In Mexico, two worlds converged to create a new people, a new culture and… a unique new repertoire of sayings in Spanish… the Mexican sayings.
Here are some of my favorite ones. Each one is followed by its English translation and a short comment clarifying its meaning…
Along the way I’ll link you to more pages of Mexican sayings.
A palabras de borracho, oídos de jicarero
To the words of a drunk, the deaf ear of a jicarero.
Jicarero refers to the seller of pulque, most often in a pulquería. Pulque is the traditional Mexican milky-looking alcoholic beverage derived from the maguey.
In other words, this Mexican saying advises us to turn a deaf ear to senseless blabbering.
Quien compra paraguas cuando llueve, en vez de seis paga nueve
Whoever buys an umbrella when it’s already raining pays nine instead of six
This is practical advice: forethought will not only spare us discomfort but also, very possibly, save us money.
No hay que buscarle mangas al chaleco
Don´t search the vest for sleeves
This is a direct relative of the saying “No hay que buscarle tres pies al gato”and has the same two meanings: “Don´t look for trouble” and “don´t complicate things unnecessarily”.
Hasta pa´ pedir limosna hace falta capital
Even for begging one needs capital
This saying evokes the voice of a Mexican complaining that there´s nothing he can do to improve his situation, for lack of money.
Nunca falta una bestia muerta para un zopilote hambriento
There´ll always be a dead beast for a hungry vulture
This saying tells us that life doesn´t fail to present us with opportunities.
Animals, especially donkeys, hens, roosters, cows and bulls, are quite prominent in the imagery of Mexican sayings. Read here a selection of Mexican sayings starring animals. Or continue reading… you’ll find another link at the bottom of this page.
Ponte los huaraches antes de meterte en la huizachera
Huarache is a rudimentary leather sandal, very much worn in rural Mexico.
Huizache is a very thorny wild plant which proliferates in Mexico. Huizachera is a field covered by this plant.
The message: Take the necessary precautions before embarking on a tricky task.
No porque me vean huaraches, piensen que soy guacalero
In a Mexican market, a guacalero is a man who earns his living carrying boxes of vegetables, fruits and other merchandise.
Don´t think I’m a guacalero just because you see me wearing sandals (well, huaraches).
Take your time to judge. Appearances can be misleading.
And also about appearances…
No todos los que chiflan son arrieros
Not all who whistle are mule drivers
Don´t get carried away by appearances.
Hijo de maguey, mecate
Son of the maguey, mecate
Maguey is a variety of the agave and possibly the most characteristic of Mexican plants. Among its many traditional uses, the best known of which is, of course, the elaboration of the alcoholic beverages mezcal and pulque, is the extraction of fibers for making rope, called mecate.
Children are made out of the same stuff as their parents. They inherit their traits and follow in their steps.
Para humo de mezote, ojos de tlachiquero
Mezote is the tall stem of the flowering maguey. The tlaquichero is the man who extracts, by sucking, the maguey’s sweet sap, called aguamiel. The aguamiel is then fermented, pulque being the result.
In short, this Mexican saying tells us that each task requires specific qualities and abilities.
Al que ha de ser charro, del cielo le cae el sombrero
Whoever is born to be a charro, has his hat fall on him from the sky.
There´s no walking away from one´s destiny.
You'll find here more Mexican sayings about life, fortune, love and death.
Unos no hablan lo que piensan, y otros no piensan lo que hablan
Some people don´t say what they think and other don´t think before they speak
And also about guarding one´s tongue:
La lengua guarda el pescuezo
The tongue guards the throat
Keep quiet to avoid getting into trouble.
A todo le llaman cena, aunque sea un taco con sal
They call anything supper, even a taco with salt
This saying comments on the propensity of us Mexicans to indulge in exaggeration.
Del plato a la boca se cae la sopa
There´s many a slip between the cup and the lip
You’re most probably aware that Mexican food is… what can I tell you?! Any superlatives would be an understatement. Well, you should know that the Mexican kitchen also has its literary achievements. Here's where to read some (awesome) Mexican sayings based on food.
Donde no hay humo, no hay lumbre
Where there´s no smoke, there´s no fire
If you can´t see the effect it’s probably because the cause is missing.
Solo el que carga el cajón sabe lo que pesa el muerto
Only he who carries the coffin knows how much the dead man weighs
We cannot really know what other people carry in their souls nor feel the sufferings they bear.
You’ll probably agree with me that although the language is the same as in Spanish Spanish sayings (well, almost…), the mood is definitely fresh and new.
A real Mexican is never at a loss for words. He always has a cartridge-full of Mexican sayings ready at the tip of his tongue. You know what? Once you've explored these pages, so will you…
P.S. I promised to link you to a page of Mexican sayings starring animals. Here it is.