13 February 2009

El Colado

One of my favorite stories involves a person who in Mexico would be called either a "colado" or a gurrón". Let me tell you the story first and then I will explain these words to those of you may not know them yet.

There was a famous painter in Mexico who received a request from the Vatican in Rome to paint his own version of Leonardo DaVinci's "Last Supper". This was considered a great honor, of course, and the painting was going to be hung in the Pope's personal private chapel. The Pope felt that there were so many examples of Italian painting at the Vatican that it would be nice to have something done by a Mexican artist. The Vatican offered the artist a very nice sum of money and stipulated that the painting must be finished in three months time. The artist agreed to do the painting and his wife was overjoyed because they really needed the money and she felt sure that after the publicity from this painting there would be more to follow. So, doing what women often do, she started nagging her husband to get started. However, the more she nagged the more he balked and it wasn't long before the first month went by and nothing got done. The artist and his wife began to bicker and the more they did so the less the artist felt like painting and so another month went by and then another few weeks until there was only one week left.

Finally, the artist began to paint and since it was such an important painting he was nervous and made so many mistakes that he had to do the painting over and over again. It didn't help the situation that by now his wife was a nervous wreck and worried sick that he wouldn't get it done in time. Finally, on the very day that they expected the papal representative from Rome to visit them, the painting was finished. The artist and his wife were very happy and they threw their arms around each other and forgave each other for being so silly. As she was hugging her husband the wife looked admiringly at the painting and noticed that something was wrong. It looked like there were too many apostles. She counted them and sure enough there were thirteen apostles instead of the usual twelve. As she was pointing this out to her husband the doorbell rang. It was the papal representative. The couple were horrified. What could they do? Finally the artist told her to go and entertain the papal representative for awhile and he would fix the painting.

The wife answered the door and invited the papal representative into the living room and offered him some tea and cakes which he politely accepted. As time wore on both the wife and the man from Rome started getting a little anxious. Finally the artist appeared with the painting. At first the man was very impressed and pleased but after awhile he noticed that something was wrong. He told the artist that he saw thirteen apostles instead of twelve. The artist told him that there were indeed thirteen figures besides Christ but that one of them had a little sign above him that explained who he was. The sign was very tiny and the man asked for a magnifying glass. When he looked through the glass this is what he saw on the sign:

No soy un apóstol.
No soy nadie yo.
Nada más vine a cenar,
Y me voy a la fregada.

I am not an apostle.
I am nobody really.
I just came to eat supper,
And then get the hell out.

This story is humorous for two reasons. The first is that it uses somewhat typical Mexican logic in that the artist figured as long as he identifies the extra figure "no pasa nada" (no harm done). The second reason is that it is quite common for people to show up uninvited at fiestas in order to eat a good meal especially if they are poor. Nobody wants to turn hungry people away but sometimes it gets out of hand and at weddings and other feasts the doors are often guarded by family members to sort out who really belongs and who doesn't. Those who don't belong but just come for the meal are called either "colados" or "gurrones". The word "colado" comes from the verb "colar" which means to strain or to put something through a sieve or colander. "Colar" can also mean to sneak in or to squeeze by and thus a "colado" is a person who sneaks in or who squeezes past the guard at the door. The word "gurrón" means sponger or moocher meaning someone who always wants others to share with them. The phrase "a la fregada" means "to hell" in the sense of "What the hell?" or "To hell with it!". My favorite example of the word "fregada" is the following:

Un niño, de rodillas y vestido con su mameluco de niño, rezaba con dulce voz sus oraciones de la noche: "Diosito: cuida a mi papá. Cuida a mi mamá. Cuida a mis hermanos. Cuida a mi abuela. Cuida a mi perro. Y cuídate tú también, Diosito, porque supongo que si algo te pasa a ti a todos nos lleva la fregada...

A little boy, on his knees and dressed in child's pajamas, was saying his bedtime prayers in a sweet voice: "Dear God, take care of my papa, take care of my mama, take care of my brothers (and/or sisters). Take care of my grandma. Take care of my dog. And take care of Yourself too, dear God, because I suppose that if something ever happened to you then everything would go to hell...


Babs said...

Very cute!

Theresa in Mèrida said...

adorable prayer and so true! We are going to a wedding tonight and our invitation to the reception has a little number 2 in the corner. I guess we had better bring it along!

GlorV1 said...

What a wonderful story. I love the little child's prayer.It is true that no one wants to turn hungry people away. I don't think anyone would want to see that. It saddens me to think of hungry people. Take care and Happy Valentine's Day.

YayaOrchid said...

Great story about the painting and funny! And about the colados, I wonder if it's something along the lines of that movie "The Wedding Crashers". I've not seen the movie, but maybe that's what 'crashers' means. Interesting how all cultures have their own slang words for the same things.

Anonymous said...

Bob.. I have often heard the poetic phrase...
" the apostle trece, viene, come y
meaning a person who shows up at a party, eats and leaves immediately.
maybe this is where it came from.
(The 13th Apostle... he comes, eats & disappears)

Anonymous said...

Another word for an uninvited guest at a party is 'mosca'--like flies, he's never invited but always there.

And of course, as the dicho goes, "Es mejor llegar a tiempo que ser invitado." 'It's better to arrive on time than to be invited.'

Best to you and Gina!

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.