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Updated: Nov 12, 2023

By Victoria Rivera

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A Puerto Rican was meeting a Cuban friend at a bar. The two were coworkers and, after a long day, there was nothing they wanted more than grab a nice cold cerveza. The Puerto Rican from across the bar saw the Cuban friend sitting at the bar and, with his big ol’ grin, waved him over with a “¿cómo andas?” To the Puerto Rican, he was just asked how he walked. Confounded, he could only respond “with my two feet!”

Obviously, “cómo andas” doesn’t just mean “how do you walk?” The Cuban was merely asking how his coworker was doing that day.

Hispanic and Latino culture is rich in its linguistics. The various regions share Spanish as its main language, but each of its nuances result in different meanings among the many cultures that use it. This results in unique expressions amongst Spanish people. In celebration of the 35th year of National Hispanic Heritage Month, The Buccaneer gathered five sayings and their meanings.

1. “Guerra avisada no mata soldado, y si lo mata es por descuidado.”

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“A war forewarned won't kill a soldier, and if it does, he was careless.”

In Venezuela, it is often shortened to its first half, but the message is unchanged. It means when given ample warning of what’s to come, a person has all they need to prepare themselves.

2.“Cuando el río suena, agua lleva/piedras trae.”

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“When the river makes noise, it carries water/it carries stones.”

This saying from Spain has two well-known variations, although the intention behind the saying does not change. It means if you hear a river, there must be some manner of water. Or when it comes to gossip even rumors come from some sliver of truth.

3.“A falta de pan, casabe.”

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“If there’s no bread, casabe.”

In the Dominican Republic, it’s used to say “make do.” Casabe is a form of flat bread made from yuka or cassava. It may not be an ideal substitution in comparison to actual bread, but it will get the job done.

4.“La piña está agria.”

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“The pineapple is sour.”

Beginning in Puerto Rico, this saying is not really about fruit. Rather, it means that times are going to be hard sometimes. One may often hear the saying used in reference to poor business, but it can be used whenever you see fit.

5.“El que con lobos anda, a aullar se enseña.”

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“He who hangs with wolves learns to howl.”

This Mexican proverb is to not be mistaken with “if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” That saying would be better attributed to ”quien con niños se acuesta mojado amanece”‑ he who lies with children wakes up in... feces. While similar in nature, “lying with the dogs” is about being careful of who you interact with. The former, on the contrary, is much closer to the saying “show me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are.” Meaning the company one keeps may just reveal their true nature.

What are some of your Latin catchphrases?

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