Ask a Mexican

Ironing out a Mexican T-shirt Puzzle

Dear Mexican: I'm living in Mexico part of the year. I'm learning Spanish but can't say I understand or speak it well. I'm curious about a phrase on a T-shirt in an expensive shop in Puerto Vallarta. It had interesting artwork on it and the phrase "Soy Como la Chingada. Lotería la Tiznada." I asked the storekeeper what it meant and she said, "Oh it's just a joke." Then a customer who also appeared to be Mexican said it means, "I am like the fucked one. It's a joke." I Googled the meaning and gather it means "motherfucker" but I don't get the lottery part. Does it mean "I am fucked because I lost the lottery of life"? Anyone who could afford to shop in that store is obviously not poor. Another site said the phrase goes back to the Revolution and refers to sons of raped mothers. Retiree Rhonda

Dear Gabacha: Since you didn't describe the artwork other than say it's "interesting," I'm assuming that the T-shirt was a pun involving Lotería de los 100 Apodos de la Muerte (The Lotería of the 100 Nicknames of Death), a novelty take on the bingo-ish lotería game. One of the cards is titled "La Tiznada," which in the version I have is a calavera mockup of Frida Kahlo. But what is a tiznada, and how does it relate to chingada and raped mothers? Tiznada translates literally as "to be covered in soot," but is usually used to describe a woman whose reputation is besmirched. Tiznada is also a polite synonym for chingada — "fucked," in the feminine form.

Now the raped mother part. As the Mexican has explained before, chingar is derived from cingarár — "to fight" in Caló, the language of Spanish Gypsies — and has multiple meanings across Latin America. But chingar is most associated with Mexico, specifically in its incarnations as "to beat up" (Te voy a chingar — "I'm going to fuck you up") and especially with hijo de la chingada — "son of the fucked one," here specifically referring to Malintzin, Cortés' Indian mistress who brought doom and gloom to the Aztecs. Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz devoted a section of his magisterial The Labyrinth of Solitude to Mexico's peculiar obsession with chingar: "What is the 'Chingada?' The Chingada is the Mother forcibly opened, violated or deceived. The hijo de la Chingada is the offspring of violation, abduction or deceit. If we compare this expression with the Spanish hijo de puta (son of a whore), the difference is immediately obvious. To the Spaniard, dishonor consists in being the son of a woman who voluntarily surrenders herself: a prostitute. To the Mexican, it consists in being the fruit of a violation."

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano