Is Gringo offensive?

I use the word “gringa” to describe myself – knowing that some people are uncomfortable with the word. I’ve simply found it to be the best description of who I am. To me, its meaning is a non-native Spanish speaker, (or one who doesn’t speak Spanish at all.) It helps me identify myself as non-Latina, but someone with enough interest in the language and culture to have learned the word and have a sense of humor about it.

Some claim that the word “gringo” has negative connotations due to the way this word entered the lexicon. There is an urban legend that says the Mexican Army told American soldiers to leave the country saying, “Green – GO! [home]” (green for the color of their uniforms.) There is no proof that this is actually true. (Read other etymological possibilities here.)

I don’t like the words “White” or “Caucasian” because of the focus on skin color. I prefer not to use Anglo because it isn’t descriptive enough. I also avoid using “American” or “Americana” – because those from Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America are all “Americans” too. (Some even dislike that the United States has co-opted this word for its citizens, but calling oneself a “United Statesian” is awkward.)

And so this is why I use the word “gringa” and feel that it doesn’t have a bad connotation unless used in certain contexts.

Not everyone agrees with me. Recently columnist Daisy Hernandez, (co-editor of Colonize This! Young Women on Today’s Feminism), used the word “gringo” in what I would consider “appropriate context” – as a result there has been quite a controversy.

Read what happened on NPR, and come back to weigh in. What do you think? Should she have avoided use of the word, or was it appropriate?

Discuss in comments.

(Thanks to Aisha for sending me the link to this news story.)

Posted on February 17, 2011, in Language, news, race. Bookmark the permalink. 74 Comments.

  1. Of cours you’re a “Gringa”. No creo que sea ofensivo para nada.

  2. Personally, I don’t like using the word. But to each his own. This one might fall under that category of self-license that people/comedians use all the time, “it’s ok if I say it or make a joke about it if I’m gringo” but you can’t say it if your are not or it’s then offensive. Although I think of anyone, “gringos” are the least offended of anything of any groups. They seem to get reamed with racist jokes all the time but for some weird reason it’s ok and there’s not ever the same type of racial uproar.

    So when words flirt with that line of being offensive, I’d rather just avoid using them altogether or else you will most certainly run into topics like this post.

    It is sad that we live in a society that is so PC but yet at the same time everyone wants to have exceptions to the rule and that right to double standards mentioned above. There’s always going to be a pocket of people who find something offensive so where do you start respecting others feelings, if the word offends a pocket of people, if it offends just one person? wouldn’t you want to respect at least one person’s wish not to be offended regardless if you think it’s a petty issue.

    So it’s just best not to use a word if there are words like it that I wouldn’t want people calling me. I wouldn’t cry bloody murder if someone did or if I heard it on TV because all sides are guilty of saying things but I find if you just don’t say it and move on with life, life comes back at you with good energy.

    • Navo, This is a very intelligent response and I respect your opinion. I think that if I weren’t a gringa, I would probably be much more careful about throwing it around since I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings or insult them. It’s almost impossible to navigate the world without offending someone occasionally though these days, and I completely understand why even non-gringo people use the word.

      As for why “white” people aren’t easily offended – I think that is part of the white guilt culture — We sort of sense that we don’t have a right to get offended when minorities put up with a lot more than we do. The least we can do is have a sense of humor, I guess? … I have definitely thought about this before though. George Lopez and Dave Chappelle can make fun of white people and easily get away with it – most white people even find the jokes hilarious…. But if a white comedian makes fun of African Americans/blacks or Latinos, they are taking a huge risk of being called racist. It’s a double standard that exists because whites are not minorities. If whites were the minority, than the situation would be reversed. It’s just the way things are.

      All that being said, the English and Spanish languages both still lack a better word than “gringo” for “a native English speaking person from the United States of non-Latino descent.”

      • We use Americana in most contexts, with the understanding of what you said in your post about “americana” referring to canada and such. I think it’s common enough to say Americano and ppl know who we’re referring to, no one has ever butted in conversation to say, “well, what do you mean by Americana, do you mean she’s canadian or colombian?” — nunca.

        In other contexts, I’ve heard gabacho which is probably worse than gringo and güeros which is probably nicer. All G’s, just noticed that, sounds like a title to a book — Gringos, Gabachos, and Güeros, oh my!

