Column: Sometimes misfortune is your own fault

July 10, 2018

There are some dichos that are really hard to translate.

One of these is “Quién te manda.”

Word for word, it translates to something like “Who told you to do it?” in the It’s-your-own-fault sort of way. It is what someone says to you when they want to point out that some misfortune that has landed on your doorstep was something you brought upon yourself.

It is what someone might say to you if, for example, you came home from your beach vacation with a bright red, crispy sunburn.

Of course, misfortune finds all of us and, sometimes, we all go looking for trouble. But as far as this little phrase is concerned, here’s where it get’s tricky: The person issuing the “Quién te manda” is probably someone who told you NOT to go to the beach. Had you listened, you would be neither crispy nor bright red. What is implied but never said is that the person issuing the “Quién te manda” didn’t do what you did and, therefore, is not in the same pickle.

The fact that you should have paid closer attention when you were first told not to go doesn’t have to be spelled out, because “Quién te manda” is nuanced. It’s said in an accusatory tone that doesn’t point because, well, that’s just rude.

Maybe she wanted to go to the beach but, because she spent all her summer spending money on a trip to see the Astros, she can’t afford to hit the beach. Or maybe she bought a new couch, or tickets to see Shakira, or a gym membership, or a flight to Las Vegas next month, or the new movie channels package.

Perhaps she isn’t a beach person at all and didn’t want to go the the beach with you. She doesn’t like the beach because: too much sand, sun, dead fish, salt, water, screaming kids, crabs, blobs of oil, trash, irritating tourists, noise, seagulls, seagull poop, mystery stink, backbreaking set-up or tear-down work or swimsuit humiliation. All are excellent reasons to stay far, far away from the beach. But you chose the beach and, well, now you’re crispy.

Either way, “Quién te manda” sends the message that you’re suffering because of your own bad judgment. And next time — ¡a la próxima! — you ought to listen to people who know better and never, ever make mistakes.


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