Mexican vs. Puerto Rican Spanish: What are the differences?

Wondering if there’s a difference between Mexican Spanish vs. Puerto Rican Spanish?

If you can speak English, then you probably already know that there are many English dialects that impact the vocabulary, accent, and sometimes even grammar and syntax of the language. Although English speakers can understand each other pretty universally, there are variations like American, British, and Australian that have their own slang. There are even variations within the U.S., with Californian slang and New York slang that would make you think you’re in different countries!

Well, the same is true for Spanish. Although Spanish is generally broken into two broad categories (Peninsular vs. Latin American), the truth is that dialects within each category can sound wildly different from each other. Take a Rioplatense Spanish speaker and a Mexican Spanish speaker and they’ll be able to understand each other — but there’ll be friction!

So, just how different are Puerto Rican and Mexican Spanish? After all, they’re geographically not too far apart and have somewhat similar histories and demographics.

Let’s take a close look at Mexican vs. Puerto Rican Spanish.

Table of contents

Mexico vs. Puerto Rico quick facts

Before we begin, here’s a table with some quick facts about Mexico and Puerto Rico. We’ll get into the details in the following sections, but this is a great introduction if you’re not too familiar with these regions:

Happy couple on a boat in Puerto Rico.

MexicoPuerto Rico
LocationNorth AmericaCaribbean
Population130 million3.3 million
Political entitySovereign nationU.S. territory
CapitalMexico CitySan Juan
LanguageSpanish + 63 indigenous languagesSpanish and English
Cuisine ingredientsBeans, rice, and tortillasPlantains, rice, and beans
Music genreMariachi, ranchera, norteSalsa, reggaeton, bomba
Biggest holidaysDía de los Muertos, Día de la Independencia, Navidad

Three Kings’ Day, Constitution Day, Discovery Day

Historical and cultural context

The historical and cultural contexts of these regions have had a profound impact on the language. Even if Spanish did arrive in the same form in both places, centuries of interaction with the local indigenous groups, social and political situations, and other foreign interventions have shaped these two varieties into distinct Spanish dialects.

Puerto Rican History

The island of Puerto Rico has a rich and complex history, including the Taino indigenous peoples, Spanish colonial rule, African heritage, and American influence. Originally inhabited by the Taino people, the island was claimed by Spain in 1493 during Christopher Columbus’s second voyage. Spanish rule introduced slavery, sugar plantations, and a rigid social hierarchy, profoundly shaping the island’s cultural and demographic landscape.

The 19th century saw several uprisings in favor of more autonomy and democracy. Slavery was abolished in 1873 and a limited form of self-government was established after the Intentona de Yauco, which was the final conflict against the Spanish crown. However, the Spanish-American War of 1898 marked a turning point when Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States, turning the island’s political landscape on its head.

The 20th century was characterized by significant shifts, including U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans in 1917, the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952, and ongoing debates over the island’s political issues.

Throughout these changes, Puerto Rico has retained a distinct identity, blending Taíno, African, and Spanish influences into a unique culture, evident in its music, cuisine, and traditions. This complex history also has a profound influence on the language, as it incorporates the island's Taíno legacy with anglicized words from its proximity to the U.S.

Mexican History

Mexico, like Puerto Rico, has a rich history of ancient civilizations, colonial conquests, and the struggle for independence. The story begins with advanced indigenous cultures like the Aztecs and the Mayans, whose impressive achievements in mathematics, astronomy, and architecture laid the foundation of the nation’s cultural heritage.

In 1521, Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire, ushering in three centuries of colonial rule. This period saw a blending of indigenous and Spanish cultures, but also exploitation and resistance. The early 19th century marked a pivotal era with the Mexican War of Independence, leading to the establishment of Mexico as a sovereign nation in 1821. The subsequent years were turbulent, characterized by internal conflicts, the US-Mexican war, and the French intervention. The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1921 was critical for the fate of the country, as it transformed Mexican society with land reforms and labor rights.

Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, Mexico has navigated the challenges of industrialization, political unrest, and social change. Today, it stands as a nation proud of its rich history, diverse culture, and significant contributions to world art and literature. And, of course, who could forget the contributions of Mexican cuisine to the world? This complex history of conquest and resistance can also be seen in Mexican Spanish, as it blends pre-Columbian words and accents with Spanish.

If you’re keen to learn more about Mexican history, we recently published a guide to Mexican culture, where you’ll be able to learn more about Mexico’s geography, indigenous groups, art, traditions, and festivals.

Difference in phonetics and pronunciation between Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish

If you’ve met people from both places (or better yet, have had the pleasure to visit!), then you already know that Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish show notable phonetic and pronunciation differences. Here are a few reasons why they sound so different:

Crowd in Mexico.

The Puerto Rican variety

Puerto Rican Spanish is heavily influenced by its large proportion of Afro-Puerto Ricans. This includes unique vocabulary, slang, expressions, and intonation patterns rooted in African languages. Words like “bambé” (a festive gathering with drumming and dancing) and certain rhythmic speech patterns in colloquial Puerto Rican Spanish showcase this African legacy. Here are concrete examples of how Puerto Rican Spanish is unique:

The letter R

The pronunciation of the letter R can vary notably, especially when it appears at the end of a word or before a consonant. Unlike the trilled R sound common in Mexican Spanish, Puerto Ricans often pronounce it softly, almost like an L sound. For example, “Puerto” in Puerto Rico may sound closer to “Puelto.”

Additionally, the single R at the beginning of a word or between vowels is pronounced with a softer flap, similar to the American English pronunciation of the letter T in “water.”

