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After living in Puerto Rico for nearly three years, we noticed some striking differences between Puerto Rican Spanish and Mexican Spanish. While many of the dialects are similar, there are plenty of noticeable differences that can confuse travelers who aren’t prepared.
To help you navigate the linguistic differences, we put together a list of 16 words that are different in Puerto Rican and Mexican Spanish.
1. Chévere & Brutal
Both mean cool. Unlike in Mexico, where everyone says chido o padre, in Puerto Rico, it is brutal or chévere.
Me dieron una golpiza brutal.
They beat me up brutally.
¡Qué chévere tu gorra! Parece como una que usa Bad Bunny.
Your hat is really cool! It looks like one that Bad Bunny uses.
2. China & Naranja
China in both Mexico and Puerto Rico can be used to refer to the country. In Mexico, this word can also refer to curly hair. In Puerto Rico, it also means orange. So, if you go to a restaurant and you see on the menu there jugo de china, it’s not juice from China. It’s orange juice.
In Mexico, we also call people with curly hair “chino” or “china”.
Laura es la chica de cabello chino.
Laura is the girl with curly hair.
¿Me das un vaso de jugo de china, por favor?
Can you give me a glass of orange juice, please?
3. Guineo & Plátano
Guineo in PR means plátano in Mexico, or banana in English (as in the regular kind of banana we’re all used to seeing).
El plátano es conocido por ser una buena fuente de potasio.
Bananas are known to be a good source of potassium.
Es bueno comer un guineo antes de hacer ejercicio.
It’s good to eat a banana before you exercise.
4. Plátano & Plátano Macho
Plátano in PR is what in Mexico they call plátano macho. In the States, it’s what we call a plantain.
En la cocina mexicana se usa mucho el plátano macho.
Plantains are often used in Mexican cuisine.
La comunidad vegana en latinoamérica consume plátanos frecuentemente.
The vegan community in Latin America frequently eats plantains.
5. Muerto/Muelto vs Tope
This means dead, but it also means tope in Mexico, which translates to speed bump in English. So, you might feel like you’re going to die if one of these catches you off guard because there’s a lot of them in PR!
¡Cuídado con el tope! Baja la velocidad.
¡Be careful with the speed bump! Slow down.
En esta ciudad hay un muerto en cada esquina.
There’s a speed bump at every corner in this town.
6. Guagua vs Camión
PR’s guagua is camión or camioneta (bus or truck) in Mexico. However, in Puerto Rico, guagua is a bus, van, or truck. Anything that is bigger than a regular car is a guagua in Puerto Rico; the word is used more freely.
Llegué tarde porque no pasaba mi camión.
I am late because I was waiting for the bus.
Pídele su guagua a Juan para la mudanza.
Ask for Juan’s truck for the move.
7. Pepa vs Semilla
Pepa in PR means semilla in Mexico, or seed in English. When you open up a fruit, people might say, “Careful, don’t eat the pepa.” But in Mexico, we would say, ”No te comas la semilla.”
Las semillas de las uvas sirven para hacer aceite comestible.
Grape seeds are used to make cooking oil.
No deberías comer las pepas de la sandía.
You shouldn’t eat watermelon seeds.
8. Funda vs Bolsa
Funda in PR is a bolsa in Mexico. It’s just a regular plastic bag. When you go to the store, they might ask you if you want to buy a funda because in a lot of stores here, they sell the bolsas plásticas.
Funda in Mexico also means case. If you want a case for your phone, you can say, “Estoy buscando una funda para mi teléfono o mi celular.”
It also means a pillow case.
Mi almohada no tiene funda. ¿Puedes darme una?
My pillow doesn’t have a case. Can you give me one?
¿Me podría dar una funda para mis cosas?
Can you give me a plastic bag for my stuff?
9. Piragua vs Raspado
These words mean shaved ice in English. You’ll see piraguas out near the beach or in Viejo San Juan, all over the place on a hot day in Puerto Rico. In Mexico, they say raspado to refer to the same thing.
¡Qué calor! Se me antojó un raspado de guayaba.
It’s so hot! I feel like drinking a guava icy.
El señor vende deliciosas piraguas en la playa.
