Pueblo Chico

Idiom: “Pueblo Chico Infierno Grande”
Translation: “The smaller the town, the bigger the hell”
Meaning: When you live in an environment that is really tight, where everybody knows everybody, like a small town, and when every person’s life and/or lifestyle become the topic(s) of the town.

Within the study of proverbs which is officially called Paremiography, this type of refrain – is a proverb whose structure indicates a consequence. These proverbs basically announce what will happen, when you have a certain type of set up or situation. The smaller the town, the bigger the hellishness. Pueblo chico, infierno grande.

The majority of dichos o refranes, or in English, folk sayings that one considers to be Chilean, are not authentically so. This is yet another one of those Spanish folk sayings that is said throughout Latin America and is not truly authentically Chilean. It’s origins may be traced back to the time that other refranes are traced to, the Middle Ages. Thereby, byway are remnants of an oral tradition. A direct quote from Spanish Language School, Zador Spain‘s website: “The origin of the Spanish word refran is in the troubadours’ medieval songs. In them, they used to include the same verses at the end of each strophe (what we now call refrain). Those refrains were short popular sentences. The Provencial troubadours called this verses refran. The main characteristics of a refran are popularity, practicality, and generality. “

The only real authentic Chilean link of this saying, “Pueblo chico, infierno grande” is that it is the name of a Chilean silent movie from 1925 by Nicanor de la Sotta {you may in Santiago, Chile, run into a street or pasaje (a one block street) named in his honor}. This is the first big screen version of a film with this title, because much later, in 1940 there would be a second, directed by Argentinian, Orestes Caviglia and finally in 1997, a Mexican telenovela series with the same name title.

Screenwriter, producer, director, cinematographer and actor, Nicanor de la Sotta acted in a total of 9 movies, directed and wrote 4 films, all from the black and white, silent movie era in Chile. Born in 1888, his life was cut short in 1927, at 39 years of age, with one film, “¡A las Armas!”, being posthumously released in 1934. His greatly popular film “Golondrina”, in 1954 was considered a national treasure which was included in a conservation project organized by Cineteca Universidad de Chile called 21 Lost Films of Chilean Cinema. His film of “Pueblo Chico, Infierno Grande” was also popular, and is set in the provincial village of Maipo, Chile. A typical tale of smalltalk and gossip in which a young wife’s home life with her two sons is the talk of town, since her husband spends his time gambling and drinking.

Pueblo chico, infierno grande habla no tan solo del tamaño del pueblo, sino del tamaño del mundo de esa o ese tipo de persona. The smaller the peoples or people, the greater the hell not only speaks of the size of the people but rather the size of the world of that particular type of person, or people.

As Eleanor Roosevelt would say: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Marcelo Escobar again provided the image for this post. Please visit Marcelo’s blog ” Tinta Chilena” for more of his art.


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