The letter D

In Puerto Rican Spanish, when the letter D comes at the end of a syllable, people often don't pronounce it strongly, or they might not say it at all. It's like the D gets softer or disappears when you're speaking. When the D appears between vowels, it’s typically softened to the point of barely being pronounced, making it sound like a soft TH sound in English as in “this” or to be eliminated completely. For example, “cansado” might be pronounced more like “cansao.”

The letter S

One of the most distinctive features of Puerto Rican Spanish is the aspiration or even dropping of the letter S at the end of syllables or other words. This feature is particularly prominent in casual speech and can lead to the softening of the S sound to resemble an English H, or it might be dropped altogether.

For example, “los amigos” can sound like “loh amigos.” This characteristic can significantly impact the rhythm and melody of Puerto Rican Spanish, making it sound more fluid and fast to those unfamiliar with it.


Puerto Rican Spanish sometimes exhibits nasalization of vowels, especially when vowels precede nasal consonants (m, n, ñ). This means that the vowel sound is pronounced with some air escaping through the nose, giving it a nasal quality. For example, “mano” might sound slightly nasalized compared to its pronunciation in Mexican Spanish.

Aspiration of the J and G

While the J (and G before E or I) sound in most Spanish varieties is a strong, guttural sound similar to the English H in “Hello,” Puerto Rican Spanish softens it to the point of almost vanishing it or turning it into a soft, breathy sound. This makes the J and G sounds in words like “juego” or “gente” much softer than in other varieties of Spanish.

The Mexican variety

Mexican Spanish is known for its clear pronunciation, making it one of the most accessible dialects for learners. It features a consistent use of “seseo,” avoiding the distinction between C/Z and S found in Spain. It also incorporates a rich vocabulary from indigenous languages and has many regional varieties, reflecting the country’s diverse cultural landscape.

Single phonemes

Mexican Spanish is known for its relatively consistent pronunciation of single phonemes, a characteristic that makes it one of the clearest varieties of Spanish, especially for those learning Spanish as a second language.

Letter X

In Mexican Spanish, the letter X can be pronounced differently, depending on its historical and geographic context — sometimes as S and other times as J, particularly in words of indigenous origin. In contrast, Puerto Rican Spanish generally doesn’t have this variation with the X, adhering more closely to the standard S sound.

Letter S

Unlike some Caribbean and coastal dialects where the S sound is often aspirated or dropped, in Mexican Spanish, the S sound is consistently pronounced, making it easier to distinguish words and maintain clarity in speech.


Mexican Spanish tends to fully pronounce consonants, including those at the end of words. This contrasts with dialects like Puerto Rican Spanish that might soften or skip consonants in final positions or before certain sounds. The clear articulation of consonants in Mexican Spanish contributes to its perceived clarity and ease of understanding.

Regional variations in Mexican Spanish

Mexican Spanish is as diverse as the country’s geography, with regional accents that reflect the unique history, culture, and influences of each area. From the central valleys to the northern deserts, the coastal areas, and the Yucatán Peninsula, each region adds its flavor to the linguistic diversity of Mexico. Let’s take a look at some of the phonetic variations within Mexican Spanish:

Central accent

The Central Mexican accent, particularly from the Mexico City area, is often considered the standard or neutral accent in the country. It’s characterized by clear pronunciation and the tendency to speak at a moderate pace. This accent is widely understood across Mexico due to the influence of media and entertainment centered in the capital. The central accent is known for its careful articulation of S sounds and the full pronunciation of consonants.

Northern accent

The Northern accent reflects the vast, rugged landscapes of states like Nuevo León, Chihuahua, and Sonora. It’s distinguished by a stronger, more emphatic intonation and the clipping of certain word endings, which can make speech sound more abrupt. Northern speakers may also use unique vocabulary influenced by their proximity to the US. The accent can vary significantly within the North itself, further emphasizing the territorial vastness of the Mexican North.

Coastal accent

Coastal regions, including Veracruz on the Gulf Coast and parts of the Pacific Coast, exhibit accents that incorporate a melodious intonation, influences by the area’s Afro-Caribbean heritage. Known as the Jarocho accent, its speech may be faster, with a more rhythmic flow and the softening of consonants. The aspiration or dropping of S sounds at the end of syllables is more common, similar to Puerto Rican Spanish. Of all Mexican Spanish variations, this is undoubtedly the most similar to Puerto Rico’s.

Yucatán Accent

The Yucatán Peninsula, with its rich Mayan heritage, offers a distinct Spanish accent that is heavily influenced by Mayan languages. This accent is noted for its unique intonation patterns and the pronunciation of certain consonants, such as a stronger, almost guttural X sound — a legacy of Mayan phonetics. The Yucatán accent also includes specific vocabulary and expressions derived from the Mayan language, including common words like cacao, hamaca, and chicle.

Grammar and syntax

Mexico and Puerto Rican Spanish share the same grammatical foundation as other Spanish varieties, but have a few unique characteristics in grammar and syntax.

Verb conjugation and usage

One area where Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish differ is in the use of verb forms, particularly in the second-person singular. Mexican Spanish often uses “tú” for informal situations, with its corresponding verb conjugations. In contrast, Puerto Rican Spanish often uses “tú” but can also use “usted” in informal contexts more than in other Spanish dialects, reflecting a nuanced approach to formality and familiarity.

