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Posted by on Nov 11, 2007 in At TMV | 7 comments

Hugo Chavez: What King Juan Carlos Really Said


Just the point of view of a Latina mestiza:

In Spanish, as in other languages, words and phrases often carry subtext. And as we joke amongst ourselves, in Spanish, we have ‘five versions of yes that mean no,’ and ‘three versions of no, that mean yes.’

So, when a person with the diplomatic skills of a man like King Juan Carlos unleashes an epithet; it carries far more nails and broken glass flying than just the words alone.

Viz: The King’s words to Chavez were, “¿Por que no te callas?” which can certainly be translated as “Why don’t you shut up?” likely from callarse, meaning ‘to hold one’s tongue,’ ‘to be suddenly made silent,’ and yes, ‘to shut up.’

But, more so, in Spanish, as in English, such a phrase carries the intent of a warning snarl. Not with aim to kill. Yet. It is the equivalent of the claws unsheathed and poised… but it is not the powerful downward slash. Yet.

“Por que no te callas?” has several subtexts: One is: ‘Basta, Enough! with your blather.’ Others are, ‘What do you know, you who have never suffered/ experienced?’ … and ‘Stop trying to wear an honor you have never earned nor paid for.’

Moreover, amongst many Spanish-speaking people, (and there are many versions of Spanish) this phrase also refers to the condition of being el gordo, obese. “Por que no te callas?”is then also meant as a double entendre, meaning, not just ‘Close your mouth,’ but also something like this: ‘Look at you, why don’t you stop eating so much… for surely the grease has drowned your brain.’

Amongst many Spaniards/ Spanish blood people, there are some acceptable gestures to show public displeasure when people violate not a genteel protocol, but a protocol of character. That King Juan Carlos vacated the room leaving Chavez to speak to the air, is the equivalent of ‘invisibilizing’ a person. It is on par with the far less elegant spitting to the side, or giving the kiss of betrayal, or passing a note with a black dot in the middle.

King Juan Carlos was not vacating the room out of exasperation or pique, but to show the displeasure of the Spanish Delegation with Chavez’s grandstanding and lack of ability to conduct himself as a person at the table, instead of a pindejo dancing on the table.

On this day, in the world of the mysteries of Spanish character and protocol, King Juan Carlos doesn’t exist as an anachronism, but as an exemplar.

See in Spanish here at Barcepundit:

See Joe Gandelman’s excellent article on Chavez/King Juan Carlos, with updates here:

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