In short – ‘cámara’ is a Spanish noun that can mean both ‘camera’ and ‘chamber’, but in Mexico City it’s also used as an interjection to express surprise, agreement or even outrage!
This might require a bit of backstory …
And, well, it’s actually unclear why such an innocuous word came to be used colloquially.
Some claim that it comes from ‘¡cámara!’, as in the word used when filming a movie (think ‘action!’ in English).
Others say that it’s a derivation of ‘camarada’, or ‘comrade’.
Yet another story points at the ‘air chamber’ of a tire, hence the popular extended version ‘cámara, pivote y rin’ (which means, ‘chamber, valve and rim’) which is used as an affirmation.
What we do know is that ‘cámara’ was first used in certain ‘colonias’ (i.e., ‘barrios’) in Mexico City and that many people in cities across the country have since adopted it.
It’s important to mention that although this isn’t a vulgar expression in any way, it IS quite informal, and best kept to casual conversations amongst close friends.
So, let’s find out all the uses of ‘cámara’ in Mexican slang. It’s gonna be a fun ride, I promise!
Uses / Meanings of ‘cámara’
‘Cámara’ can be used in the following ways –
- To express agreement
- To end a conversation and say goodbye
- As an interjection, normally to complain about something
- As a sign of resignation or acceptance
To express agreement
This is one of the most popular uses of ‘cámara’ in Mexican slang.
Don’t be surprised if you hear people in Mexico City whipping out an animated ‘cámara’ instead of the more formal ‘de acuerdo’ (or ‘I agree’ in English).
En un trabajo de equipo en la secundaria
Martina – Yo digo que cada quien esté a cargo de un capítulo del ensayo final.
Abraham – Cámara; así le hacemos.
During a team project in high school
Martina – I reckon we should all write a chapter of the final essay.
Abraham – Okay, let’s do that.
You may also hear people respond to ‘cámara’ with a loud whistle (yep, you read that right!); it’s nothing more than a resounding confirmation of whatever it is that’s being discussed, so don’t feel shocked or nervous!
Admittedly, this isn’t as widespread as ‘cámara’ itself, but you’re sure to be understood by any true Chilango (a long-term resident of Mexico City).
Sebastián – ¿Podrías llevar al perro al veterinario? Necesita ser vacunado, pero no me da tiempo esta semana.
Alexa – Cámara, pero tú sacas la basura todos los días de la próxima semana, ¿va?
Sebastían – Fiuuuuuuuu.
Sebastián – Could you take the dog to the vet? He needs to be vaccinated but I don’t have time this week.
Alexa – Fine, but you take out the trash every day for the next week, okay?
Sebastián – Whooooooo.
To end a conversation and say goodbye
Chilangos also often end interactions with a simple ‘cámara’.
It’s a way of saying goodbye, but only when the two people speaking are parting ways for a brief period of time, so you’ll hear it a lot amongst roommates, siblings, neighbors, and close friends.
Dos compañeras de clase en el receso
Iris – …y luego hicimos un recorrido en kayak por Xochimilco.
Brenda – Qué chido. ¡Wey*, tengo examen de química en cinco minutos!
Iris – Cámara, te veo al rato.
Two classmates during recess
Iris – … and then we went on a kayak tour of Xochimilco.
Brenda – Cool. Dude, I have a chemistry test in five minutes!
Iris – Okay then, see you later.
As an interjection, normally to complain about something
All very jolly up to this point, right?
Well, there may be times when the person saying ‘cámara’ looks offended, outraged or even disappointed!
¡Cámara, Jorge! Te estuve esperando una hora y me dejaste plantado.
Gosh-darn, Jorge! I’ve been waiting for you for an hour; you stood me up.
Dos compañeros de departamento
Rodolfo – ¡Cámara, dejaste el cartón de leche vacío en el refri otra vez!
Pam – Ay, pues mete uno nuevo.
Rodolfo – Darn it, you left an empty milk carton in the fridge again!
Pam – Well, put a new one in.
As a sign of resignation or acceptance
Finally, ‘cámara’ may also indicate that your interlocutor has lost all hope or simply come to terms with a difficult situation.
In this sense it’s a bit like the English expression ‘oh well’.
Daniela – Me dice el mecánico que no tendrá el coche listo antes de dos semanas.
Julio – Cámara…Tocará usar el metro estos días.
Daniela – The mechanic tells me that he won’t have the car ready for two more weeks.
July – Oh well … We’ll have to use the subway for the time being.
There’s actually an extended version of this expression that further illustrates this sentiment: ‘camara, no me agüito’.
‘Agüitar’ is a colloquial way to saying ‘to bum out’. So, this phrase roughly translates to ‘oh well, I won’t get bummed out’ –
Extracto de una canción en un sketch del comediante mexicano Daniel Sosa
¿Qué, no perreas? Cámara, no me agüito.
Extract from a song in a sketch by Mexican comedian Daniel Sosa
So, you don’t twerk? Whatever, I won’t get bummed out.
The word ‘cámara’ is made up of three syllables, which are pronounced as follows –
- ‘Cá’ sounds like ‘kah’ (since it has an accent, this is the syllable you should stress)
- ‘Ma’ is said like ‘mah’
- And ‘ra’ sounds like ‘rah’
/ kah-mah-rah /
Similar words / expressions to ‘cámara’
This means ‘shrimp’ in Spanish, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with either a camera or a chamber, but it DOES sound a bit like ‘cámara’, and that’s usually enough in Mexican slang for it to become synonymous!
Ignacio – ¿Vamos por unas chelas?
Bruno – ¡Camarón!
Ignacio – Wanna go get a beer?
Bruno – I’m in!
Camarón, pulpo y ostión
Mexican slang is ALL about musicality, whimsy, and humor!
So, if you’re gonna talk about shrimp, why stop there? Why not accompany it with ‘pulpo’ (or ‘octopus’ in English) and ‘ostión’ (or ‘oyster’) and make a Mexican seafood cocktail?
Lucrecia – ¿Estás seguro de que esta es la dirección de la fiesta?
José – ¡Camarón, pulpo y ostión! Conozco esta colonia desde chiquito.
Lucrecia – Are you sure this is the address of the party?
José – Absolutely! I’ve known this neighborhood since I was a child.
As you can see, Mexican slang is WILD! People find the potential for a cheeky play on words almost everywhere, and ‘cámara’ is no exception.
Hopefully you’ve had fun exploring this expression and maybe you’ll even be tempted to use it with your Mexican pals!
Ready for more Mexican Spanish? Well, head on over to our article on the meaning of ‘chamba’.