Gringa, Gabacha or just Americana?

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MazDee:

Apr 13, 2008

Gringa, Gabacha or just Americana?

I looked in the language forum for a discussion of the use of these terms, but couldn’t find anything useful to answer a question some of us estranjeros have. A friend (US born but with years of experience in México) says that while gringo is not necessarily derrogatory, gabacho is “safer.” Another friend calls herself a gringa, lives in a totally Mexican colonia, and says her neighbors (who include her in every activity) call her a gringa. Or THE gringa, as she is the only one. She recently used the word “gabacha” to describe a particularly awful woman from US, using that as the ultimate slam, and I wondered why her interpretation of that word was so different from what I thought I knew. I realize that meanings and usages vary around this big country. As far as regional differences and use of these words: I have NEVER been called a gringa or gabacha by any Mexican, but I am constantly asked whether I am Americana or Canadiense! So, in Mazatlán at least, an American is someone from the US. Forget all that PC stuff about the US being only one part of America. USA is the only country that actually has America in its name, and that is good enough for me. I am not proud to be an American right now, but estadounisence or however you spell it is beyond me. Gringa/gabacha still is a puzzle. Can anyone help?

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travisdyer

Apr 13, 2008
When I am in Aguascalientes, I am always referred to as “El Gringo” or “El Americano.” When I am in the states, I hear the term “gabacho” used more frequently. I think that all three are accepted terms, but they can be misused, just like the term “black” or “African” can be used in a negative manner.

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morgaine7

Apr 13, 2008
Are you looking for a term to use when referring to yourself in conversation, or to get a clearer picture of how Mexicans refer to you and other, um, folks who share your nationality? Here in La Paz my neighbors say “Americana” for the likes of me, at least to our faces. I don’t recall ever hearing “gabacho”. I have heard “gringo” used by Mexicans speaking in English, usually when referring to a group (for example, “a lot of gringos shop at that store”) but not in Spanish. Of course, they could be saying anything when I’m not around to hear. Americans frequently use “gringo” among themselves.

I refer to myself as an “extranjera”. If specifically asked for nationality or country of origin, I say, “Los Estados Unidos, pero …” and explain where I’ve actually lived since 1982 when I left the US. It’s partly to distance myself politically, but also to forestall questions about living there that I can’t possibly address. Occasionally I manage to spit out “estadounidense” if I’ve had exactly the right amount to drink.

Kate

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Gringal

I could be described as any number of things, but I know good and well that my Mexican neighbors are referring to me and mi esposo as the gringos next door. Hopefully, as the nice gringos. So, I accept being a “gringal” for general purposes. Being all formal and specifice about it, I’m an expat from California.

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jerezano:

Apr 14, 2008

Gabacha—-Gringa

Gabacha comes from a provincial Spanish word gavach which means a person who speaks Spanish badly. As such the word gabacho has been applied in Spain for centuries to people or towns in the foothills of the Pyranees? mountains. It then became over time a derrogatory Spanish word to describe Frenchmen.

It entered México to describe (as I understand it but havent found references) people who were awkward or without social grace.

As for current use, Gabacho seems to be the more or less universal word used by Mexicans living in California (at least Orange County) to describe gringos. As used there it has little or no derrogatory meaning. In my experience in Texas the word is hardly ever used being displaced by gringo. And there gringo has little or no derrogatory meaning.

Here in México (some 20 years now) I have been called gringo, gabacho, Americano, bolillo, and even pe…..o. All without derrogatory meaning. Once during the American Panama incursion I was called an “éminence grise” with every intention of an insult.

So the key to your problem appears to be the intention with which the word gabacha or gringa is used. If you detect a derrogatory emphasis, then that is so. If not there, then either word is perfectly OK in my opinion. But I think your choice of Americana is a good one. That is safe with no possible misunderstanding, although some Mexicana may reply that she too is Americana. 🙂

Interesting question. You should have posted it on the Learning Spanish forum.

Hasta luego. jerezano. PS: Estad[o]unidense or Estadunidensa.

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MazDee

Thanks for the information. I call myself a gringa, but have gotten the feeling that Mexicans feel the term is a bit disrespectful. I think the first time I ever saw the word gabacho was reading Ask A Mexican, and have never heard it here until the recent conversation with my friend. She said she had told a cab driver that the woman was a gabacha, with the intention of implying that she was an “ugly American.” I don’t know where she got the idea that it was derrogatory, and she can’t pinpoint it. I have been curious ever since! Dee

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sioux4noff

The Mexicans I know, in my company at least, refer to people from, the US as americanos. But one time, I called my friend at work, and when they were getting him to come to the phone, I heard the receoptionist say “es su amiga la gringa.”
Mostly, they laugh when we call ourselves gringos. When I asked why, they said it is just funny to hear us call ourselves that.

