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I'm translating a Spanish gravestone from 1865 and I am stuck on one word. The inscription includes a verse or prayer that begins with the word "Onava." I can't find this word in any of my Spanish dictionaries. I've looked very closely at the inscription and I am confident that the spelling is "Onava." I'm wondering if it is a misspelling of "Orava" which could be a phonetic spelling of "Oraba" meaning "Prayed." However, I'm wondering if it could be an archaic Spanish word and my (very basic) Spanish is limited to the contemporary language. Google came up with nothing. Does anyone know?

The full text of the inscription, with my translation:

Onava. [???]

Contempla bien, pasajero, [Consider well, passerby]

Este lugar silencioso; [This silent place]

Yace en él un buen esposo, [Here lies a good husband,]

Buen amigo hombre sincero. [Good friend, sincere man.]

Si estas prendas tu fé abouan, [If these items buoy your faith]

Alza tu súplica al cielo. [Raise your prayers to the sky]

Y pide á Dios dé consuelo [And ask God that he may give comfort]

A los deudos que lo lloran. [to the bereaved who weep for him.]

Inscripción

  • I'm also unsure about the word "prendas" - the most common meaning is "garment" but I think it context it must have the secondary meaning of items that are given as a pledge.

  • I think that "abouan" must be an older spelling of "aboyan" which would mean "float" (with a buoy) so I translated it as "buoy".

Muchas gracias!

Note: You can see the complete gravestone here.

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    Hmm, I can find no occurrences of the word "onava" in old Spanish texts. But (wild guess) the word octava might fit here, as one of its meanings is "a poem with 8 lines". Could it be that the inscription says "octava"? – wimi Nov 3 '20 at 18:38
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    The fifth verse would make more sense to me if it was "aboyan" as a misspelling of "abollan", as in "if these things dent your faith". Nonetheless that word should rhyme with "lloran" and hence should end with "-oran". As for the first word, "octava" makes a lot of sense as the composition has eight verses indeed. A picture of the grave would be grave, I mean, great. – Charlie Nov 3 '20 at 21:04
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    "Abouan" must actually be "abonan", in the meaning of supporting or bettering something. "Onava" might be "octava". It would be an "octava menor" because each verse has eight syllables (this is apparently very common in traditional Spanish poetry). – pablodf76 Nov 3 '20 at 21:48
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    Seeing the picture now it is clear to me that it's "abonan". See in the upper text how it's written "cousuelo" instead of "consuelo". And "Onara" or "Onava" could be the person signing the upper text? – Charlie Nov 4 '20 at 5:52
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    "abollan" sounds like a pretty absurd thing to happen to someone faith, plus it wouldn't make sense that if reading this "abolla tu fe" you go and pray for that family. As Charlie says, it's "abona". Like you would "abonar una planta" so it grows. And that reads "Onava" to me, but other than a name (of a person or a place) I can't imagine what that means. – Gaviota Nov 4 '20 at 9:47
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Just to leave all the comments written in an answer, let's start this community wiki post. First of all, you can find information about Simon Mesa's grave in the web Find a grave. There you can find other pictures and information about relatives. Neither the wife nor the daughter carry the name "Onava", although it seems to be a surname used there, you can find some companies like "Aluminios Onava" or even a real state agency. Another theory is that it could be the name of a plant, you can find the word onava in the Fichero general from the RAE web, a single file will tell you that it referred to Ehretia virgata or Ehretia acuminata. A wild guess would be that it is a misspelling of the word octava, as the following poem is indeed a composition of eight verses. The composition transcription is as follows:

Contempla bien, pasajero,
Este lugar silencioso;
Yace en él un buen esposo,
Buen amigo hombre sincero.
Si estas prendas tu fé abonan,
Alza tu súplica al cielo,
Y pide á Dios dé consuelo
A los deudos que lo lloran.

The reason to write abonan is that it seems that sometimes the n was written with a u as in the word consuelo right at the end of the previous text.

On the other hand, we don't usually accept translations from Spanish into English, but given that you have already provided an attempt of translation, let's try to make some amendments:

Behold, passerby,
This silent place;
Here lies a good husband,
Good friend, sincere man.
If these goods1 make your faith grow,
Send your prayers to the Heavens,
And ask God that He may give comfort
to the family that weeps for him.

If you think the translation can be improved, please make any further corrections to avoid misinterpreting any word from Mexican Spanish.


1 Spanish prenda can be translated as "jewel" given the translation offered for Mexico in the Diccionario de americanismos. Nonetheless, the Spanish dictionary also states that prenda may mean "something given as proof of something". So the translation could also be "if these proofs...". I (Charlie) made the decision of translating it as "goods" as a middle point between "proof" and "jewel", given that the man was described both as a "good husband" and a "good man", hence the "goods".

  • Could prenda be the fourth definition given in the DLE and mean something like proofs? So the preceding lines are proofs of the deceased's goodness? – mdewey Nov 4 '20 at 13:41
  • @mdewey yes, of course, it could perfectly be. Nonetheless, I liked the translation as "goods" because the man was defined both as a "good husband" and a "good man" so those could be the two "goods". :-) But if you think "proof" is a better translation, feel free to edit the translation and remove the notice about me being bad at English (in fact that should not be in a CW post). – Charlie Nov 4 '20 at 14:09
  • I see your point about the goods. I would leave the note as it encourages others to chip in if they feel like it. – mdewey Nov 4 '20 at 14:14
  • @mdewey I added the note to the post. Maybe someone could ask if "jewel" could be a suitable translation for "prenda" in a Mexican Spanish text from mid-19th century. :-) – Charlie Nov 4 '20 at 14:22
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    I want to thank everyone so much for your help with this interesting old gravestone. I'm actually the person who took the most recent photo that is posted on Findagrave (I use a different username there). I would like to add a translation to the Findagrave memorial but got stuck on a couple of the words. I really appreciate everyone's help. – SarahT Nov 4 '20 at 16:52

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