      • My husband’s Mexican co-workers use “gabachos” – That is another word which I don’t take offense to, I just prefer “gringa” because even non-Spanish speaking people know that one. “Güero” is light-skinned and can be used for Latinos as well as Anglos, so the meaning is less specific.

        As for using “American/o” and never having anyone interrupt you to clarify – I’ve never had anyone interrupt for clarification, but I have had a couple people interrupt me to give me a geography lesson on why “United Statesians” shouldn’t try to keep “American” all to themselves… Also, all of us born here in the United States, (and even my husband who was naturalized), are “American” – so again it lacks specificity.

        As for “Gringos, Gabachos, and Güeros, oh my!” – ROFLMAO. Please write that book! LOL… Sounds like a possible runaway hit in bilingual children’s titles to me ;)

      • I disagree 100% as a European American who has been the victim of a hate crime, I have no guilt and know what group commits the majority of interracial crime. You should see the FBI stats on interracial rape, but that’s another story. And I let others know in no mixed words when they make racist comments about European Americans. Many European Americans do not get offended because it is just their nature, nothing to do with liberal white guilt.

  3. I use gringo, but I know some people find it offensive. It was supposed to be, originally…but, what am I supposed to refer to my husband as “My non-Latino American husband”; “My American husband”…

    Well, I am American too….and half gringa!

  4. I am probably not the best person to ask…because I am not a “gringa”….so I got on iChat with my husband.

    “If you hear the word or someone calls you gringo, are you offended?”

    “No, but then again it’s really hard to offend me”

    Which brings up the point…. people find anything offensive.

    When talking in spanish it’s really hard to describe a non-Latino American.

    Es “blanco”… (there are a lot of Latinos that are white in color).

    Es “Americano”…. (my children were born in America, they are American too).

    Es “de los Estados Unidos”… (My family is from the United States, we are Latino).

    For me, it’s so easy to say gringo and everyone knows exactly what I mean. And when I say it I don’t ever say it criticizing one’s race.

    • Thanks for asking your husband, Marcela! I appreciate what you both had to contribute to the conversation.

      The complexities of identifying a non-Latino from the United States is well laid out in your examples!

  5. I heard the same story about the Mexican army yelling “Green go (home)” from my doctor, while I was in the delivery room with my son Jack. :P

    I don’t find the word offensive at all. I’ve been called a Gringa, La Gringa, La Gringuita, all my life and never in an offensive way.

    • LOL! What a story to be told while trying to give birth?!

      No one has ever called me “gringa” in a negative context either.

  6. I think people are too sensitive. Sticks and stones…

  7. I agree with you all and heartinhand said it very well: people are too sensitive.
    I think that with all this thing about being “politically correct” we have really lost the (respectful) spontaneity that allows us to see past the differences with a smile, no?

    LOVE that movie “A Toda Maquina” con Pedro Infante!!! Actually, almost every Pedro Infante movie is just wonderful, clichés, stereotypes and all.
    Gracias Amiga!
    Sue

  8. I’ve never heard the word gringo in spanish conversation, only as self-reference by white americans in english. What I hear to mean non-latinos is always weddo (güero) for white non-latino, and moreno or prieto for black non-latino. Even though weddo and moreno are used to mean light and dark skinned in mexico (according to wikipedia, I don’t know from experience), I’ve rarely heard them used for mexicans, here in the US. White latinos are always talked about like, “I thought he was white, but he’s puerto rican/mexican.” or “Oh, he’s mexican? He looks white!”
    But my dad (who is white) uses ‘gringo’ to describe himself. He went to taiwan and said he was the only gringo there. As I see it, gringo is a less offensive way of saying white. It puts more emphasis on culture than race.

    There wasn’t anything wrong with what Daisy Hernandez said, the controversy that ensued was just derailment. What she could have brought up though, to bring across her point better, was how different the fort hood shooting and the tucson shooting were seen in the media.

    • Rimbambo – You’re right, people totally lost focus of what Daisy was saying and it’s a shame.

