¿Hablas español? You're in good company. So why not get your next tattoo in the language of Cervantes and Neruda? Ink your skin in Spanish with a lyrical phrase to celebrate your heritage or borrow inspiration from la vida apasionada.
Romance in Spanish
The language of amor is often tortured, sometimes joyous, always expressive and emotional. Pair your love quote with a spill of bright red roses across your chest or upper arm. Wind it like a delicate ribbon around your wrist. Inscribe a testimony to a past heartbreak on your ankle. Tattoo a lesson learned, in euphoria or sorrow, over your ribcage, to reveal as the spirit moves you.
Es tan corto el amor y es tan largo el olvido.
Translation: Love is so short and forgetting is so long. Chilean poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda wrote this when he made even lost love sound beautiful in his poem Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche or Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.
Tu eres mi sol.
Te quiero con toda mi alma.
Translation: I love you with all of my soul. This Spanish saying is a typical extravagant expression of complete commitment.
Te quiero no por quien eres, sino por quien soy cuando estoy contigo.
Translation: I love you not for who you are, but for who I am when I am with you. This beauitful quote is attributed to Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, another Latin Nobel laureate best known for his magical realism novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Te amo más que a mi propia piel.
Translation: I love you more than my own skin. This is a quote from Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, an unconventional artist whose stormy relationship with her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, was as passionate and vivid as her famous self portraits.
Sages and Rebels
Hot-blooded Latin patriots and revolutionaries, and Spanish sages for the ages, left their marks on the language. Their immortal words are still scrawled on the sides of buildings and shouted by protestors today. Sophisticated Spanish speakers borrow wisdom from great minds of every culture. Why not scribble a time-tested incendiary or indelible message down your calf or forearm, over your lower back or on the inside of a wrist? Remind yourself to be wild -- or wise -- every time you glance at it.
Prefiero morir de pie que vivir siempre arrodillado.
Translation: I'd rather die standing than live always on my knees. These are the famous words of Spanish Republican Civil War heroine "La Pasionaria," Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, a powerful speaker whose declaration, "!No pasarán!" (They shall not pass!) uttered in defiance against the troups of Francisco Franco, was a rallying cry for the rebels. The quote has also been attributed to Emiliano Zapata, the peasant revolt leader in the Mexican Revolution.
Sed realistas, pedid lo imposible.
Translation: Be realistic, demand the impossible. Argentine Marxist rebel Ernesto "Che" Guevara inspired revolutionary fervor throughout Latin America and was one of the early leaders of the Cuban revolution.
Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar.
Translation: Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks. American Chicana scholar Gloria E. Anzaldúa penned this advice to travelers on the road of life, to remind them there is no fixed map or time-tested way to navigate personal challenges.
Persevera y triunfaras.
Translation: Persevere and you will triumph. This is the Spanish equivalent of 'If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.' This popular Spanish saying is a simple instruction to value endurance and push through all difficulties to reach your goals.
El tiempo pasa inexorablemente.
Translation: Time passes inexorably (or relentlessly). The same idea is expressed in English as, 'Time and tide wait for no man.' This is a Spanish translation of Chaucer quote. Medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer included this observation about the march of time and nature in his Canterbury Tales as a caution to avoid procrastination and missed opportunities.
Your life is a work of art, and what could be more public than declaring that in a tattooed necklace of lyrics arcing around your collar bone, a carefully scripted quote from a master running up your inner arm or nestled in the small of your back? Blockbuster Spanish artists, from painters and sculptors to singers and performers, explain their work and their lives in words, and sometime lyrics, that are mantras worthy of a permanent tattoo.
El espectáculo del cielo me abruma.
Translation: The spectacle of the heavens overwhelms me. Spanish Catalan artist Joan Miró was a dreamer who turned his back on bourgeoise life and painted the pictures in his mind. His avant garde work is full of magical realism and surreal imagery, vast blue backgrounds punctuated by quirky figures, lines, squiggles or blobs of color.
Pedir por más.
Translation: Ask for more. This quote is by Shakira, a Colombian singer/dancer/songwriter, winner of major musical awards, and a mega-million-selling, globally celebrated Latin artist and philanthropist. "Ask for more," in English and in Spanish, is her anthem about never settling for less than you can achieve.
Yo no busco, yo encuentro.
Translation: I do not seek, I find. Pablo Picasso is attributed with this simple quote. He was an artist who insisted his work came from his inner muse. He lived his life open to art and claimed that it found him as long as he showed up to work every day.
Yo no tomo drogas. Yo soy una droga.
Translation: I don't do drugs. I am a drug. Salvador Dalí is attributed with this unusual quote. He was an early-20th-century Surrealist painter who twisted reality to suit his own bizarre and dreamlike vision. His work was always unique and arresting and he remained, all his life, an unconventional personality.
Soy más grande que la vida.
Translation: I am bigger than life. Academy Award-winning Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno made herself into her art. Her gutsy assertion that being larger than life is not hard for her is a statement of self-confidence that's a formula for achieving success.
A Word to the Wise
Sometimes a single word captures an emotion, an aspiration or a moment of understanding worth remembering. A tattoo is a daily reminder of that insight, gained from experience. One word, or the briefest phrase, is compact enough for the side of a finger, the back of the neck just under the hairline or behind the ear, or a simple circle of letters around a pierced navel. Choose your word, or words, wisely for maximum impact.
- Destino: Destiny
- Felicidad: Happiness
- Serendipia: Serendipity
- Vivir: To live
- Para siempre: Forever
- Vida mágica: Magic life
- Que sera, sera: What will be, will be
- Sigue a tu corazón: Follow your heart
Even if Spanish is not your native language, the power and the eloquence of the words are worthy of a permanent place in your body ink collection. Add some Spanish to your Kanji and Pali tats for a global gallery. Find a favorite saying, check it for accuracy with a finicky Spanish-speaking friend, and wear a little Latin love or learning on your skin.