San Antonio Sabbatical

Cuentos and Dichos

Posted on: October 24, 2010

Cuentos” are stories and folktales.  “Dichos” are sayings and proverbs.  These types of metaphors for aspects of life are popular in Latino culture.

Counseling Latinos and la familia: A Practical Guide by Azara L. Santiago-Rivera, Patricia Arredondo, and Maritza Gallardo-Cooper contains information on the use of narratives and metaphors in therapy (pages 137-142).  Storytelling and images are meaningful and effective tools in working with Latinos.  Two books on this topic that the authors recommend in Appendix D (pages 201-202) are: (1) My First Book of Proverbs/Mi primer libro de dichos, a colorful children’s picture book by Ralfka Gonzalez and Ana Ruiz, and (2) It’s All in the Frijoles: 100 Famous Latinos Share Real-Life Stories, Time-Tested Dichos, Favorite Folktales, and Inspiring Words of Wisdom by Yolanda Nava (Ed.).  These books are not just for counselors.  They are for anyone wanting to learn more about cuentos and dichos and Latino culture in general.

It’s All in the Frijoles is listed as inspiration/self-help.  I just finished reading it and appreciated the author and others she profiled sharing their personal stories and lessons learned.  Nava wrote this book in order to preserve her mother’s rich wisdom and her own Mexican heritage.  Character is emphasized as is reflected in the book’s title — frijoles are beans and one bad one can spoil the whole pot (a reference to cooking).  It’s All in the Frijoles is arranged  in 14 chapters with each one covering a different virtue that makes up human character.  The virtues discussed are Responsibility (Responsabilidad), Respect (Respeto), Hard Work (Trabajo Duro), Loyalty (Lealtad), Faith (Fe), Honesty (Integridad), Courage (Valentía), Humility (Humildad), Temperance (Moderación), Prudence (Prudencia), Justice (Justicia), Fortitude (Fortaleza), Chastity (Castidad), and Charity (Caridad).  This book really resonated with me because the virtues described are ones I cherish and try to live my life by.  I learned these values in my own family, at church, and in school.  It’s All in the Frijoles is a wonderful easy-to-read book with lots of examples and cultural insight.

Some of my favorite dichos in Nava’s book are:

  • Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho.  (From saying it to doing it is a long way.)
  • Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.  (Tell me with whom you travel, and I will tell you who you are.)
  • Trabaja para más valer, estudia para más saber.  (Work to be worth more, study to know more.)
  • Si vas a hacer algo, hazlo correcto.  (If you’re going to do something, do it right.)
  • La verdad, como el aceite, siempre queda encima.  (Truth, like oil, always stays on top.)
  • Por las acciones se juzgan los corazones.  (Our hearts are judged by our actions.)
  • El valor no necesita anunciarse.  (Courage needs no announcement.)
  • Ignorar es más que errar.  (Ignorance is worse than erring.)
  • Guarda los centavos que los pesos llegarán.  (Save your pennies and the dollars will come.)
  • Más vale un hecho que cien palabras.  (A deed is worth more than a hundred words.)
  • No te sueltes de una rama sin tener otra agarrada.  (Don’t let go of one branch without grabbing another.)
  • Todo en la vida se puede recuperar, pero el tiempo nunca se recupera.  (You can recover everything in life, but time.)
  • El que adelante no mira, atrás se queda.  (Who doesn’t look ahead remains behind.)
  • No hay tiempo como el presente.  (There is no time like the present.)
  • La perseverancia toda cosa alcanza.  (Preserverance attains all.)
  • Una buena acción es la mejor oración.  (A good deed is the best prayer.)
  • Hay más dicha en dar que en recibir.  (It is more blessed to give than to receive.)


(1)  Culturally Sensitive and Creative Therapy with Latino Clients

(2)  About Narrative Therapy

(3)  It’s All in the Frijoles: 100 Famous Latinos Share Real-Life Stories, Time-Tested Dichos, Favorite Folktales, and Inspiring Words of Wisdom

(4)  My First Book of Proverbs/Mi primer libro de dichos

(5) ‘Dichos:’ wise words, the Spanish way

(6)  Culture: Dichos – Words of Wisdom

(7)  Spanish Pronto!: Dichos, Refranes, Sayings, Proverbs




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