    • I try to take it how I think it was meant (with a healthy dose of benefit of the doubt).
      If somebody asks me “por que los bollilos [hacen eso]?” I take it as a serious question that they are asking me since I am a “gringa” who speaks their language.
      On the other hand I have overheard sombody in a public place say “pinche bollilo” about somebody, thinking I would not understand, and I thought, that is totally not constructive and I wish my son had not heard that.

  9. Tracy, I think the level of offense depends on the speaker. Gringa, huera, anglo…all can be offensive at times. But it really depends on how they’re said. If you’re not pointing to me as an outsider or degrading my race, than I’m cool with it. Ultimately though, I prefer to be referred to by names that don’t single me out by race…as comadre, hermana, chica, etc. But, I do understand that discussing race is necessary in certain situations and we should be afraid to use identifying words when they serve a purpose.

  10. Usually my husband’s family in Bolivia is making fun of me *laughingly* when they’re using that word, so maybe that’s why I feel this inner cringe when I hear it. I think you explained it well, though, so maybe I’ll hear it differently next time. I never really thought deeply about it before this.

  11. Ok, just in case anybody missed it, here’s a link to the definition of the word gringo by the Real Academia Española: http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltConsulta?TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=gringo
    Last I heard, gringo is a Spanish word, not an English one.

    A lot of words can be offensive depending on how they are used, but I’d say that, at least in my experience, the word gringo is just the best way to describe someone like you, Tracy, just like you say.

    As one of the 638 people — que ridículos! — who commented on Daisy Hernandez’ NPR piece rightly said: “The term “gringo” is a word used by Latin Americans to describe U.S. citizens.” Case in point, my older sister was born in Miami, Florida, while my parents lived here back in the 60s. They eventually moved back to Peru, where I was born, and for as long as I remember, my family in Peru has referred to my sis as “la gringa de la familia.” Not because of the color of her skin, but because she’s the only one who had a U.S. passport, who was an U.S. citizen!

    What bothers me the most about this whole thing is that Daisy Hernandez’ well written commentary was basically boiled down to whether her usage of the word gringo was appropriate or not! As usual, a great way to not deal with the real issues at hand! How typical!

    Thanks so much for writing about this, Tracy! You rock!

    • Roxana, thanks for sharing your family’s use of the word “gringo” – it really adds to the discussion.

      As for Daisy Hernandez’s commentary being hijacked by people claiming she’s racist, that is definitely upsetting.

      For those who missed it, I encourage you to check out the NPR link in the post and read what Daisy said about racism in politics – it is very much worth your time, outside the whole “gringo” discussion.

  12. I don’t think gringo is offensive, but the context in which it is used can make it so, as with any word. It sounds a lot better than “bolillo.”

    When speaking Spanish, I never use americano(a) when referring to someone from the US. I use estadounidense. Unfortunately there is no English equivalent. This is also the word I hear most when listening to US Spanish language television, news mostly.

    For English, I try to use “US citizen” instead.

  13. I asked my husband, too. He said he’d call someone from France a gringo.

    Me: What?!

    So I was confused and told him he didn’t know what he was talking about…but it seems to fit with the definition posted from the Real Academia Espanola.

    Hmmm…Should I go back and mention that to him? Oops. That would mean I was wrong!

  14. I don’t use it all. As I have said before, I find it very offensive, no different than someone using the word “spic.” therefore, I don’t use it & don’t appreciate it, and I’m a Latino.

    • I respect your opinion, Rudy even if I don’t agree that it’s that harsh or that it’s a black/white matter — On this word (“gringo”) – I believe there is a lot of gray area – hence the discussion with very different opinions.

      (No one would disagree with you on the other word — it’s so ugly I can’t even type it.)

  15. Idk… like said to each his own… i always say gringo or gringa in a playful way not to harm anyone… i even call myself a beaner and what not…just in joking… but with everything ppl blow shit out of the water you know… thats why easy going less offended people shouldnt go around ppl who are easily offended… i mean my bf calls me fea. joking i know he doesnt literally think im ugly…so i guess im the wrong person to ask

  16. well, i’m from colombia and if someone from there calls you gringo i can guarantee they dont intend to offend you, it’s just a label to id you as a US citizen. people use the word pretty much generically, they’ll call gringo any person with white skin, blue/green eyes and blonde hair independently from their nationality. Personally i’ve never liked it when gringos call themmselves/are called americans or referrer to their country as america.

