This is the English text of today’s Discovering Spanish podcast. It’s been written by collaborator Estefanía García Díaz. For the Spanish podcast and text, click here.

Santiago_el_MayorIn today’s episode we look at two sayings featuring one variant of Spain’s Patron Santiago, also known as “Diego” (James).

First: “Donde dije ‘digo’ digo ‘Diego’”, which translates freely into
“Where I said ‘I said’ I now say “eye-zed”.

The second saying incorporates the name´Diego´: “Tomar las de Villadiego” or “escape to Villadiego,” which is a town in northern Castille, in the centre of Spain.

Donde dije ‘digo’ digo ‘Diego’

“Donde dije ‘digo’ digo ‘Diego’” is oftened shortened to “Donde dije ‘digo’ digo…” (“Where I said ‘I said’ I now say…”) leaving the phrase hanging in the air. I’m basically saying that I’m lying; or that I said something but now claim I said something completely different.

The phrase plays on the similarity of the words ‘Diego’ and ‘digo’ (I say) in order to get the listener to think he or she misheard. In fact the RAE, (official Spanish dictionary) has the full version of the expression, to make sure there is no doubt about what it means: “Donde digo «digo», no digo «digo», sino digo «Diego».”
Unfortunately this saying is very much in vogue in Spanish media at the moment as it is used to describe the way politicians constantly change their statements. For instance here is a headline from Mundiario:

El acuerdo ‘previsto’ entre Grecia y la Troika: ‘donde dije digo, digo Diego’

Which translates as
“The “expected” agreement between Greece and the Troika ends up as: “Where I said ‘I said’ I now say…”

Tomar las de Villadiego

“Tomar las de Villadiego” means “to escape to Villadiego” or just to escape. For example, “When I urged him to pay the bill, he escaped to Villadiego.”

This expression originates in the 13th century when Castille’s Fernando III “The Saint” granted immunity to the Jews living in the town of Villadiego, in the now province of Burgos. Jews were prosecuted during the middle ages and were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula -as were the Muslims- in 1492. Villadiego turned into a safe haven for them and hence we invoke this saying when we feel the need to escape from danger.

Donde digo ‘Diego’, digo ‘Santiago’

‘Diego’ is widely regarded as a variant of ‘Santiago’, Spain’s national patron. It comes from ‘Iakobos’ and has turned into the Spanish (and also Galician) ‘Yago’ and then ‘Santiago’. We also have the variants ‘Jacobo’, ‘Jaime’ and ‘Jaume’ in Catalan. As a surname it turned into the not so common ‘Dieguez’ and the very popular ‘Díaz’, which, by the way, is my surname.

Santiago MatamorosIt´s also worth considering the surname of San Diego: Matamoros, literally “Moor-slayer” or “Moor killer”.

Yes. I was also shocked when I first heard that surname. Let me explain. The reason for Santiago being elected as the national patron is one that frankly makes me ashamed of my nationality. It stems from the legend of Santiago Matamoros or Saint James the Moor-slayer.

Santiago was Saint James The Great, the apostle of Jesus, who resurrected on 23 May 844, during the battle of Clavijo in which the Christians defeated the Moors and so launched the Conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Apparently, Santiago, riding a white horse, sword in hand, slayed herds of Moors and so the Christians became holier than ever.

Today, however, it is regarded as politically incorrect to portray Santiago as an advocate of genocide. The fact is that he is also responsible for the origin of the camino de Santiago. Legend has it that he preached the gospel in the Holy Land as well as the Iberian Peninsula. After being killed by Herod of Agrippa, his disciples carried his body to be buried in Santiago de Compostela. Hence the origin of one of the most venerated pilgrimages of Christianity: El camino de Santiago.

Today it is much preferable to refer to Santiago as a pilgrim. You could argue that where we said ‘Moor-slayer’, we now say ‘pilgrim’.


Photo credits:
«Santiago el Mayor» por José de Ribera Disponible bajo la licencia Dominio público vía Wikimedia Commons.

«Santiago Matamoros, 18th century» de anonymous, painted by Peruvian Christians of the Cuzco School. – New Orleans Museum of Art. Disponible bajo la licencia Dominio público vía Wikimedia Commons –,_18th_century.jpg#/media/File:Santiago_Matamoros,_18th_century.jpg

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