Apr 14, 2009, 7:05 PM
Re: [esperanza] GRINGOS AND GRINGAS....what's in an appelation?
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Esperanza, I think it is a mixture of ignorance and misinformation. Most Mexicans are very polite unless they have reason to dislike someone. If an English speaking person asks a Mexican if the word Gringo is denigrating or insulting, they will almost always smile and answer no, it is just an easy word to use.
I learned in the 1930s the true meaning of the word from some of my Mexican-American classmates in grammar school. There were, and are many Hispanic families in Napa County California. Those families had been there for over 200 years, since what was then called “Alta California” was a part of Spain before there was a country called México.
Here is a little story I will tell on myself. My Mexican wife and I were married in the mid 1980s. I had been to México many times, and I lived on the border in Brownsville, Texas in the 1970s. After our marriage in Alaska we made a trip to her home town of México City to meet most of her family.
Of course, they were giving me the grand tour of the city, visits to the museums, pyramids, floating gardens, cathedrals, etc. One of the places they wanted me to see was the Monte de Piedad, That is the government owned national pawnshop. It was fascinating, There were many valuable items for sale there at very low prices, fine jewelry, genuine Rolex watches for around $1,000 Dollars, etc.
People were selling their family treasures because the mid 1980s was the time of the most severe Peso devaluation in recent memory, 1994 was mild, but more dramatic because the Peso lost half its value virtually overnight. The Peso dropped from about 32 to the US Dollar in 1982 to over 3.000 to the Dollar by early 1994 before the “New Pesos” were issued. Those are the same Pesos we use today.
Anyway, there was a very pretty and very drunk American woman in The Monte de Piedad that decided that she was going to take me home with her. She made pass after pass at me right in front of Doris and her family. I did my best to shake her off, and I finally got rid of her.
After the woman left, Doris looked at me and asked, “What is wrong with that woman?” I answered, “A gringa.” Doris and her whole family broke out in laughter, They all realized then that I know the meaning of gringo and gringa.
I have never been called a gringo, if I ever am, I will know I am being insulted.
People that are not really fluent in colloquial Spanish believe it is an innocuous word. It is not.
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