    • Chago, thank you for sharing your honest thoughts. Let me ask you some additional questions then.

      Do you call African American/black/darker skinned people from the U.S. “gringos” as well? How about Latinos or Asians born and raised in the U.S.?

      As for those from the U.S. calling themselves “American” – What do you think would be a better term for us to use? (Besides “gringo” which is more casual. I mean a formal term such as “Estadounidense”— but this word does not really exist in English.)

  17. I’m on the fence on this one. When referring to myself, sometimes I use it, but when someone else uses it, it really depends on the tone. The folks from the Hispanic church the boys and I go to have actually STOPPED using it because of me (not because I asked them to, but because I think they did mean it in an “other”/negative way, and now I’m a friend.) And so they just refer to me by my first name when they’re explaining me to new people. Which I think is really sweet and also funny – “well, that’s our Kim.” Like every group should have one.

    One of the first weeks we went, though, a couple of the guys used the term “gringos” to describe the twins, though, and I was really offended. Because it was clearly a slap at the fact that they’re being raised by white parents. And they’re every bit as Latino as anyone else there, even if their Spanish is lacking.

    So, yeah, intent is big for me.

    • ““well, that’s our Kim.” Like every group should have one.” <— I LOVE that!

      As for your twins being called "gringos" – that makes the Mama Bear in me come out. I would have been very offended in that case.

      Thanks for sharing!

  18. I agree with what Navo wrote up there for the most part. I live in Mexico in a pretty touristy area. I’m engaged to a local though and live the way a local would live here. That being said, I hate being called a “gringa” I don’t know if I can explain all my feelings in a short comment, but to me it’s just too dividing. I don’t mind if someone says “American, or NorteAmericano” (some people feel that Mexicans are Americans too so they don’t like people from the US monopolizing that, but I think Mexicans are ‘Norte Americanos’ too ! lol) I don’t mind guera either, because they call light Mexican people guera/guero as well. But “gringo/a” and gabacho/a” sort of hurt me in a way. I’m a very open person and I don’t judge people based on where they come from and I feel like those words base someone on where they come from. To me it’s like judging a book by it’s cover.

    You wrote that you think of “gringo/a” as just someone whos native language isn’t Spanish but I feel like here it has a different connotation. To me they use it to describe someone who doesn’t belong, who is different, who will never fit in, who isn’t them. And I’ve even had people say right in front of me (they didn’t know I could speak Spanish) “she’ll never be one of us” That’s true, I was not born here, but the way that they think about it and use the word it really does feel very negative sometimes.

    I’ve asked my fiance to stop using “gringo” and ESPECIALLY “gabacho”, which I feel is even more mean. I don’t call people names based on where they are from, unless I’m saying “Mexican, German, Brazilian” and I don’t want people to do that to me.

    But then again, I guess it all depends on where you are and what you think the word means! :) I’m glad you brought it up though. It really is something to think about!

    • Nicole, thanks for sharing such a personal take on this topic. I think that in the situation you described, perhaps I would get my feelings hurt or feel uncomfortable as well. No one wants to be made to feel “other” or like they don’t belong/aren’t wanted.

      I know that the word “gringo” can be used in a hostile way and I think that your experience living in Mexico is a good example of that. The people in the area where you live may harbor some resentment towards those vacationing from the United States, due to it being a popular tourist destination so your experience is going to be uniquely different than mine living in the U.S. and having friends from all over Latin America, including Mexico, or with roots in those countries.

      Thanks again for your comment. The more diverse the voices in this discussion, the more interesting it is.

  19. Living in Chile, “gringa” is used by every gringa I know, including myself. I think maybe in Mexico, where it originated, it is considered more offensive, but I think from the beginning of its use in Chile, it wasn’t. Chileans use it with no harm intended. I’m fine with using it and being called it.. it never crossed my mind that it might offend some English speaking people.

    • Actually.. if you search for expats in Chile blogs, most of the girls have “gringa” in their blog title. Most of us are pretty proud to be gringa.

      • That’s a fun fact, (about the blogs from expats in Chile.)

