Mapuche Chilenismos: How to Confuse Dominican Preschoolers

Mapuche ancestral territory

Continuing with this week’s theme of heritage, today’s post introduces a few words the Chilean lexicon has adopted from Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people.

The word Mapuche means literally the people (che) of the land (mapu), and the Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile.

There are many choice, and so I’ve narrowed today’s selection to some words that thoroughly confused my preschool class of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Guatemalans back when I was in the States.

1.  Guata*: barriga, stomach.  This is an incredibly common word.

Seeing that a student is crying and holding his stomach, I ask, “¿Te duele la guata?”  (Does your stomach hurt?)

He responds, “¡No, me duele la barriga!” and proceeds to throw up numerous times.

2.  Cuncuna: oruga, caterpillar.  I often sang the well known Chilean children’s song, “Una Cuncuna Amarilla” (below), to my students, and I was surprised at how many didn’t know the word cuncuna.  Turns out it’s a word from Mapudungun.  Thanks, Chile.

3.  Guagua*: bebé, baby.  Ok, so in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, guagua means bus.  In preschool, we talk about both babies and buses a lot.  Imagine the confusion.

Me: ¿Tienes una guagua en casa?  (Do you have a baby at home?)

Student: No.  Tenemos un carro.  (No.  We have a car.)

4.  Cahuín: chisme, gossip.  This is one of my favorite Chilenismos.  A cahuín was a celebratory meeting of Mapuche leaders and chiefs in which they discussed the current state of affairs.  Later, it became known more for the drunkenness of such events, and where there’s drunkenness, there’s gossip.

During recess a child runs up to me: Teacher!  Roberto está diciendo que yo me quiero casar con Amanda.  (Teacher!  Robert is saying that I want to marry Amanda.)

Me: ¿A ver, Roberto?  ¿Andas cahuineando?  (What’s this, Roberto?  Are you gossiping?)

5.  Pichintúnpoquito, little bit.  This word is related to the word pichi, which means “little.”  This is also the reason that people say they need to hacer pichi; it’s not just a funny way of saying pipi.  They’re saying they need to “go a little” instead of saying “go pee.”

Me, giving instructions: Sólo tienes que usar un pichintún de pegamento. [Giggles.]  (You only need to use a little bit of glue.)

There are many other Mapudungun adoptions to explore, but we’ll leave those for another post.  Have a good weekend, everyone!

* These words are similar to quechua words for the same thing.

Mapuche flag


Join in the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s