Pronoun placement

Both dialects follow standard Spanish rules for pronoun placement before conjugated verbs or attached to infinitives, gerunds, and affirmative commands. However, in rapid, colloquial speech, Puerto Rican Spanish often shows more flexibility in pronoun placement within the flow of spoken language. For example, in the standard “Voy a hacerlo,” the pronoun “a” might be skipped altogether in Puerto Rican Spanish: “Voy hacerlo.”

Influence of English

Puerto Rican Spanish has incorporated English syntax more noticeably due to the island’s status as a U.S. territory and the bilingual nature of many of its inhabitants. This influence can sometimes lead to direct translations that affect sentence structure, such as the placement of adjectives after nouns more frequently than in traditional Spanish syntax.

Mexican Spanish, while also exposed to English, especially near the U.S. border, shows a lesser degree of syntactic borrowing, maintaining more traditional Spanish syntax in everyday use.


Despite the differences we just covered, Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish have very similar grammar and syntax. They are almost identical when it comes to:

  • Voseo: The use of “vos” instead of “” is virtually nonexistent in both regions. It’s more common in Central and South America.
  • Use of Leísmo, Laísmo, and Loísmo: Both variations follow standard Spanish practices regarding the use of direct and indirect object pronouns. “Leísmo” (using “le” instead of “lo” or “la” for direct objects) is rare in Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish, adhering more closely to the grammatical norms prevalent in modern Spanish.
  • Future tense simplification: In informal speech, both Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish might opt for a simplified future tense construction using “ir” (to go) plus the pronoun “a” plus the infinitive verb, rather than the future tense conjugation.
  • Use of “que” and subjunctive: Both Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish use “que” to introduce subjunctive moods, often used in expressions of desire, doubt, or emotion.

Cultural Influences on Language

The cultural background of both Mexico and Puerto Rico deeply influences the language today. Each region’s food, music, religion, and social customs leave a distinct mark on the language, enriching the local vocabulary and idiomatic expressions. Here are some of the palpable effects:

Cultural dance in Puerto Rico.


Puerto Rican cuisine, a blend of Spanish, African, and Taino influences, impacts its Spanish through words like “mofongo” (mashed plantains with garlic and pork) and “lechón” (roast pork). Expressions such as “Darle con el tostonero” (to insist on something) reference food in metaphorical ways, showcasing the island’s culinary heritage.

Mexican cuisine, recognized globally for its flavors and diversity, contributes extensively to Mexican Spanish. Words like “tacos” and “salsa” aren’t just culinary exports but part of the everyday vocabulary, emphasizing the importance of food in Mexican culture. Expressions like “Estar como agua para chocolate” (to be extremely angry) reflect how deeply food is intertwined with expression.


Music is a cornerstone of Puerto Rican identity, with genres like salsa and reggaeton contributing terms like “perreo” (a type of dance associated with reggaeton) to the local and international Spanish.

Mexico, on the other hand, has the influence of many musical traditions, from mariachi to norteño. Words like “corrido” and “banda” are integral to discussing Mexican culture, and expressions like “echar un palomazo” (to sing a song or have an impromptu performance) derive directly from Mexico’s musical contexts.


Predominantly Catholic, Mexico’s religious traditions have deeply influenced its language. Phrases like “Si Dios quiere” (God willing) and “Vaya con Dios” (Go with God) are common in conversation, reflecting a tendency to acknowledge the divine in daily life.

Puerto Rico, while also overwhelmingly Catholic, the convergence of Christianity with African and indigenous beliefs has enriched the local dialect with references to spirits, saints, and sacred practices unique to the island. Phrases like “Ay bendito” (Oh blessed) reflect a blend of piety, compassion, and cultural identity.

Social Customs

The importance of community and social connections in Puerto Rico is mirrored in its language, with terms like “compai” and “comai” (short for compadre and comadre, used to refer to friends or godparents) highlighting informal social bonds that are considered family.

Mexican Spanish incorporates expressions that reflect the values of respect, family, and community. Terms of endearment like “mijo” (my son) and “mija” (my daughter), used widely beyond biological relationships, underscore the importance of close familial bonds.

Mexican vs. Puerto Rican words

Beyond the phonetic and grammar differences, Mexico and Puerto Rico also have a wide range of local vocabulary words that would take some getting used to. Here are some of the most common differences between Mexican and Puerto Rican vocabulary:

