Sound like a local by saying ‘el chocolate del loro’ when complaining about Spain’s austerity measures


If you’re looking for a phrase that captures an insignificant cost-cutting measure, here’s the perfect expression: el chocolate del loro.


The origin of the expression goes back to the 18th century when the indianos – Spaniards who returned to Spain after having made a fortune in Latin America – would dazzle their party guests with chocolate. Even though it was an expensive commodity at the time, the indianos were able to afford the luxury of setting aside a small portion of chocolate for their pet parrot (another American import).

But when the domestic economy began to decline and the indianos themselves were faced with the prospect of going broke, rather than deprive themselves of parties with chocolate, they deprived their feathery friends.

Of course, the indianos eventually did lose their fortunes, failing to see that what needed trimming wasn’t el chocolate del loro but their bigger expenditures.

Austerity measures

In a recent article published on Público’s website, Antonio Avendaño writes about how politicians have been recently using the expression as their argument against cutting salaries of upper management and reigning in politicians’ travel expenditures:

Suele sostenerse que los sueldos de los directivos, comparados con el multimillonario descubierto que tiene la banca, es el chocolate del loro. El argumento del chocolate del loro es en realidad el mismo que acaba de utilizar el presidente del Tribunal Supremo, Carlos Dívar, al calificar de miseria los casi 20.000 euros que se ha gastado en viajes privados alojándose en hoteles de lujo de Marbella con cargo al presupuesto del Consejo General del Poder Judicial. Bien, pues yo lo que quiero es saber es esto: cuánto se gasta el maldito loro en chocolate.

In this extract, the journalist says that upper management always maintain that their salaries are peanuts compared to what the bank has as deficit. He goes on to cite a recent example where the president of the Supreme Court said that the 20,000€ he spent on a personal trip to Marbella out of the General Counsel’s budget was just chump change.

In a letter to the El País editor, a reader also notes that politicians resort to using el chocolate del loro when someone calls for a cut in politicians’ salaries, official car expenses, special class travel, and receptions or parties.

And in Malawi recently, President Joyce Banda announced a 30% cut in her salary as well as her vice president’s as part of the government’s austerity measures. But a majority of the Malawian people saw the cuts as a drop in the bucket, or el chocolate del loro considering how much the President spends on travel and her security entourage.

Meaningless savings

El chocolate del loro may also be perfectly used in everyday life too.

My supposedly energy-conscious father is always telling me off for not turning off the lights but then turns around and buys a high energy consumption air conditioning system. Or when my aunt went on a diet, she simply removed the olive from her martini.

- Me voy a poner a dieta, Sergio.
– ¿Qué vas a hacer? ¿Ir al médico a que te aconseje?
– No, voy a empezar quitando la aceituna del vermú.

The lights, the olive – that’s el chocolate del loro.

How have you heard the expression used? Let me know in the comments!

Sergio Fernandez

About Sergio Fernandez

I’m a future something, probably a coming architect and linguist. I’m a twin son of a Madrileña and will guide you through the worthwhile Spanish expressions.

Image Credits: gaelx


  1. chris perigo

    November 8, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Polly wants a mocha

    Happily, big bird doesn't have to worry about Mitt Romney cutting off his chocolate for another four years.

    "A drop in the bucket" is new to me, round here(uk) we exaggerate even more with "a drop in the ocean"

    IMHO, Any state employee who thinks €20,000 is "chump change" should be given the opportunity to live on benefits. Let's see how they enjoy life without chocolate.

  2. Sergio Fernandez

    Sergio Fernandez de

    November 12, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for your message, Chris!

    Four more years, you're right; although I don't know if there are as many pollies in the US as there are here in Spain, even if parrots were an American import… ha, ha.

    Yes, I think that we say "una gota en el océano" too, but I'm not really sure.

    This state employee is a special one. In fact he must be the highest paid public person in Spain as he was the chief justice. He resigned but he isn't probably living on benefits.

  3. @GeeCassandra

    November 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    The etymology of the phrase is really interesting, particularly when you consider how an old term is being applied to current political events.

    I had heard this expression before, but only as a name of a bar–there's a cocktail place on Calle San Bernardo called El chocolate del loro!

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