I don’t remember who first told this phrase to me, when it was said, or if the phrase is part of the popular argot that I inherited by the fact of just being born to Spaniard ancestors, or by being educated by and within the richness of the Spanish Language.
It is also possible that the phrase came from the analysis of done by many scholars of the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra (the novel was done in two volumes a decade apart -in 1605 and 1615). This is the story of Alonso Quixano, a gentleman from the area of La Mancha, who goes mad after reading too many books. His mind transforms himself into a medevial knight, a neighbor Aldonza Lorenzo, into his courtly love, and fills the surrounding countryside with dangers and quests.
I had read the novel twice –first in 1954 as a requirement for the approval of the subject Spanish Literature, and secondly, in 2005, in the celebration of the “centenario cervantino”. This second time I had in my mind the sketch drawn by Pablo Picasso made on August 10, 1955, in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Cervantes’s Don Quixote –as the Old Castillians, Asturianos, Gallegos and Loenenses pronounce it. On it is Don Quixote de la Mancha, his horse Rocinante, his squire (attendant to knight) Sancho Panza and his donkey Dapple, the sun, and several windmills. The bold lines, almost scribbles, that compose the figures are stark against a plain, white background.
Both the second reading and the sketchy image allowed me to think that probably Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra was playing around with the typical dichotomy in the character of the human beings. No doubt that Cervantes used the psychological differences between the two characters to explore the conflict between the ideal and the real: On one side, Don Quixote who embodies a sense of purpose and beauty —two things he believes the world lacks— and hopes to bring order to a tumultuous world by reinstating the chivalric code of the knights-errant. As when he went against windmills, believing that they are giants, when we fight imaginary enemies, or fight an unwinnable battle. On the other side is Sancho Panza who humanizes the story, bringing dignity and equilibrium but also humor and compassion. He embodies the good and the bad aspects of the sane character. Though Sancho is ignorant, illiterate, cowardly, and foolish, he nonetheless proves himself a wise and just ruler.
As the title of this note says: all of us do “quijotadas” – the foolishly impractical pursuit of ideals, typically marked with rash and lofty romantic ideals-, and all of us say “sanchismos” – a combination of broad humour, ironic Spanish proverbs, and earthy wit.