By Jeff Guerra. Illustrations by Freddy Leal
If you find yourself lost in some small Colombian town, ask a local for directions and there’s a good chance you’ll be personally accompanied to your destination with a lively and charmingly intimate conversation along the way. Oh and by the way, there’s a big family barbecue tonight, and you’re invited.
More and more travelers are finding out that Colombians are exceptionally friendly people; it’s easy to make friends in this country, and one of the first things a visitor notices is how quickly one’s new local friends begin looking out for his well-being. This includes advice about where to find the best frijoles, which parts of town to avoid late at night, and above all, to avoid giving papaya.
Huh? “Dar papaya”, literally “to give papaya”, is a local phrase used to describe an action or mode of conduct that puts one in a position where he/she can easily be taken advantage of. To give papaya is to lack a certain savvy awareness, the clearest example of which is a blond, blue-eyed, obviously foreign traveler walking through a rough part of town with lots of flashy jewelry. “That gringo is giving papaya.” Likewise, an especially attractive woman can “give too much papaya” by walking the streets in skimpy clothing that is more suited for an after-hours nightclub.
While these examples are more or less material, one can also “dar papaya” in a less concrete fashion. Let’s say your best friend starts falling for a girl, and after asking around you warn him that she will surely break his heart. If he refuses the advice, continues to see her, and ultimately has his heart broken, your friend just gave papaya. What a fool!
So where did this phrase come from, and what does a poor innocent fruit like papaya have to do with it? As is the case with many colorful Colombian phrases, there is no real consensus here. One theory holds that the papaya, a heavy fruit, hangs low on the tree and thus inevitably falls (for something) or can easily be taken (advantage of). Another theory was proposed by a Cali contact: centuries ago, when someone had done something wrong and needed to be made an example of, he/she was tied to a papaya tree for all in the community to publicly shun. We have no idea about the validity of these theories; indeed, we may have given papaya by just listening to such ridiculous speculation!
Powered by Facebook Comments