Palomitas or Canchitas — What Are You Eating on National Popcorn Day?

Lead Photo: Credit: Karen Ilagan
Credit: Karen Ilagan
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January 19 is National Popcorn Day, but depending on where you’re from, it’s very likely that “popcorn” translates into several different Spanish words.

Luckily, the history of popcorn stays the same, even when you cross borders in Latin America. According to research published in Smithsonian magazine, this food dates back somewhere between 3,000 and 6,700 years ago. Corn was first domesticated in Mexico between 9,000 and 10,000 years ago. So, forget that myth about Christopher Columbus introducing popcorn to Native Americans during the first Thanksgiving on Plymouth Rock in 1621. Never happened.

What has happened over the years, however, is how the Spanish word “popcorn” has been translated differently across Latin America. TikTok user Uriel Anthony breaks it down for inquiring minds in a recent video he posted earlier this month. It has since received 2.3 million views and has become one of the most-watched videos on his page. Other popular words Anthony has posted different Spanish translations to include snow cone, straw, and turkey.

The popcorn video includes Spanish words from eight different Latin American countries. In Mexico, popcorn is translated as “palomitas.” In Guatemala, it’s “poporopo.” In Cuba, it’s “rositas de maíz.” In Chile, it’s “palomitas” or “cabritas.” In Ecuador, it’s “canguil.” In Argentina, it’s “pochoclo.” In Peru, it’s “canchitas.” And in Colombia, it’s “crispetas.” The Cubana in the video also said that she calls low-calorie popcorn like the brand SkinnyPop Popcorn “flacas.”

Here’s an infographic that runs down a few more Spanish translations, including “gallitos” in Venezuela and “millo” in Panama.

Now that we have that straight, how do you say, “extra butter?”