For these two lines of a poem by Neruda:

Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava

y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.

I have this

My wild farmworker body is undermined

and makes the boy at the bottom of the earth jump.

I guess I am most confused about the reflexive of 'Socavar' and how to translate 'hace'. Most importantly, I don't really get line 4 at all and wonder if my translation is off.

  • If scocavar was being used reflexively surely it would be 'se socava'. – mdewey Jun 27 '16 at 21:10

The verb socavar is not used reflexively here, as it says te socava and not se socava. But your translation of hace is OK, in this case hacer saltar [a alguien] means to make [somebody] jump. Nonetheless, I think a most accurate translation would be

My wild farmworker body undermines you

and makes the son burst forth from the depths of the earth.

I think you will clearly see the meaning of the verses if you change the last one to this:

y hace brotar al hijo desde el fondo de la tierra.

Now you can replace son with seed, and you will have no more doubts.


I would say that "socava" it's very close to "mining". However, it doesn't only applies to land or mineral context, can also be related to information (like a detective could "socavar datos"). You have used another use of the term -undermined- but is not the proper one in this case. In mining terms, the word "socavón" refers to the deep inside mine galleries used to extract minerals. Neruda's description is more related to a farmer wildly plowing her female body in a sexual intercourse and by doing this 'extracting' from her womb, a son.

  • 1
    "Socavar datos"? Don't you mean "recabar datos"? Socavar means to undermine or to weaken, while recabar is to gather. I don't think a detective would be interested in "socavar datos". Besides that, interesting analysis! I didn't get the sexual allusion at first. – Yay Jun 27 '16 at 20:38
  • You are right @Yay. As you said: Socavar means to undermine or to weaken. I believe I extended the meaning to "take things by force". By mining you are taking the goods (minerals) from the soil by force, as opposed to farming where or ripening, where the fruits of the plants are offered to whom want to take them. That was not a good example. As people said around here: my bad! ;) – Delonix R. Jun 28 '16 at 3:23

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