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Passing on our heritage through words and “refranes”

Are there some words that transport you to your childhood?

Since I speak to my little boy Enzo in Spanish, sometimes I catch myself sounding a lot like my mom. As time passes, I find myself saying phrases my parents said to me while I was growing up, and repeating “refranes” that my parents said to me as well.

Of course Enzo is too little to say any long refranes, but he does use other phrases that remind me of my childhood:

Ya voy — (Coming.)  This was probably the one I used the most growing up. My mamá would say “Go clean your room.”  I’d reply “Ya voy.”  She’d say “Go take a bath.” “Ya voy.” She’d say “Come here.” You guessed it… “Ya voy.” I’m sure it drove her crazy. Enzo has started saying it too. I say “Ven acá.” “Ya voy mama.” (Nice to meet you Karma, I knew you existed.)

No quiero–(I don’t want to (or it, depending on context).  When I was growing up, I’d say this usually when I didn’t want to have sopa (soup) or the beet/carrot/orange juice my mom would make for us every weekend.  Enzo says it too, for example, “No quiero ir a la escuelita.” or I don’t want to go to daycare. (He also says it about sopa.)

Muévete–(move it) My mom usually said this when I was ignoring her or had said “ya voy” a dozen times. Muévete meant business.

Ay Dios Mío– Oh my God. I say this in both languages, and Enzo has caught on as well.  It is much cuter when he says it, though.

Of course, I have to laugh that Enzo says exactly the kind of stuff that I used to say growing up. I also laugh because I remember my mom saying “You’ll see when you have kids.”

Some things our parents say make us better people (of course one could argue that so does reprimanding and making you eat your sopa).

I hope those are the ones Enzo will remember and pass along to his kids. Refranes, or sayings, have a way of being passed on from generation to generation, because they’re short and to the point (and sometimes they rhyme!)

I never met my grandfather, but my mom always says that he used to say “Lo cortés no quita lo valiente,” which means being courteous doesn’t take away from being brave. Basically, be courteous all the time, that won’t take anything away from who you are.

Here’s another one she says. “No hay mal que por bien no venga.” If something bad happens, there’s a good reason behind it.

Of course, this one is a bit hard to understand. But God (or the Universe, or whatever you believe in) works in mysterious ways. Sometimes when something less than desirable happens, we only see the negative, but many times, there is something positive that comes out of it. For example, sometimes family members are estranged.  After a tragedy occurs, it can brings family members together. If the first event hadn’t happened, the second one wouldn’t have taken place either.

My favorite refrán  – and the one I hope Enzo learns and lives by – is one my dad has always said to me since I was little.  “Haz el bien sin mirar a quien.” Do good without looking at whom you’re doing it to.

If we all lived by that refrán, we’d live en un mundo mejor. (in a better world.)

I hope I am passing that along to my child, too.

NBC Latino contributor Diana Limongi

Diana Limongi-Gabriele works hard juggling a full-time job, motherhood, family, grad school and her blog, LadydeeLG, where she writes about issues she is passionate about including teaching her son Spanish, motherhood, parenting, Latino issues, good quality food and women’s issues. Diana is a regular contributor for Mamiverse. She has a MA in Migration Studies, and is pursuing an MPA in Nonprofit Management. Her most important job however, is being mommy to Enzo, a French/Hispanic/American (one day trilingual) 2-year-old boy. You can connect with her via Twitter, @dianalimongi or on Facebook.

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