By: Gabriel Jaime Vásquez Mejía
If you visit Colombia and more specifically regions such as Antioquia and the coffee growing areas, you are likely to hear expressions such as: "What a berraquera!", "That person lacked berraquera!" You are a berraco! ","! What a berraca situation!”.
From an emotional point of view, the Berraquera or Berraco (some will write it with B and others with V) can have different interpretations according to what is being felt. In the first place, this emotion could be very close to bravery (That person lacked berraquera!), to anger or rage (Pedro is berraco), to joy (What berraquera that car you bought!). It could even be close to sadness if bad news is given in the context of the conversation (How berraco that you have lost your phone!).
Berraquera could also be used as an adjective to describe a person who is brave, fearless, enterprising, and cunning. It could also be used to describe someone who is very skilled at performing an activity (“This guy is a berraco soccer player”), when a situation is evaluated as very complicated or complex (Solving this problem is very berraco!), or to judge a situation that affects one’s personal well-being (This berraco downpour did not let me leave the house!)
According to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (Diccionario de la Real Academia Española) the word "Verraquera" refers to: A continuous childish cry with anger. For the Dictionary of Americanisms of the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language (Diccionario de americanismos de la Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española), the same word presents all the breadth of meanings, according to its use in the context of Colombia and other Latin American countries:
Puerto Rico, Colombia: Sexual arousal.
Panama, Colombia. Anger, bad temper.
Colombia. Energy and enthusiasm to perform an action.
Panama. Excellent person or thing, admirable, very good.
Colombia. Expresses an intense emotion for various moods
Another meaning comes from Verraco - written with "v" - and refers to a male pig (boar) that is intended for reproduction.
It is unclear how Colombians, and particularly Antioqueños, give a shared meaning to this emotion. However, there are some references that could indicate its socio-cultural origin. One of them is referred to by Ramón Darío Pineda in the article “Los verracos de Guaca,” published in 1992 in the El Tiempo newspaper in Bogotá. Pineda says that during the time of the Spanish colony, in the town of Heliconia - also known as Guaca - there was a boar that escaped from the corral to conquer the neighboring sows. In its wake, the adventurous boar damaged crops, killed chickens, and left large economic losses for those affected.
At that time, the story of the "Boar of Guaca" became famous throughout the region, thanks to the passage of muleteers who carried merchandise to other Antioquia regions. For many, this boar was an admirable pig for its bravery and determination, while for others, it represented a despicable animal. This story was so significant that the inhabitants of the region began to name the defiant and bellicose men as “being all verracos.”
True or not, this story represents and symbolizes how culture creates its own narratives and incorporates meaningful emotions in the context where they originate.
In the current context, feeling “berraco” or feeling “berraquera” allows the Colombian to remember their capacity for initiative, enthusiasm and their resilience to overcome adversity. For this reason, in the midst of the pandemic, it is worth remembering that in Colombia and throughout the world there are berraca people who are willing to get ahead.
Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española. (s.f.). Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española. https://lema.rae.es/damer/?key=BERRAQUERA
Lexico.com. (s.f.). Diccionario Lexico - Powered by Oxford. https://www.lexico.com/es/definicion/verraco
Pineda, R. (16 de Enero de 1992). Los berracos de Guaca. https://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/MAM-14140
Real Academia Española. (s.f.). Diccionario de la Lengua Española. https://dle.rae.es/verraquera
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