Opinion: One man’s take on his culture’s stereotypes
¡Ask a Mexican!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Dear Confused Ballerina in Happy Valley: Of course racists aren’t racists, and how dare you allege that! They’re just saying the truth! Racists can’t possibly be racists because they have colored friends – and those minorities not only agree with their non-racist amigos, they’re even more non-racist against their own kind and that makes it more OK to be truthful! Know Nothings have long used this twisted logic (witness those lunatics who say Arizona’s reprehensible SB1070 and Most-Corrupt-Sheriff-in-America Joe Arpayaso enjoy support from “Hispanics,” and are therefore not anti-Mexican) in an attempt to shut up opponents – I do believe that logical fallacy is called appeal to authority. Or is it honor by association? I forget. Anyhoo, ¡A LA CHINGADA CON ARPAYASO Y SB1070!I recently learned the meaning of güero, which until that point I knew as a Beck album. I started calling my whitish Mexican friends güero/a, and they seemed displeased. Is it offensive? The Korean, Employer of Mexicans, Therefore Partners in Crime
Dear Chinito: Not really. Güero technically means “blond” in Mexican Spanish, but it also refers to a light-skinned person and, by association, gabachos. All Mexicans want to be güero; anyone who claims otherwise does it in the face of the country’s topsy-turvy racial history, where white made might and prietos (dark-skinned folks) were little better than Guatemalans. The twisted part about güero, however, is that it was originally a slur. Sebastian de Covarrubias Horozco’s 1611 Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana o Española defined it as a “rotten egg”; Spaniards used it to describe a pale, sickly child. Güero, in turn, comes from medieval Spanish guerar, which describes when a chicken goes broody.
The only indigenous language in which the Mexican could find güero is Arawak, as listed in Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa’s 1628 Compendio y Descripción de las Indias Occidentales. Here, guero (no umlaut) is described as a wine, which ultimately makes more sense to signify “blond” than “rotten egg” when one considers sorority girls.