EnglishMexicoPronunciationIPAPuerto RicoPronunciationIPA
Shoeshine personBoleroboh-leh-rohboˈleɾoLimpiabotaslim-pee-ah-bo-tahlimpjaˈβotas
TrashcanBote de basuraboh-teh deh bah-soo-rahˈbote ðe βaˈsuɾaZafacónsah-fa-cohnsafaˈkon
To jump ropeBrincar la cuerdabren-car la coo-air-dabɾinˈkaɾ la ˈkweɾðaBrincar cuicabreen-cahr coo-e-cahbɾinˈkaɾ ˈkwika
A slapCachetadacah-cheh-tah-dahkaʧeˈtaðaGalletagah-yeh-tahɡaˈʝeta
Young boyChavocha-voˈʧaβoNiñonee-nyohˈniɲo
To shareConvidarcon-vee-dahrkombiˈðaɾCompartircom-pahr-teehrkompaɾˈtiɾ
To throw someone outCorrercoh-rehrkoˈreɾBotarboh-tahrboˈtaɾ
To scatterDesparramardes-pah-rah-mahrdesparaˈmaɾEscarramares-cah-rah-mahreskaraˈmaɾ
To watch somethingEchar un ojoeh-char oon oh-hoeˈʧaɾ un ˈoxoVelarveh-larbeˈlaɾ
To be madEnojareh-no-hahrenoˈxaɾEnfogonarehn-fo-gahremfoɣoˈnaɾ
Chest (furniture)Cómodacoh-moh-dahˈkomoðaGaveterogah-veh-teh-rohɡaβeˈteɾo
BubblegumGoma de mascargoh-mah deh mass-cahrˈɡoma ðe masˈkaɾChiclechee-clehˈʧikle
Swear wordsGroseríasgroh-seh-ree-ahsɡɾoseˈɾiasFalta de respetofall-tah deh ress-peh-toeˈfalta ðe resˈpeto
Medicine syrupJarabehah-rah-behxaˈɾaβeMedicinameh-dee-see-nahmeðiˈsina
Eye glassesLenteslehn-tessˈlentesEspejuelosess-peh-who-ell-ossespeˈxwelos
To pinch your fingersMachucarse los dedosma-choo-car-seh loss deh-dosmaʧuˈkaɾse loz ˈðeðosPincharse los dedospeen-char-seh loss deh-dospinˈʧaɾse loz ˈðeðos
Female pigMarranama-rah-nahmaˈranaCerdasehr-dahˈseɾða
Silk handkerchiefMascadamass-cah-dahmasˈkaðaPañuelopah-nyooh-elle-ohpaˈɲwelo
I give upMe doymeh doyme ˈðojMe rindomeh reen-doeme ˈrindo
Ice creamNievenee-eh-vehˈnjeβeHeladoeh-la-doeeˈlaðo
A beatingUna palizaoo-nah pah-lee-zaˈuna paˈlisaUna pelaoo-nah peh-leh-ahˈuna ˈpela
A fightUn pleitooon pleh-e-toeum ˈplejtoUna peleaoo-nah peh-leh-ahˈuna peˈlea
A thiefUn raterooon rah-teh-roun raˈteɾoUn pillooon pee-youm ˈpiʝo
To flunkReprobarreh-pro-bahrrepɾoˈβaɾColgarsecoll-gar-sehkolˈɣaɾse
To explodeReventarreh-vehn-tahrreβenˈtaɾExplotarex-ploh-tareksploˈtaɾ
School suppliesÚtilesoo-tee-lessˈutilesMaterialesma-teh-ree-ah-lessmateˈɾjales
Plastic bagBolsaboll-sahˈbolsaFundafoon-dahˈfunda

False friends between Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish

If you’ve been learning languages for a while, then you may have heard about cognates. These are words that look or sound the same and mean the same thing across languages. For example, there are thousands of English and Spanish cognates, making it relatively easy for speakers of either language to learn the other.

However, you also have to be aware of false friends. These are words that sound or look the same but don’t mean the same thing. And although Mexico and Puerto Rico speak the same language, there are a few false friends to be aware of. Here are some of the most common:

SpanishMeaning in Mexican SpanishMeaning in Puerto Rican Spanish
BoleroShoeshine boyShort vest or slow romantic music
ChabacanoApricotSomething in poor taste
ChavoYoung boyOne penny
ColaGlue, butt, lineTail
DepartamentoApartmentDepartment (such as the complaint department)
LentesEyeglassesContact lenses or camera lenses
MacetaPotA stingy person
NieveIce creamSnow
PastelCakeLocal food similar to tamales
PegarTo hitTo glue something
PesoMexican peso (coin)One US dollar (bill)
ProfesorSchool teacher (any level)Professor at university level
TortaSandwichConstruction term for roof

Examples of Mexican vs. Puerto Rican Spanish

Reading about Mexican vs. Puerto Rican Spanish isn’t the same as seeing some real world examples. Here are 50 example sentences of how Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish are different, along with English translations:

Two men comparing Mexican Vs. Puerto Rican Spanish.

Comelón vs. Afrenta'o

This refers to a person who eats too much, either all the time or in a specific instance.

Mexican Spanish

  • Mi hermano es un comelón en las fiestas.
  • My brother eats too much at parties.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • En Navidad, siempre me convierto en un afrenta’o.
  • During Christmas, I always turn into someone who eats too much.

Hablador vs. Aguajero

This refers to a person who makes promises or claims but fails to follow through.

Mexican Spanish

  • Luis siempre dice que va a visitar, pero es un hablador.
  • Luis always says he’s going to visit us, but he’s all talk.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Carlos prometió ayer ayudar, pero realmente es un aguajero.
  • Carlos promised to help, but he really is just someone who doesn’t follow through.

Abuzado vs. Aguazo

This refers to a person who is clever or quick-witted. There are variations like “listo” or “inteligente” that are more universally understood, but “abuzado” and “aguazo” carry more colloquial tones.

Mexican Spanish

  • Ella resuelve sus problemas muy rápido porque es muy abuzada.
  • She solves her problems quickly because she’s very smart.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Mi primo es un aguazo para las matemáticas.
  • My cousin is really smart in math.

Borracho vs. Ajuma'o

This term refers to an individual who frequently consumes alcohol, possibly to excess. The term “borracho” is quite common in many Spanish-speaking regions, while “ajuma’o” is more specific to Puerto Rican slang.

Mexican Spanish

  • Juan siempre es el más borracho en todas las fiestas.
  • Juan is always the drunkest at any party.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Después de dos tragos, ya está medio ajuma’o.
  • After two drinks, he’s already pretty drunk.

Chiqueado vs. Añoñao

This describes someone who receives a lot of attention and care, often more than necessary. “Chiqueado” in Mexico conveys pampering, while “añoñao” in Puerto Rico suggests being coddled.

