Tuesday, June 25, 2024

But what does it meme? This week’s Mexican memes translated

If you’re on a quest to understand Mexican humor – or at least to find the best Mexican memes to share with your friends – we’ve got you covered! Here’s this week’s curated collection with a translation, background, any relevance to current events, and hopefully, a good chuckle.

Meme translation: “You, all worried about WhatsApp stealing your data. Meanwhile, the office supplies place on the corner:”

What does it meme?: Mexico is a place where you still, for the most part, need to go to the “office supplies store” for office supplies (the papelería). The papelería is also the place where you can get copies of your documents or have them printed! Not wanting to waste paper, these places recycle, and posters are often sold “bundled up” with scrap paper and a piece of tape for easy carrying. 

Unfortunately (but comically), I’ve seen plenty of cases where people’s sensitive copies have been left out in the open for all to see. If you want my advice, make sure you don’t leave any behind! 

Meme translation: Phrases that grandpas say: “All this used to be an open field.” “Then a black dog with red eyes appeared, and so I just started praying and trying to scare it away.” “Don’t change the channel, and I’m watching that.” “Here, don’t tell your parents.” “Put Caifanes on.”

What does it meme?:  Everyone loves a grandpa. You might recognize a few of these phrases from your language. The one about the black dog with red eyes is simply one version of a heroic tall tale, and “Caifanes” was a popular Mexican rock group in the 1980s. 

Meme translation: “Baking is my passion.”

What does it meme?: This doesn’t need much explanation, but I just couldn’t resist: ever since the dawn of the phrase, and later the show Nailed It, I’ve found ridiculously bad versions of fancy cakes to be top-quality entertainment.

Tip for learning Spanish: they’ve got the show in Spanish now, too! Try watching it, first with English subtitles to get an idea of what they’re saying, then Spanish. It will help you get familiar with some of the more common phrases, and you’ll get to watch people adorably and hilariously baking awful masterpieces.

Meme translation: “Your favorite author is coming tomorrow, so you can bring your book for them to sign.”

What does it meme?: It’s not that Mexicans don’t want to pay the full and fair price for books…it’s just that books are expensive and paying the total price isn’t always possible. After all, US $30 is a much bigger chunk of one’s income when you make $400 a month than when you make $4000.

Enter the famous world of “chafa” (it means “knock-off,” but can also simply mean “uncool”) products: the quality won’t be as good as the original, but it’s close enough and gets the job done. Especially for books, finding or being given a PDF version can be a much more accessible way to read something…especially since most libraries here don’t let you check books out. 

Meme translation: “You said you had a bass!” “A low socio-economic level.”

What does it meme?:  Here, we’ve got a common homonym, “bajo.” In the first panel, it means a bass guitar. In the second, it means “low,” as in “low socio-economic level.”

I love this meme format too much not to use it, and I chose this particular one as a “language lesson.” That cat, though, amiright?

Meme translation: “Slightly used 26-speed bike for sale.” “I don’t care about the price, I want you to explain where that staircase goes!”

What does it meme?  Well, it’s a great question: where do those stairs go?

One of the more entertaining aspects of Mexico is the odd construction that can be found: stairs that lead to nowhere, balconies on the top floor with no protection around them, and windows that look out onto a wall two feet away. 

Sometimes, I guess ideas are abandoned before they’re finished. But why take away the evidence of the original intentions? If nothing else, it can make a great conversation piece.

Meme translation: “How do I tell my mom that I broke her blender?” “Was it a glass Oster?” “Yes.” “Just leave town and don’t look back.”

What does it meme?:  Few things are as valued around here as a good licuadora (blender). The Oster glass ones are expensive and fantastic. Mexicans use their blenders for everything: making salsas, cremas (creamy soup), deliciously frothy chocolate milk… you do not want to come between a Mexican and their blender.

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, sarahedevries.substack.com.

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