        It would be interesting to do some informal research and ask everyone to rate the offensiveness of the word “gringo” and then the follow up questions of where they’re from and/or where they live.

  20. I do not take offense to the word at all. I’ve been called una “gringa” from people who are originally from Mexico, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. They’ve never said it to hurt me and I kinda like it! =)

  21. Hey Tracy…

    Many thanks for the link to my site.

    I honestly don’t know what to say to someone who would get upset with the term ‘gringo’.. consoling ants who face grave danger of being mashed by the feet of passers by would be a far more rewarding way to spend my time.

    Good post.. very latina-ish site..
    Thanks again!!

  22. Good post and interesting comments.

    I’ve been living in Peru for about two years. Everyone calls me gringo and I kind of like it. In general, gringo is not used as an insult in South America. I backpacked for two years throughout South America before moving here and not once have I been called gringo as an insult.

    As for the “green go” origin of the word, it doesn’t make any sense. The word was used in Spain well before the US-Mexico war. I wrote about this whole subject a few days ago:

    http://howtoperu.com/2011/04/13/gringo-definition-origin-and-meaning/

  23. ¡Yo también soy gringa, con corázon latina!

    I don’t find it offensive. My husband is from Venezuela and my Spanish is very good. Sometimes they just need to figure out that I am not a German Immigrant to Venezuela!

  24. I am also a “Latina de corazón” married to a Dominican. He jokes about his dark skin by calling himself “prieto.” In fact, his aunt surprised me by warning me, “Nosotros somos muchos prietos feos” (we’re a lot of ugly, dark-skinned folks) before I went on my first trip to the DR. Of course, I told her that they were all beautiful. I think it might have been a “devil’s advocate”-like test, since some lighter-skinned Dominicans have openly made negative comments about darker skin. In any case, I must have passed with flying colors (pun intended).

    Children in their innocence have even asked me if I bathe in Clorox to take away the color, and one boy on the beach (he was about 3) cried, “Mami, mami que tiene esa señora?” (Mommy, Mommy, what’s wrong with that lady?”) – to which the mother replied, “Oh, she’s white.” I was the “minority” then but took it in good fun.

    Since I speak Spanish fluently with a bit of an accent, I have been asked if I was Mexican or Puerto Rican while in the DR, and my husband says, “Ella es norteamericana.” He uses “gringuita” as an inside joke. I am fortunate to have unconditional acceptance and love from my Dominican family.

  25. Guess what. I think you are screwed no matter what you say or don’t say. Because the whole thing is just screwy.
    I met my husband where he and I were both working second jobs. Me a pale blonde white woman from Ohio and he an “Indio” from rural Mexico. He a cook and I a waitress. Now, nobody knew we had started dating except one of the other cooks, a very good friend of his. One day I was a bit swamped and this other cook did me a favor by telling me “oye Huera tienes un order up”. My guy turns his head toward him like it was rocket propelled and tells him very quietly but quite seriously “no le vayas a hablar asi o te chingo ok???”. Not only was he totally NOT kidding, he was still irritated when I saw him later outside work and asked him what that that was even all about. I mean, I am pretty pale! But he just thought that was very offensive. He understood his friend didn’t mean any disrespect. But he just couldn’t abide hearing someone call me that. I thought, well, does that word hit a nerve and some almost-buried strange feeling he personally has about dating a not-Latina person? Or is it really offensive?
    Here’s the part that’s even more confusing. His sister is almost as pale complected as I am, and from way long ago before I ever entered this family, all her nieces and nephews call her Tia Huera. I met my husband’s kids when they were quite little and they did not even know her actual name. Everyone in the family calls her La Huerota since anybody can remember.
    But that is not offensive?
    Nope, I have given up trying to put any logic on this. I think whatever side you’re in — or people THINK you’re in — racial stuff is just a mess!

    • I suspect that part of the reason your husband reacted the way he did about the other guy calling you “guerra” was purely protective instinct, (I can imagine my husband reacting in the same way for some reason), but racial stuff is definitely all kinds of complicated. LOL.

  26. actually I think Gachupin or Gabacho are more offensive but then again I’m not a gringa so I can’t decide….the same way I don’t like for non-Latinos to decide for me what I should be offended about. If someone doesn’t like it don’t say it.

