The Vaquero Dictionary

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So you think you speak Spanish? Well, if you’re planning to go and spend any time on a ranch in Mexico, whether you’re going to visit on holiday, work there, or even study from an anthropological perspective, there are some Vaquero words that you’ll have to add to your dictionary in order to survive.

Vaquero/a – Cowboy/Cowgirl

Caballo/Yegua/Potrillo – Horse/Mare/Colt

Alcampeando – ‘Cowboying’ so to speak, it literally translates as going out to survey and watch the cattle.

Herraduras – Horse shoes

Becerro/a – Calf

OrdeƱar – Milk; fresh milk is one of the best things to live on. Organising the cows to milk is another story…

Cerca – Barbed wire fence; if you’re spending any time on a Mexican ranch, expect to either be making or mending a number of these!

Chaparreras – Chaps, unlike the western riding chaps which just cover the calves, these are the real cowboy chaps and really help to protect your trousers when you’re riding through the brush and thorns.

Remendado – Patched; a very important word if you’re spending time on a ranch as all your clothes are going to tear. Sewing them up isn’t always an option so you’ll need to have spare material on hand to patch your tears.

Montura – Saddle; unlike in Spanish where ‘Silla’ is used more

Freno – Bridle; despite being the name for just the bit in traditional Spanish and cabezada being the name for the bridle, in Mexican Spanish ‘Freno’ is the word for the whole bridle.

Amarrar – Tie Up; used for cows

Piola – Lasso; the physical lasso

Lazar – To Lasso; you use the ‘piola’ to ‘lazar’

Espuelas – Spurs

Picale – Dig your Spurs in (literally means ‘prick him’)

Bayo – Buckskin Horse

Zaina – Bay Horse

Prieta – Black (as opposed to ‘negra’ in traditional Spanish) Horse

Alazan – Chestnut Horse

Pinto – Paint Horse

Moro – Grey Horse

Machaca – Jerky; usually ground to make a powdery substance which is added to fried eggs or burritos for a delicious meal

Frijoles – BEANS! Expect to eat frijoles for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Papas – Potatoes; unlike the Spanish word ‘Patatas’,

Carne Seca/Asada – Dried/Roast Meat. The most traditional cowboy meal. When a cow is killed on a ranch, almost all of it will be made into carne seca as a lot of the ranches in Mexico don’t have electricity for fridges/freezers and don’t want to use the gas required to run one. The meat is cut into very thin fillets and then hung up on the laundry line to dry. Once dried it is stored in a big sack and when you’re ready to eat it, you toss it on an open fire for 10 seconds or so and then squeeze fresh limes over.

Lonche – Packed Lunch; if you’re going to be spending 6 or more hours outdoors, it’s important to take some food with you! Riding is hungry work. I personally recommend the burritos with frijoles, papas and machaca

Morral – Satchel; can be tied to the saddle to carry your packed lunch (lonche) in

Mezclilla – Denim; interestingly enough ‘jeans’ are referred to as ‘vaqueros’ in Spain, I’m guessing because they’re always worn by cowboys. Do NOT refer to jeans as vaqueros in Mexico, you’ll get some funny looks. Either call them ‘jeans’ with a Spanish accent or ‘pantalones de mezclilla’ (denim trousers)

Camisola – Shirt; absolutely imperative for any ride out into the Mexican countryside as everything that grows has thorns. If you’re happy to look like you just got into a vicious fight with a cat (or a lion!) feel free to ride without!

Chamarra – Jacket; the cowboys tend to wear corduroy or denim jackets that are fleece lined to stay warm in the winter

Sombrero – Hat; cowboys don’t let you go out ad ride without either a sombrero or a baseball cap. The sun is strong and it gets in your eyes

Enfadado – Bored; in traditional Spanish this means angry so make sure to remember the different use here. When I came to Mexico everyone kept asking me if I was ‘enfadada’ which greatly confused me, why would I be angry? It took a while to realise they meant was I bored!

Enojado – Angry

Fogata/Alumbrada – Fire; perhaps the most fun part of the day is gathering around the fire and hearing all the stories from the older cowboys. They’re big believers in witchcraft and ghosts so stories can range from any of those to stories about lassoing coyotes to bring home to the kids as pets

Onza – Mythical Creature; considered to be part mountain lion, part unknown, they believe they these creatures jump down from the trees and suck the blood out from calves and humans, leaving them drained. This animal has so far not been proven to exist

Bueno – Hello; the most common way to respond when you pick up the phone

Andale – Most often used as ‘andale pues’, which can mean anything from ‘lets go’ to ‘goodbye’

Chamacos – Boys; used to refer to very young kids, but also for adults in a term of endearment

Baboso – Slimy/Drooly; used as an insult

Pinche – Fucking; can be used for anything from ‘pinche ramas’ (fucking branches) when you get tangled up in thorns to a combination such as ‘pinche baboso’

Mamasita – Little Mommy; a term of endearment for ones girlfriend/wife

Chingar – Screw; if someone says ‘te voy a chingar’, it would mean ‘I’m going to screw you over/beat you up’

Guero – Fair skinned/Light haired person, not considered to be derogatory but used for most white foreigners who aren’t american

Gringo – American; again, not derogatory

Guey/Wey – Originally from ‘buey’ which means castrated bull. e.g. ‘Que onda wey?’ would be like ‘what’s up dude?’

Coger – To have sex with (crude); in Spanish this means ‘to take’, but do NOT under any circumstances ask a cowboy if he is going to ‘coger’ the mule. He’ll either be really insulted or laugh at you for the rest of your trip

That’s just a few of the most important Mexican ranch survival words I could think of, but do let me know if you can think of any you believe should be included!

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