The old man sells delicious shaved ice on the beach.
10. Chiringa vs Papolote
PR’s chiringa is cometa or papalote in Mexico, which in English is a kite. If you go to El Morro in Viejo, San Juan, you’re going to see tons of kids flying chiringas there and you can see some on the Paseo del Morro, where a lot of them have fallen and got lost in the weeds.
Los niños vuelan sus papalote en la playa.
The kids fly their kites on the beach.
Los niños construyen sus chiringas y las vuelan en los parques.
The kids build their own kites and they fly them in the parks.
11. Pedir pon vs Pedir Raite/Pedir Aventón
If you want a ride from someone in Puerto Rico, you can pedir pon. In Mexico, we say pedir aventón (ride/lift) or pedir raite (ride) when asking for a ride. But if you do this on the side of the road and a stranger picks you up, both phrases mean to hitchhike. Both phrases have the word “pedir” which means to ask.
¿Me puedes dar un aventón a mi casa?
Can you give me a ride home?
Hay gente que pide pon en la carretera para viajar.
There are people who ask for a ride by the highway.
Si no tienes dinero, puedes pedir pon para llegar a tu destino.
If you don’t have money, you can hitchhike to arrive at your destination.
12. Lechosa vs Papaya
In Puerto Rico, some people call papaya “lechosa.” Papaya is understood, but this one is a good one to know in case someone starts listing off ingredients in a smoothie or talking about “dulce de lechosa” for example. Dulce de lechosa is a traditional Puerto Rican dessert made from papaya, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
In Mexico “lechoso” or “lechosa” is when some liquid looks white, what in English we call “milky.”
El agua de horchata es una bebida lechosa.
“Horchata” is a milky beverage.
Puedes preparar un licuado con un trozo de lechosa y avena.
You can make a shake with pieces of papaya and oats.
13. Pique vs Salsa Picante
Pique in Mexico is salsa picante, which in English is hot sauce. If you ask for “pique” at a restaurant, they’ll give you their variation of hot sauce. But the pique “hot sauce” they give you is never spicy in Puerto Rico, at least in my opinion. I love spicy foods, and the pique in Puerto Rico is just not spicy at all. What you usually get with pique sauce is more like a watered down Tabasco sauce. Which makes sense, as traditional Puerto Rican food isn’t spicy whatsoever. So, maybe I should be saying, “Sí, quiero pique pero pique que pique” Which means, “Yes, I want hot sauce, but hot sauce that is actually hot.”
¿Me traes una salsa picante, por favor?
Would you bring me hot sauce, please?
A pocos puertorriqueños les gusta el pique.
Few Puerto Rican like hot sauce.
14. Bulto vs Mochila
Bulto in Mexico is a mochila, which in English, is a backpack. I think I’ve also heard bulto in Mexico, and once I also heard mochila in Puerto Rico, but for the most part it’s bulto in PR and mochilla in Mexico.
¿Ya preparaste tu mochila para la excursión?
Is your backpack ready for the excursion?
¿Cuántos bultos llevas en tu equipaje?
How many backpacks are you taking in your luggage?
15. Sato vs Mestizo
This one really surprised me, but it means a mixed-breed dog. In Mexican Spanish, we would call them mestizo.
Q: ¿Qué raza es tu perro? A: Es mestizo.
Q: What breed is your dog? A: It’s a mixed-breed dog.
Puedes adoptar un perro sato en lugar de comprar un perro de raza.
You can adopt a mixed-breed dog instead buying a breed dog.
16. Al garete vs A lo loco
This describes something that is confusing or disastrous. In Mexico, the equivalent would be “a lo loco” (crazy) or “sin dirección” (without direction). It can also mean fast.
Hiciste tu tarea así nada más a lo loco.
You did your homework all wrong, it’s a disaster.
La fila para entrar al banco fue un al garete total. Todos estaban tratando de entrar a la vez.
The line to enter the bank was a total disaster. Everyone was trying to get on it at the same time.
Learning a language like Spanish can be tricky since there are so many countries that speak it — and thus so many different dialects and different definitions. Hopefully, this list will help you better understand those differences so you can have a more enjoyable, authentic, and less confusing visit!
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