(Excluding ones that are immediately translated within the book, are cognate words that probably don’t need translation (like “tigre” and “tiger”), or are really common Spanish words. Also excluding any plant names, flavorings, etc that do not need to be deeply understood within the context of the story).


Maté is Maria Teresa
El Jefe is a term for Trujillo (as “el jefe” as a noun means “The chief” or “the boss”)
San Francisco (etc) – Names of towns/cities that start with San are not the American equivalents – these refer to Dominican towns or cities


Gringa Dominicana: A Dominican white person (a gringo/gringa is term for a white person, usually from the U.S. – this word is sometimes, but not always used as an insult)
Maria Santisima – The Virgin Mary
Exactamente – Exactly
Galeria – The veranda
Pobrecito/a – Poor little thing – a term that implies sympathy (the –o or –a ending is based on gender … boys and men would be pobrecitos, girls/women, pobrecitas)
Campesino – Villager/ Farmer
Ñapita – My little extra – a term of endearment for Maria Teresa because she is the youngest child
Dios Mio – My God
El cuco – The bogeyman
Don / Doña – Formal, respectful address for a man or a woman


Inmaculada Concepcion – The Immaculate Conception
-ito / -ita – Commonly added to the ends of names or nouns to mean “little” – often used to imply a fondness (example: Perro = “Dog” and “Perrito” = “Little Doggy.” Later in this book, we’ll see ratoncito, or “little rat”)
Sor – Sister, as in a title for a nun
Asuncion – Assumption (in this case, the religious sense of “rising to the heavens,” most commonly referring to the Virgin Mary rising to heaven)
Milagros – Miracles
Socorro – Assistance
El colegio – School (or college)
Viva! – “Long Live”


La promesa – a promise
Three Kings Day – January 6 – this is an important religious holiday across much of Central America, as it celebrates the twelfth day of Christmas, and marks the end of the Christmas celebration. For many Latin Americans, Three Kings Day is a bigger holiday than Christmas itself.
Tio / Tia – Uncle / Aunt – these terms are also used to refer to non-relatives who are close to the family
Sarampion – Measles
La guardia – the guard


Padre – Father, as in a religious title. This can also mean “dad, ” or in the plural, “parents”
Guyabera – a men’s shirt, often with several pockets on the front, and decorative stitching or embroidery. These can be slightly formal, like wearing a nice button-down shirt with jeans
Brujo/bruja – Sorcerer/Witch
Yanquis – “Yankees,” or rather, a term for Americans, usually derogatory
Gavilleros – Dominican guerilla fighters who resisted the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic just after WWI
Mantilla – A lace veil that women wear at religious ceremonies in Latin America


Primo/a – Cousin
Cedula – A Document
“How Much Meat, Butcher” – A game, usually for small children, where you hold the child’s hand, and ask how much meat you are going to cut off from the child’s arm. At each question, with your other hand, you move up from the kid’s wrist up toward his or her armpit. It’s basically a suspenseful tickling game. In this chapter, Jaimito is playing this game as a way of flirting with Dede.


Pega palo – An alcoholic beverage drunk in the Dominican Repubic that is rumored to be an aphrodisiac
Sancocho – Traditional Central American soup, often with beef and yucca
Novio – a boyfriend
Chapita – bottlecap (she is criticizing El Jefe’s medals)
Cibaeña – A person from Cibao (the northern part of the D. R.)
Desgraciado – Disgraceful
Barrio Neighborhood
M’ijo / M’iha – a shortening of “mi hijo” or “mi hija” (my son, my daughter – but this is more of a term of affection than simply a statement of parentage)
La bendición – the blessing
Dios te bendiga – May God bless you – this is a extremely common greeting among Dominicans still today – a way of showing respect
Marchantas – Salespeople / Vendors


José Martí – famous Cuban poet and revolutionary
Luto – mourning
Sonrisa Smile, so when Maté calls Dedé “Miss SOnrisa,” it’s like saying she’s always happy, always optimistic.
Arroz con leche (the song) – A very famous song and game for children across Central America. Kids stand in a circle and sing this song. One kid stands in the middle and then has to select a husband or wife from the rest of the group. It’s sort of like Duck, Duck, Goose, but instead of wildfowl, it’s weddings.
Fundillos His bum. She is commenting on his bum.
“This Galíndez Thing” Jesus Galíndez was a Dominican writer and professor who fled to New York City during Trujillo’s regime. He wrote articles and spoke out against Trujillo’s government, and in March of 1956 he disappeared and is widely thought to have been assassinated at Trujillo’s personal orders. What made this case more frightening is how Trujillo’s control and vengeance felt inescapable.
Jamonita – Ham
Cafecito – A Cuban espresso


Cuba Libre! – Free Cuba!
Patrimonio – Heritage
Quinceañera – A “Sweet Fifteen” party – these are huge in Latin American culture – this is an extravagant party thrown for a girl’s 15th birthday to symbolize her transition from childhood to womanhood. It’s like a Bat Mitzvah or a Cotillion Ball.
Bohíos – Huts
Barrios – Neighborhoods


Una indirecta – a hint
Epa! – This is like saying “Heeeeeyyyyyyy!!!!”
Ya! – Enough!
Pastelito – A crispy pastry with cheese or guayaba spread inside it. Delicious.
Fulanitos – A “So-and-so” or like a random person
Cervecita – a Beer (or more literally, a little beer)
Llorona – Crybaby. This may also be a reference to a famous ghost story, La Llorona, in which the ghost of a crying woman seeks vengeance for the loss of her children.


Puticas – Vulgar term for a woman
Sin vergüenzas – Without shame


Santicló – A Spanglish pronunciation of saying Santa Claus (“Santy Cloh”)


Compañero – Companion, but in common usage, it’s more like saying “Buddy”
Amorcito – My little love
Que mierda privado? – What private shit? (Apologies for the vulgarity. Blame Peña.)
Calíes – Secret police, or spies, working for Trujillo
Pendejo – Vulgar putdown/insult
Si Dios quiere – If God wishes it
Mi mujer – My lady, or my wife
Jorge Almonte – Based on how the narrative blatantly points out that this might not have been the clerk’s name, this is possibly a mishearing of the Spanish, “Huye el monte” – or “Avoid the Mountain” – a warning the clerk attempts to give
Abrazos – Embraces, or hugs


Azabache – Jet (as in the black stone – similar to onyx) – this stone is considered a good luck charm in much of Latin America, and is said to ward off ill spirits