Mexican Spanish

  • Su abuela lo chiquea mucho, siempre le compra lo que quiere.
  • His grandma spoils him a lot, always buying him what he wants.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese niño está tan añoñao que nunca limpia su cuarto.
  • That child is so spoiled that he never cleans his room.

Estar en la ruina vs. Arranca'o

This phrase is used when someone is out of money. While “estar en la ruina” is a more general term, “arranca’o” is uniquely Puerto Rican.

Mexican Spanish

  • Después de las vacaciones, me quedé en la ruina.
  • After those vacations, I ran out of money.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Gastó tanto en la fiesta que ahora está arranca’o.
  • He spent so much on the party that now he’s broke.

Ponerse guapo vs. Asicalao'o

This phrase describes someone putting effort into their appearance to look attractive or elegant.

Mexican Spanish

  • Todos se van a poner muy guapos para la boda.
  • Everyone is going to dress very nicely for the wedding.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Él se puso bien asicala’o para su cumpleaños.
  • He dressed very nicely for his birthday.

Valiente vs. Babilloso

Refers to showing courage or fearlessness. “Valiente” is widely used throughout the Spanish-speaking world, but “babilloso” offers a unique Puerto Rican twist to describing someone daring.

Mexican Spanish

  • El bombero fue muy valiente al entrar al edificio en llamas.
  • The firefighter was very brave to enter the burning building.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Mi hermano es muy babilloso, siempre defiente a sus amigos.
  • My brother is very brave, he always stands up for his friends.

Chelas vs. Birras

A casual term for referring to beer in a social context. “Chelas” is common in Mexican slang, while “birras” is used in Puerto Rican Spanish.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos a tomar unas chelas este fin de semana.
  • Let’s have some beers this weekend.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Traje unas birras para la fiesta.
  • I brought some beers for the party.

Chambear vs. Bregar

Describes the act of engaging in labor or employment. “Chambear” is a colloquial Mexican term, whereas “bregar” is used primarily in Puerto Rican Spanish.

Mexican Spanish

  • Mañana tengo que chambear todo el día.
  • I have to work all day tomorrow.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Me toca bregar en un proyecto nuevo.
  • It’s my turn to work on a new project.

Abusón vs. Cachetero

This phrase characterizes a person exploiting others’ kindness for their own benefit. “Abusón” in Mexico and “cachetero” in Puerto Rico convey this behavior with a critical tone.

Mexican Spanish

  • No seas abusón, siempre pides favores y nunca das nada a cambio.
  • Don’t be someone who takes advantage of people’s generosity, you always ask for favors and never give anything in return.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese cachetero siempre aparece cuando hay comida gratis.
  • That freeloader always shows up when there’s free food.

Grosero vs. Cafre

Refers to a person displaying rude or uncivil behavior. “Grosero” is used in Mexico, while “cafre” is used in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • No invites a Carlos, es muy grosero con todos.
  • Don’t invite Carlos, he’s very rude to everyone.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese cafre no sabe cómo comportarse en público.
  • That person with bad manners doesn’t know how to behave in public.

Tramposo vs. Chanchullero

Someone who deceives or acts dishonestly, especially to gain an advantage. “Tramposo” is the term in Mexican Spanish, and “chanchullero” is used in Puerto Rican Spanish.

Mexican Spanish

  • Perdí el juego porque él es un tramposo.
  • I lost the game because he’s a cheater.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • No confío en él, siempre ha sido un chanchullero.
  • I don’t trust him, he’s always been a cheater.

Lana vs. Chavos

In Mexican slang, “lana” is often used for money, whereas Puerto Rican slang often uses “chavos.”

Mexican Spanish

  • Necesito ganar más lana para pagar mis vacaciones.
  • I needs to earn more money to pay for my vacations.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • ¿Tienes chavos para el café?
  • Do you have money for the coffee?

Naranja vs. China

Naranja” is the standard term for the citrus fruit orange in most Spanish-speaking countries, while “china” is a colloquial term in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Me gustaría un jugo de naranja fresco.
  • I would like a fresh orange juice.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Compra unas chinas para el desayuno.
  • Buy some oranges for breakfast.

Distraído vs. Elembao

Describes a lack of concentration or focus. “Distraído” is used in Mexico, while “elembao” is a term in Puerto Rican Spanish.

Mexican Spanish

  • Estoy tan distraído que olvidé mis llaves.
  • I’m so distracted today that I forgot my keys.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Él siempre está elembao y nunca presta atención.
  • He’s always distracted and never pays attention.

Mentiroso vs. Embustero

Someone who tells falsehoods. “Mentiroso” is common in Mexico, while “embustero” is used in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • No le creas, es un mentiroso.
  • Don’t believe him, he’s a liar.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Esa embustera siempre inventa historias.
  • That liar is always making stuff up.

Endeudado vs. Embrolla'o

Describes a person who owes a significant amount of money. While “endeudado” is widely understood, “embrolla’o” adds local color in Puerto Rican Spanish.

Mexican Spanish

  • Está tan endeudado que no puede salir de casa sin preocuparse.
  • He’s so in debt he can’t leave his house without worrying.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Juan está embrolla’o hasta el cuello con las tarjetas de crédito.
  • Juan is neck-deep in debt with credit cards.

Enamorado vs. Enchulado

Describes the deep affection one feels towards another person. “Enamorado” is universally used, while “enchulado” is a unique expression in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Estoy completamente enamorado de ella.
  • I am completely in love with her.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Está enchulado con su nueva novia.
  • He’s head over heels in love with his new girlfriend.

