos los empleos
Alcohol preserves all, except employment
A warning to those fond of drinking to beware of losing their jobs.

Todo árbol es madera, pero el ocote no es caoba
All trees are wood, but pine is not mahogany
This somewhat class-concious Mexican proverb is used to underline social differences: Even though it would seem that our shared human condition makes us all intrinsically equal...we are not that equal after all. We may all be made out of the same stuff, but a stuff that comes in different qualities.
Ocote -from the nahuatl ocotl for pine, is the most humble of woods and represents the commonplace, whereas mahogany is a fine and expensive wood – a symbol of quality.

Los bravos a la plaza, y los mansos al corral
The fierce to the bullring go, the tame to the cattle pen
This characterizes Mexican defiance: He who fails to face life fiercely is deemed dishonorable and is shamefully compared to a bull not worthy of the bullring.

Al cabo pa'l santo que's, con un repique le basta
For a saint such as he is, one peal of the church bell is enough
This is used to express one´s scorn for someone. No need to exert one´s self for that person, anything is good enough for him. Once again we meet Mexican society´s position that the respect due to a person is proportional to his social standing or his intrinsic worth...

Apenas oyen tronar, ya quieren calabacitas
As soon as they hear thunder they want zucchini
Mocks people who are foolishly impatient in their ambition and overanxious to reap personal benefit.

Voltear cañones, es de falsos o de rajones
To turn cannons on one's own is the way of the false and the cowardly
This proverb condemns the turncoat.

Cuando hay para carne, es vigilia
When there's money for meat, it's Friday in Lent
A humorous Mexican proverb depicting the flagrant bad luck of the downtrodden. When something yearned for is finally obtained, the opportunity to benefit from it is already gone...

La rabia de la tamalera: que otra se le ponga enfrente
What makes the tamal-vendor fly into a rage? Another tamal-vendor setting up shop in front of her
We need our space.



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