Some gringos take offense to being called gringo. They should not. Gringo is not always a derogatory label. It simply means you are from Up North, and it doesn’t mean American either. Canadians are also gringos in the eyes of locals. In Puerto Vallarta, white skin and distinct tan lines usually designate a gringo.
Where did the term come from?
American classifies anyone from Alaska to Argentina so calling a person American isn’t correct unless you are speaking intercontinental, with the inclusion of North, South and Central Americas.
Gringo, however, is not originally a Mexican term, contrary to the accepted idea that it comes from the USA incursion when Mexicans supposedly yelled at the aggressors “Green Go Home!” That didn’t happen. Nor did the myth that invaders sang a song “Green Go, the Rushes, O.” It is quite unlikely that Spanish speakers would be calling anything green; they would use the term verde, which doesn’t sound anything like gringo.
The term gringo has very old roots in Spain, referring to those who could not, or would not, wrap their tongues around Castilian. It literally means speaking gibberish and applies to completely misunderstanding what one is hearing. Funny enough, in Germany when listening to someone speak incomprehensibly they will say “Are you speaking Spanish?” … while the Spanish respond to unintelligible speech by saying “That sounds Greek!” In essence, gringo means you don’t come from here and you can’t speak our language. It is not an invitation to leave and is often said with fondness.
In Puerto Vallarta, as throughout Mexico, labels such as Gringo are not used with menace. Narrowing things down, people from Mexico City are referred to as Chilangos and although it can be considered pejorative, given the context it is used, it is rarely considered any more offensive than calling a person from Guadalajara at Tapatio. These names are more commonly spoken with pride and merely specify from where a person has begun his or her life’s journey; just as a person from Indiana is called a Hoosier, someone hailing from Iowa will be called a Hawkeye, or a Nebraskan referred to as a Cornhusker. Vallartense is the common classification of someone from Puerto Vallarta and certainly no transgression could ever be assumed being called a Patasalada, used less often but with much affection. It is an affectionate term and its base meaning indicates a coastal native, someone with a salty foot.
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Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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