  27. Yo soy chilena y tengo una tía que es como tú, de USA, se casó con mi tío y se vino a Chile… nosotras le decimos “la Gringa”, y yo NUNCA supe que era despectivo, hasta más grande. Curiosamente, mis amigos le decían gringa (porque yo le decía) hasta que me di cuenta de que con ellos (no conmigo) se incomodaba, pese a que no hacían más que repetir mi propio modo de tratarla.

    ¡Yo encuentro que no es ningún insulto!

    Y me gustó mucho tu blog, especialmente la parte donde la suegra habla de los gordos, jajaja.

    Cariños, MP.

  28. OK, FIRST OF ALL THE WORD GRINGA or GRINGO IS NOT OFFENSIVE AT ALL. ITS ACTUALLY A WORD INVENTED BY A UNITED STATIAN WHICH MEANS, “GREEN GOES” REFERRING TO THE COLOR OF THE DOLLAR, AND GOES,MEANING THAT IT GOES A LONG WAY SPECIALLY IN LATIN AMERICA. OMG,OMG I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY GENIUS IN THE U.S.A, BUT NOW I REALIZE THAT THERE IS ANOTHER GENIUS JUST LIKE ME,MRS. TRACY LOPEZ. YOU ARE CORRECT, THE PROPER GIVEN NOUN or ADJECTIVE TO A PERSON BORN or NATURALIZED IN THE U.S.A IS ” UNITED STATIAN” . NOT AMERICAN WHICH MEANS THE CONTINENT. WE ARE ALL AMERICANS PROVIDED THAT YOU WERE BORN IN THE CONTINENT OF AMERICA.THERE ARE BILLIONS OF REDUNDANT PROTOPLASM UTTERED EVERY DAY IN THE UNITED STATES, BUT NOBODY SEEMS TO NOTICE, NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE,ONLY GENIUSES LIKE US WOULD PICK UP ON THESE SUBTLETIES. MUCHAS GRACIAS MRS. LOPEZ, LAS PERSONAS EN ESTE PAIS DEVERIAN DE BESAR EL PISO POR DONDE CAMINAS, POR QUE ERES UN GENIO ENTRE UN MAR DE MEDIOCRICIDAD. GRACIAS UN MILLON DE GRACIAS…

  29. In my late teens, my parents sent me to live in Caracas, Venezuela lock, stock and barrel. I was never to return to the United States so it seemed. I’m an American born in a foreign country; that’s what is written on my birth certificate. As I made my way through this quaint neighborhood in Caracas, I’d hear,” Oye, gringo.” They knew I was the grandson of so and so, and my father and my brothers lived there; yet, ” gringo ” was affectionately used. After they got to know me, it was by first name I was called. A term of endearment, I would think. Offense? I wouldn’t think.

  30. I prefer “gringuita” over “gringa”, using diminutive always seems to suavizarlo and make it mas carinoso. However, as for a general adjective to refer to me, that’s not what I prefer to be known as because I don’t consider it central to my identity. But then again, I also strongly dislike it when people tell me “oye, mujer”. Seems kind of rude to me, I don’t know about other people. I prefer to be called by my name and if not then with some term of affection unrelated to physical characteristics (although I do understand that element is very different in Hispanic culture and they are not exactly the most PC people lol and mean no offense to anyone). Anyhow, those are just my personal preferences, I don’t have a philosophical problem with it. As far as using pet names, that can be tricky with strangers too. The one I really hate that a lot of Hispanic men tend to use is “baby”. If I’m not your girlfriend, don’t call me baby. Seems too romantic to me, I don’t know. Calling people things other than their actual name is always tricky, especially from one culture to another, even within the U.S. For example, even though lots of people say “honey” to everyone in the South, lots of people up North get offended by that.

    Anyhow, it’s actually kind of funny though because most Hispanic people forget that I’m “gringa” or think that I’m Hispanic and will start complaining about or making fun of “los gringos” to me. At any rate, I’d rather just be “Cristina,” “Cristinita,” or even “Cris.”

  31. Gabacho is what Spaniards called the French and it is considered rude. Honestly I rather be called Non Latino. It covers everyone no of Latino ancestary.

