Gringo is… an interesting word.
As many people have pointed out, it isn’t necessarily an insult. It’s a shorthand way of saying someone comes from the United States, regardless of their skin color.
Gabacho works the same way.
If a foreigner quickly reveals that he isn’t from the US, then the Mexican who called them gringo will often call them something else, often exhibiting our amazing lack of political correctness.
If the person is blond, then they’ll become güeros.
If the person is black, I kid you not, then they may be called negros. (Which, I must point out, in Spanish doesn’t carry the same racial weight. It’s just used as a description.)
The notable exceptions to this loose “rule” are Asian looking people (Who will be called Chinos, regardless of their origin.) or Mexican-Americans, who will be called pochos.
Here’s the thing with gringo and all other examples I just mentioned, though. While they can be used innocently and in a friendly manner (I lovingly call all my US friends “My Gringuitas”) it can also be used as an insult, and yes, it depends entirely on the intonation and the context.
It’s safe to say pinche gringo is offensive, unless your Mexican friend says it laughing and smiling at you, in which case they’re just having fun.
If they say it angrily, while complaining about something US people do, while actively making fun of them or when speaking about Donald Trump, chances are they are using gringo insultingly.
But here comes the issue. As you may have noticed already, gringo being a descriptor rather than a slur means that it’s very hard to come up with a “similar” word.
I mean, you could try looking the Mexican in question and sneer at them “Mexican!” or even “Mestizo!” (which most of the Mexican population is) but that will get you perplexed faces and mixed results, at best. (Granted, the Mexicans who feel European may get mad at you, but ignore those. Chances are no matter how blonde they look they’ll be mestizos.)
So, here’s my proposition.
If you don’t like being called a gringa, tell your Mexican friends not to do it. You’ll be quickly promoted to “güera” instead.
(You don’t even have to be blond to be güera, by the way. Sometimes having light skin and light colored hair is more than enough, and I know a bunch of güeras who look like me, so don’t sweat it.)
And if you don’t like güera either, tell them that. You’ll get another nickname to replace that one, though I can’t make promises on whether it’ll be worse or better. (What can I say? Some Mexicans seem completely unable to use people’s names. I genuinely don’t know half the names of my parent’s friends, because they always use nicknames.)
And as for your Latina friend that makes fun of white people who can’t roll their R’s and looks down on them? Dump her. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
About the Author
Mexican; Lives in Mexico.Self EmployedMaster’s Degree Digital Communication & Media Production, Universidad de las Américas PueblaLives in San Andrés Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. Follow Alejandra at ESActive in Spanish60 Answers
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