By Abe Villarreal
Hola! It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and I have an urge to communicate to you in Spanish, but that, to some people, would be offensive. Ay yai yai...
Remember when high schools would require us to learn a foreign language? I grew up on the U.S. - Mexico border, so I took French. Don’t know much if it anymore, but I did enjoy learning how words are formed and expressions are created.
Language can be so amazing, and the Spanish language has some unforgettable phrases. Most of them come in the form of old wives’ tales that mama and nana told you.
Translated they sound funny, but to us they could be a matter of life and death.
Don’t shower when it’s thundering! Someone somewhere determined that a hot shower during a thunderstorm was a dangerous act. Remember this one? Don’t go outside with wet hair! In Spanish it sounds like this: No salgas con el pelo mojado! I’m still afraid to do it.
The wonderful phrases were almost always shouted out by our moms and grandmas because they said it just as we were committing these heinous acts. Moms have an unexplainable sixth sense. As a kid, you just can’t get away with anything. A mother knows.
I remember once when my grandma told me to not go out into the cold after being in the heat. If I did that too quickly, the temperature difference would leave my face distorted to the point it would never return to its normal shape. Cuidado! Se te puede torcer la cara.
One of my favorite things to hear from grandma was the saying Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sana hoy, sanará mañana. This is a rhyme told to kids when they get hurt. I’m talking about the kind of hurt that is a temporary hurt, like bumping your toe on the furniture corner. It seems like the end of the world until your grandmother’s hands are rubbing your pinky toe while repeating this rhyme. A few minutes of this and you are healed. The thought of it now takes me back to my childhood.
I’m sure many of these words-to-live-by cross cultures and are not specific to Latinos. Don’t you all agree that being out in the rain could give you pneumonia?
In the Mexican culture, rhymes, homemade remedies, and old wives’ tales are an important part of your upbringing. You haven’t lived life until your grandma shares the importance of family, traditions, romance, and community through sayings and practices that have been handed down through generations. They are always shared with so much meaning and terms of endearment that will melt your heart. A mijito or a mijita from a grandma is never forgotten.
Are these old Mexican wives' tales true? Si or no? Don’t take a chance. Follow them always and the motherly amor of your Mexican ancestors will protect you for generations to come.
Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in southern New Mexico. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.