Go fly a kite


¡Sepa la bola!

I often listened to my father and uncles tell stories about what life was like in Celaya, Guanajuato. I always enjoyed listening to these stories even after multiple tellings. In fact, I loved the way the stories improved with each retelling. The more details that someone forgot about a certain incident was an opportunity to invent new  and more interesting facts. My grandfather had a furniture shop in Celaya called “Mueblería El Carmen.” The shop was called El Carmen because it was right across the street from La Catedral El Carmen. I can’t remember what exactly the name means, perhaps no one told me in the first place. The curious thing about this cathedral is that there are three other cathedrals within walking distance. This was, after all, a Spanish colonial city. And all of my family in Celaya is very, very Catholic. That’s my father’s side of the family because my mother’s side of the family lives in Mexico City and even though they’re Catholic, they don’t really go to church much.

Anyway, my father and uncles told stories about how they had a baseball team sponsored by the Mueblería El Carmen. All the team members were brothers. Yes, there were nine brothers, enough for a baseball team! And couple more to sit on the bench! I loved hearing about the furniture shop. In Celaya, people would go to the shop and describe what kind of furniture they wanted–bedroom set, dining room table, etc.–and my grandfather or my uncles would draw up the design for the customer’s approval. Then, they would proceed to make it from scratch. Their business was very successful. So successful that it’s still in business in Celaya to this day. In fact, when we were walking back to my Uncle Timio’s house from Christmas mass, my cousins proudly pointed at a door of a building and told me they had made that door. I immediately stopped to take a picture of the door. They were so proud that I was taking a picture of their handiwork.

Anyway, (again, but my last anyway–for this post, anyway), my favorite story was the one about what people in Celaya tell someone who tells them something they don’t want to hear. So, if someone comes up to you in Celaya and you want them to go away before they finish saying whatever it is they want to say but you don’t want to hear, you simply say, “Sepa la bola.” And they should take the hint and go away. So now you probably want a translation to English, right? Well, this phrase doesn’t translate easily into English. I titled this post “Go fly a kite,” but now that I think of it, that phrase doesn’t even come close to the meaning of”Sepa la bola.” But I’m not going to go back and change it now. Maybe, I should have titled this post, “Go tell it to the Marines.” Yes, that’s it! Eureka! I have found the equivalent phrase in English without even having sat in a bathtub. But “Sepa la bola” literally means, “Let the ball know” or “Go tell it to the ball.” In this case, the ball is the water tower in Celaya, pictured above. Perhaps this isn’t the funniest or most interesting story that my father or uncles ever told me, but something about “Sepa la bola” is just downright fascinating. Whenever I see my uncles here in Chicago, sometimes out of the blue, I say, “Sepa la bola.” And they never fail to laugh.

Hey! That's what they really say in Celaya.

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.