  32. Thank you for bringing up this subject! It’s a really interesting topic.

    Some of my Latino friends call me gringo, and it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m hard to offend, but for me, it’s all about the tone in the voice and the look on the face.

    As others have mentioned, “Americano” seems odd. A lot of the rest of the world sees U.S, citizens as arrogantly thinking we own everything, and “Americano” feels like a confirmation of that, since it excludes everyone else in the Americas. Even “Norteamericano” excludes a lot of other Norteamericanos!

    Estadiounidense sounds as weird as “United Statsian” would.

    Only once have I been called gringo in a way that bothered me, and that time, it was preceded by “p*che.” Unless the word is being used by a very close friend, being called “p*che” anything would bother me.

  33. lol why are US americans (so called US hispanics included) so retarded ?? is that some national phenomena in that country or what? first of all gringo doesnt mean white or caucasian in any way it only means foreigner where the hell do u ppl get the info that means white ?? from some cholo gangsta barrios in LA lol ?? secondly what is latina or hispanic anyway do u ppl even know ?? hispanic only means of spanish origin and last time i checked spanish ppl are from Europe. secondly latino is only a cultural thing (again southern europe, latin europe, ancient Rome google it) u invented during the 80s to label mestizos who didnt fit anywhere so calling ureself anglo would be more appropriate. so i would suggest u read some books and search the internet and post less comments about things u dont know anything about.

  34. Just on thought on this topic – coming from a non-self describing “gringo” as I am labeled here in Chile (which I thoroughly dislike). If someone is from the United States but of Latin heritage (say Mexican just for reason of example) and is of first generation living in the United States. Thus this person is “American” (in the sense that they were born, raised in the US and thus a citizen). Now suppose, as many of my Latin friends, that this person cannot speak Spanish and has more relation to “American mainstream culture” than their cultural roots (likewise as exists with many of friends in the States). Would this person be a “gringo”? The answer is no. Or, suppose this person could speak fluent Spanish and English but was born in the States, raised there and has never left (a person of Latin heritage). Would this person be a “gringo”. No. thus it is obviously a racial connotation. Which I thoroughly don’t like. Especially here in Chile where people refer to me as “El Gringo” instead of my name (which they know) – essentially is a way of dehumanizing a person and making them a thing, something without any individualism, a foreigner without characteristics. It should be noted that my best friends here in Chile do NOT call me Gringo out of respect and it wasn’t something I have had to ask them, they are just more intelligent, culturally sensitive people.

    • Hi Willis, I certain understand your feelings on this and it’s a completely valid opinion with plenty of good points. One thing I have to say though is that I actually do have Latina friends who were born in the U.S. — some are fluently bilingual, some are not – but by family back in their heritage country, they’re playfully called “gringa” — So it does happen to Latinos/as too!

  35. Tracy, I am Bolivian married to a gringo, to whom I call gringo lindo. Sometimes I call him just gringo. He likes it, because he knows I love him. At first my parents in law found it insulting, but after 10 years they are used to it, and they do not say a thing. There is a problem with people being over sensitive. So, we must always speak correctly! Can we always do it? No! The world is too small and there are so little fronteras. People feel offended just because they want to feel offended. Many people have asked me if I am Filipino, did I get offended? No, because life is too short to get lost in small stuff. I smiled and say I am Bolivian.
    When I first moved to the States, it seemed funny to say American people, because I felt that I was as American as they were. But, then I learned that is Ok, that is how they call themselves. It is easier to say American that from the united States anyway:). Y tambien es mas facil decir gringo que Estadounidence.
    There are 2 things, race and culture. And if you think there is certain type of touchiness among people, blame the lack of acceptance of race and acceptance of culture.
    Perhaps they have not accepted human being as God’s creation. That no matter what they are, or where they are from, they are going to be offended anyway.

  36. I think its okay. I think tt it depends on the sentiment of the person though. My kids are half/half and their family calls them gringuitos, and I know they don’t say it out of spite. I don’t care what others think and if they want to use that term to offend me they better think of something else because the only way a word can become offensive is when there is so much importance put to it. There are some that look at the word “mojado” as the most offensive, and others that embrace it. It just depends on the person.

