According to Wikipedia's Pablo Mordillo entry,

When Morillo ordered the execution of the Colombian scientist Francisco José de Caldas (known as El Sabio Caldas, "Wise Caldas") and the people present at the place appealed for the life of the scientist, Morillo responded: "Spain does not need wise people."

Could he have been mis-quoted or misunderstood?

English example: I once referred to a colleague by saying, "On a good day, he is a wise man, and on a bad day, he is a "wise guy." In American English, a "wise guy" is a jokester or "sabelotodo," the kind of person who enrages the teacher or other authorities.

Could Morillo have said the Spanish equivalent of "Spain does not need wise guys (e.g. revolutionaries), and have been misunderstood to mean, "Spain does not need wise people?"

2 Answers 2


I think wikipedia has a proper translation in the article. Searching a bit more, in the references to that sentence in spanish Wikipedia, it seems that sentence might be misattributed from Antoine Lavoisier to Morillo, because there aren't any references in Spain to Morillo's sentence. If it was misunderstood we'll never know.

Anyway, it seems both Morillo and/or Lavoisier said it with same intention: disrepute someone and be right. "Republic/Spain doesn't need wise people [and that's all-no discussion-next issue]".

In my opinion if Morillo wanted to say "España no necesita listillos [(or sabelotodos)]" he could have said it that way. I can't explain it right in english, but I think the intention was something like "Aquí no tenemos sabios ni puñetera falta que hace" < parent's tone. Like a 'Big Balls' Morillo.

  • @darkajax Thanks for the edit... my english sintax is a bit poor, with edits like yours I can see my errors :)))
    – Arkana
    May 16, 2013 at 10:53
  • 1
    No hay problema, vote por tu respuesta porque es buena, simplemente quise hacerla mas legible :D
    – DarkAjax
    May 16, 2013 at 14:00

Mis dos centavos...having not read the article and going only by the nickname "Sabio Caldas", he simply would have been saying that Spain didn't need Caldas who was known as a "sabio" or wise/smart person. Saying that Spain dind't need "wise guys" would have been another good interpretation. Why?

As part of our culture, when you want to insult someone known as "wise", you go with something like "listo" or "listillo" (ever heard of "pillo" -thief, also rhymes with "listillo" and has a close meaning). Listo actually means ready; but it is used to mean "wise" in both good and bad tones like smart-aleck.

  • I like Arkana's comments... "Aquí no tenemos sabios ni puñetera falta que hace"... it would be right on the money for the time and the sense of disdain for anti-government factions
    – Col Flores
    May 14, 2013 at 16:33
  • Welcome to the site. An upvote for a good, knowledgeable first answer.
    – Tom Au
    May 14, 2013 at 17:30

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