Escándalo vs. Escarseo

A situation involving excessive excitement, controversy or activity. “Escándalo” is common in both regions, but “escarseo” is local to Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Hicieron un gran escándalo por la boda.
  • They made a big fuss over the wedding.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • El escarseo en la fiesta llamó la atención de todos.
  • The fuss at the party caught everyone’s attention.

Aburrido vs. Ensorra'o

Feeling weary and uninterested due to a lack of entertainment or excitement. “Aburrido” is the standard term, while “ensorra’o” offers a colloquial twist in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Estoy aburrido de hacer lo mismo todos los días.
  • I’m bored with doing the same thing every day.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Me quedé ensorra’o en la casa todo el fin de semana.
  • I was bored out of my mind at home all weekend.

Ñoño vs. Estofón

Someone who is intellectually focused, often with strong interests in specific academic or cultural topics. “Ñoño” in Mexico and “estofón” in Puerto Rico both capture this essence.

Mexican Spanish

  • Ese niño es tan ñoño que ya terminó todos los libros de la biblioteca.
  • That kid is such a nerd, he already finished all the library books.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Mi hermano el estofón siempre está estudiando.
  • My brother, the nerd, is always studying.

Picarón vs. Fresco

Exhibiting playful behavior aimed at attracting someone romantically. “Picarón” in Mexico and “fresco” in Puerto Rico describe someone who is flirtatious.

Mexican Spanish

  • Él es muy picarón cuando le gusta alguien.
  • He’s very flirty when he likes someone.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • No seas fresco conmigo, apenas nos conocemos.
  • Don’t be too flirty with me, we barely know each other.

Fanfarronear vs. Frontear

Boasting about oneself or one’s achievements, often when it’s just a façade. “Fanfarronear” and “frontear” reflect the act of showing off in both Mexican and Puerto Rican contexts, respectively.

Mexican Spanish

  • Siempre está fanfarroneando sobre su nuevo carro.
  • He’s always bragging about his new car.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Le gusta frontear con lo que no tiene.
  • He likes to brag about the things he doesn’t have.

Garganta vs. Galillo

Garganta” is the standard term for the throat, whereas “galillo” is Puerto Rican slang.

Mexican Spanish

  • Tengo dolor de garganta desde ayer.
  • I’ve had a sore throat since yesterday.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Me duele el galillo, creo que me voy a enfermar.
  • My throat hurts, I think I’m going to get sick.

Chamba vs. Guiso

Refers to employment or a task one is hired to perform. “Chamba” in Mexico and “guiso” in Puerto Rico both denote work, often in an informal sense.

Mexican Spanish

  • Estoy buscando chamba para el verano.
  • I’m looking for a job for the summer.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Consiguió un guiso para este fin de semana.
  • He got a gig for the weekend.

Chistoso vs. Gufea'o

Something that is funny or enjoyable. The term “chistoso” can imply someone or something funny in Mexico, while “gufea’o” describes a state of having fun or joking around in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • La película estuvo muy chistosa.
  • The movie was very funny.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Estábamos bien gufea’o en la fiesta.
  • We were having a lot of fun at the party.

Traidor vs. Insecto

Someone who betrays trust or is disloyal. “Traidor” is universally understood, while “insecto” is a more pejorative term used in Puerto Rico to describe a betrayer.

Mexican Spanish

  • No puedo creer que me traicionó; es un traidor.
  • I can’t believe he betrayed me, he’s a traitor.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese insecto me vendió por poco dinero.
  • That traitor sold me out for a small amount of money.

Fregar vs. Jorobar

To annoy or cause discomfort to someone. “Fregar” in Mexico and “jorobar” in Puerto Rico both convey the act of bothering or irritating someone.

Mexican Spanish

  • Deja de fregar, estoy tratando de trabajar.
  • Stop bothering me, I’m trying to work.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • No me jorobes ahora, estoy ocupado.
  • Don’t bother me now, I’m busy.

Paliza vs. Katimba

A severe physical attack or beating. “Paliza” is used in Mexico, while “katimba” is a Puerto Rican slang.

Mexican Spanish

  • El equipo recibió una paliza en el partido de ayer.
  • The team got a beat down in yesterday’s game.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Le dieron una katimba por meterse en problemas.
  • He got a beat down for getting into trouble.

Lamebotas vs. Lambón

Someone who flatters or ingratiates themselves with others for personal gain. “Lamebotas” in Mexico and “lambón” in Puerto Rico both describe such individuals.

Mexican Spanish

  • No soporto a los lamebotas en el trabajo.
  • I can’t stand the bootickers at work.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese lambón siempre está buscando favor con los jefes.
  • That bootlicker is always looking to curry favor with the bosses.

Mala suerte vs. Macacoa

Misfortune or an unfortunate state. “Mala suerte” is commonly used, while “macacoa” is a uniquely Puerto Rican slang for bad luck.

Mexican Spanish

  • Qué mala suerte tuve con el clima en mis vacaciones.
  • I had such bad luck with the weather on my vacation.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Me cayó una macacoa con el carro nuevo.
  • I had a streak of bad luck with the new car.

Inmaduro vs. Mandulete

Lacking maturity or behaving in a way that’s not age-appropriate. “Inmaduro” is widely understood, while “mandulete” is colloquial in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Deja de actuar de manera inmadura.
  • Stop acting immaturely.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Siempre se comporta como un mandulete en las reuniones.
  • He always behaves like an immature person at meetings.

Huevón vs. Mongo

Unwilling to work or use energy. “Huevón” in Mexico and “mongo” in Puerto Rico describe someone who is lazy.

