De Rodríguez

Mario está de Rodríguez.

P8090275

In this photo, Mario is not “de Rodríguez,” but in the village himself

Wait, what? Even if you studied Spanish in high school and college, it’s not likely you’ll come across this information. Unless, of course, you’ve spent some time in Spain. And especially if you have a Spanish significant other.

Literally translated this phrase means, “Mario is of Rodríguez.” As with all good idioms, this has an intriguing back story. What does it mean to be“de Rodríguez”?

To explain it, I need to first clarify a few important facts about modern and not-so-modern Spanish culture:

  1. The pueblo is very important to most Spaniards. Pueblo means village, and—while the word made me conjure up images of a remote African town at first (the sticks, so to speak)—when Spaniards use it, it’s another thing entirely. Older generations lived, were educated, worked, and died in small Spanish towns. Nowadays, these villages are slowly seeing its residents move away. Mario’s parents, born in the 1950s, grew up in pueblos and moved to larger cities, like Zamora, to go to secondary school and university. They left the village behind, but still have a house (inherited from their parents) or land or a garden. We visit Mario’s mother’s village as well as his father’s (although he himself does not have a house, his sister does), and there is a fondness and almost patriotism about one’s village, at times even more so than for one’s country.
  2. The pueblo is often a place for Spaniards to vacation in August. Much of Spain, and even Madrid, shuts down in August, when a large amount of Spaniards head to the beach, the village, or anywhere cooler than the blazing-hot streets of Madrid. And while I was skeptical at first, it is indeed much cooler, at least in Mario’s mother’s village. The houses, being made of stone, provide a welcome relief from the heat on a hot August day.
  3. School ends in June. The last day of school is sometime in mid- to late-June. This often meant—especially in the past—that the kids and the mother, who would be a homemaker (ama de casa) were free with little to do in their city of residence. So what would they do? Head to the village to escape the heat and spend their summers with friends and family. In a way, for children it’s a bit like camp—heading to the village means seeing another set of friends.

San Cebrián de Castro

Mario (center) as a boy in the village, although his father, a schoolteacher, was likely never “de Rodríguez”

So where does the phrase estar de Rodríguez come into play? Well, it may have something to do with the 1965 film El cálido verano del Sr. Rodríguezin English, Mr. Rodríguez’s Hot Summer. In it, Mr. Rodríguez takes advantage of the fact that his family is away, and he pretends (key word, pretends) to have had an affair. Mind you, in 1965, Spain was still quite conservative, under the rule of Francisco Franco. Thus all the pretending and lack of actual doing.

It was in 1975, when Spain was becoming much more liberal and open (the era called el destape, the uncovering/revealing), that they released another film, Tres suecas para tres Rodríguez (Three Swedish Women for Three Rodríguez), wherein three work colleagues and friends stay in the city without their wives and are subsequently seduced and tricked by three Swedes.

In the 1960s and 70s, there was quite a lot of sexual repression, as well as references to foreign, preferably Swedish, women. The men were always alone and bored in the city, and thus they seized the opportunity and threw caution to the wind, while the saintly wives looked after the children in the village—or perhaps the wealthier ones tanned at the beach.

An interesting expression then! Mario is currently “de Rodríguez” in Madrid … but, since it only applies to males, I cannot be. I have a female friend from America who tried to use this expression for when her husband was gone, but was immediately rejected because a woman cannot be “de Rodríguez,” which I find absurd.

Thus I propose we create an expression for when the woman is home alone, because women like to get in trouble and do crazy things just as much as men do! And in this day and age!

What’s your proposal?

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14 comments

  1. A classic expression, though I didn’t know the back history on it. Very interesting. I agree that we need to come up with an expression for women. I have some female Spanish friends who have also used it jokingly… and frankly, nobody ever seems to use it seriously, even if its meaning is fixed and universally understood. And it’s a last name, so you can’t really regender it. It’s kind of like the use of “Mrs. Robinson” in American English, which, if you think about it, can’t easily be inverted for men. (“Mr. Robinson”?) Great post!

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