Ask a Mexican: What do the words on this T-shirt mean?

Dear Mexican: I'm living in Mexico part of the year. I'm learning Spanish, but I can't say I understand or speak it well. I read several books about the history of Mexico and think I'm reasonably well-informed. I'm curious about a phrase I saw 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, a Mexican lady who spoke a little English, 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. I'm guessing this is some kind of ironic hipster statement, but I don't get the joke.

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 exactly 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 has been besmirched. Tiznada is also a polite synonym for chingada — "fucked," in the feminine form. "Vete a la tiznada" means the same as "Vete a la chingada," which means "Fuck off" or, more accurately, "Go to hell."


Gustavo Arellano

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 that had a profound influence on Mexican-American slang — and has multiple meanings across Latin America: the Royal Academy of Spanish lists nine separate entries for the verb, from "to fuck" to "annoy" to "hang unevenly" (in Argentina and Uruguay) to "cut the tail of an animal" in Central 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's 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 and its many conjugations, so I'll direct you to el maestro: "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."

And people wonder why Mexicans are chingados...


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