Mexican Spanish

  • No seas huevón y ayúdame con esto.
  • Don’t be lazy and help me with this.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese mongo nunca hace nada en la casa.
  • That lazy person never does anything around the house.

Codo vs. Mazeta

Someone who is reluctant to spend or share. “Codo” in Mexico and “mazeta” in Puerto Rico are used to describe stingy individuals.

Mexican Spanish

  • No invites al codo a la fiesta, nunca trae nada.
  • Don’t invite the stingy person to the party, he never brings anything.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese mazeta nunca paga su parte cuando salimos.
  • That stingy person never pays his share when we go out.

Sospechoso vs. Nebuloso

Provoking mistrust or skepticism. “Sospechoso” is universally used, while “nebuloso” captures a sense of being unclear or dubious in Puerto Rican slang.

Mexican Spanish

  • Algo sospechoso está pasando aquí.
  • Something suspicious is going on here.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese trato se ve nebuloso, mejor lo pensamos.
  • That deal looks suspicious, we better think it over.

Palanca vs. Pala

This refers to a person who uses their influence or connections to help someone else secure employment. “Palanca” in Mexico and “pala” in Puerto Rico describe this facilitator.

Mexican Spanish

  • Conseguí el trabajo gracias a una palanca.
  • I got the job thanks to someone’s help.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Mi tío fue la pala para entrar a esa compañía.
  • My uncle was the one who helped me get into that company.

Compas vs. Panas

Refers to companions or people with whom one shares a bond of mutual affection. “Compas” is a slang term in Mexico, while “panas” is used in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Me voy al cine con los compas.
  • I’m going to the movies with my friends.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Mis panas y yo tenemos planes para el sábado.
  • My friends and I have plans for Saturday.

Enfiestar vs. Parisear

Who doesn’t like to party? In Mexico, we use “enfiestar” or “salir de fiesta,” while Puerto Ricans use “parisear” as an anglicism (to party!).

Mexican Spanish

  • Este fin de semana vamos a enfiestar a lo grande.
  • We’re going to party big time this weekend.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Nos fuimos a parisear toda la noche.
  • We went out partying all night.

Estacionarse vs. Parquear

Parking a vehicle is called “estacionarse” in all the Spanish-speaking world, and Puerto Rico also uses the colloquial “parquear.”

Mexican Spanish

  • Me costó encontrar dónde estacionarme.
  • I had trouble finding where to park.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Voy a parquear aquí al lado.
  • I’m going to park right over here.

Metiche vs. Presentao

Describes someone who is overly curious about others’ affairs. “Metiche” is common in Mexico and “presentao” is common in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • No seas metiche con la vida de los demás.
  • Don’t be nosey about other people’s lives.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese vecino es muy presentao, siempre está preguntando.
  • That neighbor is so nosey, always asking questions.

Inocente vs. Sángano

Characterizes someone who is innocent or lacks experience. “Inocente” is widely used, whereas “sángano” is a Puerto Rican term implying naivety.

Mexican Spanish

  • Era tan inocente que creyó la historia sin dudar.
  • He was so naive that he believed the story without a doubt.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • No seas sángano, no todo el mundo tiene buenas intenciones.
  • Don’t be naive, not everyone has good intentions.

Estúpido vs. Soplapote

Describes a lack of intelligence or common sense. “Estúpido” is a direct term, while “soplaote” is an insulting slang in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Intentar eso fue una idea muy estúpida.
  • Trying that was a very stupid idea.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Solo un soplapote haría algo así.
  • Only a stupid person would do something like that.

Chiflado vs. Tostao

Describing someone or something that is insane or not in one’s right mind. “Chiflado” is used in Mexico, while “tostado” is colloquial in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Está chiflado si cree que eso va a funcionar.
  • He’s crazy if he thinks that’s going to work.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese hombre está tostao, siempre gritando en la calle.
  • That man is crazy, he’s always shouting in the street.

Trácala vs. Tráfala

Refers to someone who is dishonest or engages in illegal activities. “Trácala” in Mexico and “tráfala” in Puerto Rico both describe such a person.

Mexican Spanish

  • Se metió en problemas por andar con trácalas.
  • He got into trouble for dealing with crooks.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Ese tráfala te va a engañar si no tienes cuidado.
  • That crook will cheat you if you’re not careful.

Ratear vs. Tumbe

The act of taking something without permission. “Ratear” is a slang term in Mexico, while “tumbe” is used in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Alguien intentó ratear en la tienda.
  • Someone tried to steal in the store.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Me tumbearon el celular en el concierto.
  • My phone was stolen at the concert.

Basurero vs. Zafacón

A container for waste and garbage. “Basurero” is the standard term in Mexico, while “zafacón” is uniquely used in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Tira eso al basurero, por favor.
  • Please throw that in the trash can.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • El zafacón ya está lleno, hay que vaciarlo.
  • The trash can is already full, it needs to be emptied.

Travieso vs. Pillo

Describes a child who is playful but naughty or troublesome. “Travieso” is universally used, while “pillo” is more common in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Ese niño travieso siempre está haciendo bromas.
  • That mischievous child is always playing pranks.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Mi sobrino es un pillo, siempre escondiendo las llaves.
  • My nephew is a mischievous child, always hiding the keys.

Trafical vs. Tapón

A point of congestion in traffic. “Trafical” is commonly used in Mexico, while “tapón” is commonly used in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Siempre hay un trafical en esa avenida.
  • There’s always a traffic bottleneck on that avenue.