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esperanza

“Gringo” has very unpleasant connotations, not unlike the infamous “N” word as used in the USA. I rarely hear it unless it’s preceded by “pinche”. I find it really bizarre that most foreigners from the USA call themselves gringos when the word is such a deprecation.

Gabacho is more strongly pejorative than gringo. I certainly wouldn’t go around calling myself that.

The word I use–always–to describe people who are not from Mexico is extranjero–foreigner. It pretty much covers everybody.

https://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

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waltw

The term Gabacho I’ve heard quite often in Oaxaca. The young Mexican men that hang out in the Zocalo and try to pick up foreign women are referred to as “Gabacheros”

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esperanza

And gabachas have the reputation of being easy…

https://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

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Grieger-Lods

We studied Spanish for years with a professor in Berkeley, CA who is from Guanajuato. She taught us to use the term estadounidense, and we always use that. We also learned not to say, when asked, that we are from California-but instead to say, from California Norte. Cab drivers in Guanajuato taught us that.

Gay and Dennis

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esperanza

Estadounidense works just fine, unless the foreigner happens to be canadiense or some other nationality that’s not estadounidense. But EVERY foreigner is an extranjero.

https://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

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Grieger-Lods

Well noted. Thanks!

Gay

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quevedo

Americana is the polite denomination. Gringa used to be derogatory, but nowadays everybody uses it, Americans included. Perhaps gabacha is the strongest of the lot; you hear it more frequently as you move up North.

Saludos cordiales,

Quevedo

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thriftqueen

We lived in NM for over 40 years where most of our friends/associates were Spanish. We never heard the word gabacho. Thanks to Jerezano for his likely explanation. Our Mexican neighbor who is a school teacher told me to never use the gringo word as it is considered derog. He suggests using Americano, which is what we hear ourselves being referred to here in Alamos.

I have a close Mexican woman friend, when I called her home and her grandson answered the phone he would call out, “Abuela, it’s the Americana”. I told him to refer to me by my name, Ginger using the example if he called my house we would not call out, “Abuela, it’s the Mexican.” Maybe petty but it grated on me when I heard him use that term instead of my name.

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morgaine7

I stated above that I hadn’t heard Mexicans using gringo in Spanish, but one of my work crew used it today. He was describing a development in another area of the state and remarked that the homes were being built for gringos. The instant it was out of his mouth, he corrected it to americanos.

Kate

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donnameyer:

My close Mexican friends in San Miguel often refer to me as la Gringita, used as a term of endearment. They ahve also, at times, called me gabacha, bolilla and guerita, in a teasing tone. And of course, many (most?) ex-pats in SMA refer to themselves as gringos.

My favorite story came from a young man who worked for me. Over a family dinner at his parents house, I asked the group if they thought Mexican in San Miguel resented the Americans there. They all agreed that they did not. And Beto added, that lots of young Mexican guys liked to come to San Miguel “para ver las gueras.”

Donna
https://www.experience-san-miguel-de-allende.com

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mexijo:

It is a problem for you people from the USA. “Americano” o “Estadounidense” will not do because every Mexican is “Americano” and citizen of the “United States (of Mexico)” as my mexican wife likes to point out (“How do these ignorant *** dare call themselves Americanos – America is a continent not a country!”).

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thriftqueen:
We knew this was coming, re-read Jerezano’s posting and I quote:

But I think your choice of Americana is a good one. That is safe with no possible misunderstanding, although some Mexicana may reply that she too is Americana. 🙂

OK, OK, what ever. I don’t call myself an Americana, the Mexicans do!!!!

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sandykayak:

I was thinking about this. If he had said, “Abuela, es la señora americana.” it would have sounded more respectful.

Respect – giving and receiving – makes a big difference.
Sandy Kramer
Miami, Fla & El Parque

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thriftqueen:
You are correct, it would have been more respectful. This is a family that considers us as part of the family. Solidly middle class Mexicans. I felt comfortable correcting him as we are in and out of each other’s house’s and I have helped his Mom with her English. Interesting family – the matriarch (abuela, my friend) had seven children. They are all educated, 1 doctor, 3 attorneys in the group. Second generation is now in college, with four studying medicine. Abuela’s grandfather had the last name of Bay, a General in the MX army. During some of the social unrest he changed their name to Ochoa.

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