The other day we received the following question about the Puerto Rican Spanish word zafacón and whether or not to use it:
“My husband, a native of PR, and I are having a discussion about the best way to translate the term “garbage/trash can” for a trash collection company whose Spanish speaking customers are 90% Puerto Rican.
We agree that “zafacón” is not ideal as it would confuse any non-PR Spanish speakers who live in the service area of this company. I like “basurero” because it is short and I agree it would be almost universal. My husband says “basurero” would give the impression of a landfill but I feel that the context would clearly refer to a garbage can. (In other areas of the document, I use “vertedero” for landfill).
I say “balde de basura” is a good term that won’t confuse most people but he says for Puerto Ricans a “balde” always is a pail, though I swear I never heard him ever use it like that in 44 yrs of marriage. I also have never heard any of the people who I have lived among for many years use balde specifically for pail, though I have to admit I have rarely heard anyone use it at all.”
This was an interesting question and here is my reply:
“I am a native Puerto Rican too currently living in Miami where you know there is a huge Hispanic population. I have to admit that I am very conscious of not using zafacón among my Hispanic friends because I know they won’t understand me. Even with my kids, I don’t use that word (zafacón) at all because I don’t want them to use it at school and no one understand them. Later on, when they are a little bit older, I will introduce those specific words to them.
What I am using with my kids instead of “zafacón” is simply “basura”. ¿Dónde está la basura? ¿Échalo en la basura?
I think that “basurero” will be a good option to use for a trash can. Another term you can use is “recipiente de basura” but it is a longer option and also sounds more formal to us.
So for us Puerto Ricans…
zafacón = trash can
basurero = vertedero = landfill
blade = cubo = pail”