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Evita el tapón tomando la ruta alterna.
  • Avoid the traffic bottleneck by taking the alternate route.

Popote vs. Sorbeto

A thin tube used to sip drinks. “Popote” is used in Mexico, while “sorbeto” is the term in Puerto Rico.

Mexican Spanish

  • ¿Me puede dar un popote para mi bebida?
  • Can you give me a straw for my drink?

Puerto Rican Spanish

  • Prefiero usar sorbetos reutilizables.
  • I prefer to use reusable straws.

Mexican vs. Puerto Rican Spanish video

You could read about the differences between Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish all day, but a quick video can help clearly and easily demonstrate the differences between the two dialects:

How many Spanish dialects are there?

There is no definite number of Spanish dialects, as what is and isn’t considered a dialect is generally subjective. In theory, there are hundreds if not thousands of dialects of Spanish if we consider each variation to constitute a new dialect. However, we can appreciate 10 or so broad dialects of Spanish:

  • Castilian: This dialect represents the majority of the Spanish spoken in Spain. It’s characterized by the distinction between C/Z and S sounds and the use of “vosotros” for informal, second-person plural.
  • Andalusian: Unique to Southern Spain, Andalusian Spanish is known for its dropping or aspiration of final S sounds and the seseo phenomena, where C and Z are pronounced as S. This dialect significantly influenced Spanish in the Americas.
  • Murcian: Spoken in the Murcia region in Spain, Murcian Spanish features a distinct vocabulary and omission of certain consonant sounds, particularly the D and S at the end of words.
  • Llanito: Unique to Gibraltar, Llanito is a fascinating mix of Andalusian Spanish and British English, incorporating elements from Italian, Maltese, Portuguese, and Haketia. It’s known for its extensive code-switching between English and Spanish within the same sentence.
  • Rioplatense: Predominant in Argentina and Uruguay, Rioplatense Spanish is notable for the “voseo” (use of “vos” instead of “”) and the pronunciation of LL and Y as SH or ZH, giving it a distinctive Italian-like melody due to heavy Italian immigration.
  • Mexican: Mexican Spanish is diverse, with variations across regions. It’s characterized by clear enunciation, the absence of “vosotros,” and the influence of indigenous languages. The Mexican dialect is the most widely spoken dialect in the United States due to Mexico’s proximity.
  • Caribbean: Caribbean Spanish, spoken in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, is known for its rapid speech and the dropping or aspiration of S sounds. Its melody and rhythm are influenced by African linguistic patterns.
  • Andean: Spoken in countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, Andean Spanish features the influence of Quechua and Aymara languages, evident in its vocabulary and phonetics. It’s characterized by the preservation of the S sound and the use of “voseo” in some regions.
  • Central American: This dialect, found in countries from Guatemala to Panama, shares features with both Mexican and Caribbean Spanish. It’s known for its use of “vos” alongside “tú” in certain areas and the influence of indigenous languages.
  • Canarian Spanish: Spoken in the Canary Islands, this dialect shares many features with Caribbean Spanish due to historical migration patterns. It’s known for the seseo and the aspiration of the S sound at the end of syllables, and the use of “ustedes” instead of “vosotros
  • Equatoguinean Spanish: As the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, Equatorial Guinea offers a unique version of the language, influenced by indigenous languages, Portuguese, and French. Equatoguinean Spanish is characterized by its African Spanish accent and the inclusion of African and other linguistic elements into its vocabulary, making it a distinct variant within the Spanish-speaking world.

It’s worth noting that Catalan isn’t a dialect of Spanish. Instead, Catalan is considered a unique language with its own vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Check our guide on Spanish vs. Catalan for more info.


Is Puerto Rican Spanish a dialect?

Yes, Puerto Rican Spanish is considered a dialect of Spanish. In linguistics, a dialect refers to a variation of a language spoken by a particular group of people, characterized by differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar from other forms of the same language.

Puerto Rican Spanish has developed its own unique characteristics due to the island’s history, which have shaped Puerto Rican Spanish into its own distinct dialect with its own set of phonetic, lexical, and syntactic traits.

Is Mexican Spanish a dialect?

Yes, Mexican Spanish is considered a dialect of Spanish. Mexican Spanish has evolved with distinctive features due to the country’s complex history, including pre-Columbian civilizations, Spanish colonization, and interactions with other cultures. It incorporates many indigenous words from languages like Nahuatl and Maya, enriching its vocabulary and phonetics.

Do I need to speak Spanish in Puerto Rico?

Speaking Spanish in Puerto Rico would be incredibly helpful, albeit not entirely necessary. Although Spanish is by far the most common language in Puerto Rico, English is also widely spoken and understood. Especially if you’ll be staying at hotels and visiting popular tourist attractions, you can rest easy knowing that most people will be able to speak and understand Spanish to a certain degree. However, learning some basic Spanish phrases would be a great way to truely immerse yourself in the culture.

Marvel at the uniqueness of Puerto Rican and Mexican Spanish

We’ve taken a deep dive into the colorful world of Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish, exploring the quirks and charms of each. While geographically, they’re not worlds apart, their Spanish dialects tell their very distinct stories of indigenous civilizations, conquest, and resistance. Whether you’re navigating the vibrant streets of Mexico City or the colorful corners of San Juan, understanding these differences enhances your appreciation of each culture.

Hooked on Spanish culture? There’s so much more to learn! We’ve published over 100 Spanish blogs about culture and learning the language. Check out our latest guide to Spanish culture or our guide for telling when to use tú vs usted in Spanish to learn more!

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