In the 500 or so years since Spain first began its conquest of Mexico, the Spanish language has developed into its own Mexican dialect. Influenced by Mexico's indigenous languages, the country's culture and the people's surroundings, the Spanish of Mexico may have its roots in Spain, but it has taken on a life of its own. Plenty of slang, colloquialisms, idioms and proverbs are unique to Mexico and many contain references to quintessentially Mexican things, such as local food or animals.
1. Me cayó el veinte.
This is a Mexican way of expressing that you've finally understood something. Literally it is to do with a 20 centavos coin (veinte) falling and comes from using these coins in payphones. In English we might say that “the penny dropped”.
2. ¡No manches!
¡No manches! Is used in Mexico to express disbelief, in the same way you might say “No way!”, or maybe more recently “Shut. up.” It literally translates to “don't stain”, which doesn't really make a lot of sense.
3. Ponte los huaraches antes de meterte en la huizachera
'Put on your sandals (huaraches) before getting into a huizachera'. Huaraches are a type of simple sandal worn in Mexico. A huizachera is a field covered with the huizache plant, known in English as the acacia, which is very common all over Mexico. This phrase advises people to be well prepared before embarking on a difficult task.
4. No porque me vean huaraches, piensen que soy guacalero
More huaraches. A guacalero is a man who works in a market, carrying boxes of fruit and vegetables, so this phrases translates as 'don't think I'm a guacalero just because I'm wearing sandals'. It's like a Mexican version of 'don't judge a book by its cover', that says appearances can be misleading and you shouldn't make quick judgements.
5. El comal le dijo a la olla, mira que tiznado estás
This phrase is about being a hypocrite, like the English expression 'the pot calling the kettle black', but with Mexican cooking implements. A comal is a thin metal disk used to heat tortillas and other food, while an olla is...well, just a pot. The full phrase is 'the comal said to the pot, look how sooty you are'.
6. Más vale atole con risas que chocolate con lágrimas
Atole is a hot drink made from maize and other cheap ingredients, so más vale atole con risas que chocolate con lágrimas translates as 'better atole with laughter than cocoa with tears'. In other words, it's better to live a happy and humble life, than a rich and miserable one.
If these Mexican idioms tickle your fancy, you could try our Spanish level test – you might discover that you have a natural talent for the language. Do you know any more Spanish expressions specific to Mexico?