  37. I personally don’t like it. It just annoys me. In the US we casually threw racial slurs around as if they were nothing for hundreds of years and now we’re slowly trying to rectify that issue as best we can. Having lived in Guatemala for the past 5 years hasn’t made me “deal with it”. It’s obnoxious.

    Whether you’re Latino/a, Asian, African, European, etc. most people don’t like others addressing them by their ethnicity.

    But then again, words are a lot more complex than we think, and it ultimately depends on the context and who those words are being said to. Americans often refer to Canadians as “Canucks”, which sounds innocuous and harmless, but I have known Canadians who don’t like. Similarly, people from other English-speaking countries like Britain and Australia refer to Americans as “Yanks”. But in the American South, where wounds from the civil war are still noticeable, the people there DO NOT like to be called Yanks or Yankees, as “Yankees” means Americans from the North and East Coast.

    I can’t speak for others, but I personally don’t like being called “gringo”.

  38. Lots of good responses here. I especially agree with the ‘depends on the context’ opinion, and word origins of ‘griego’ meaning greek, or ‘peregrine’ meaning stranger.

    At first I thought the word was appropriate because I thought it was always used to describe a language or nationality difference as seen in the word origin and official definition. But after spending some time in South/Central America I saw it used more to describe race. I’ve heard Spanish/Portuguese people called gringos (so that doesn’t point out a different language, just different race), and Asian Americans most often called Chinos (so it’s not used for all foreigners, just white foreigners). I’m white and I’ve been called gringo many times before even opening my mouth, even while surfing when there are no clothes to judge just the color of my hair/face.

    Now that ‘gringo’ connotates race to me, I hold it to a higher standard. I prefer it by used with a humanizing word, such that it is used as an adjective instead of a noun.

    Non offensive examples:

    American wants a burrito. (nationality okay as noun)
    English wants a burrito. (language okay as noun)
    Chico gringo quiere un burrito. (race better as adjective)
    Gringo guy wants a burrito.
    White guy wants a burrito.

    Offensive examples:

    Gringo quiere un burrito.
    Gringo wants a burrito.
    White wants a burrito.

    It’s subtle, but matters to me for some reason, just my opinion, thanks for reading gringo/non-gringo people.

  39. Tanto alboroto por un medio mani, but I guess the fabrication of white-poeple-under-assualt outrage has become a sad gringo pastime. So if you are gringo and offended by it, by all means be offended, but all it really translates to, if it can even be translated at all, is “Yankee.” I think the offended gringo camp’s real argument is that non-whites get to refer to whites however they please without social condemnation but we-the-white-people-under-assault have to watch every little thing we say. Pobre de mi.

    And so the use of “gringo” was a desperate effort du jour to find an altar on which to create a narrative of gotcha-you-hypocrites histrionics. Unfortunately for those who make a living blathering uninformed provincial puppetry, gringo is not inherently derogatory and therefore a poor choice of battle site, which is why this “controversy” wilted within weeks.

  40. Jaime is on to something about context and connotation, although I have no idea why adjective versus noun is meaningful. Chico gringo is almost equal to gringo.Because “gringo” ends in an “o” it already is a man or boy. Chico only serves to suggest this gringo is a boy and not a man. So what?

    But who Hispanics choose to call gringo is not race-neutral and it is something Hispanic culture deserves to be called out on. A Black American, for example, is less likely to be referred to a gringo than a White Spaniard. However, this would only apply to someone with whom there is no familiarity. I can’t imagine and have never seen a Spaniard called gringo unless he is a complete stranger. Nonetheless, the driver of that assumption is racial. Many Spaniards in Latin America I have met absolutely despise that they are assumed to be gringos because they are white. I have even seen NewYoricans get testy about being called gringos.

    At least one driver of this assumption has to do with the fact that Hispanics perceive America as a white guy’s country. Take a look at Congress: Is that not accurate? Also, Hispanic resentment of the US is visceral and fresh, whereas beef with Spain is more long-time-ago-ish and academic.

    Another reason is simply that most foreign white people in Latin America are gringos. America is geographically proximate to much of Latin America and most of the white people traveling there are probably Americans, especially in Mexico or Central America.

    But the assumption of a foreign white guy being a gringo also has to do with the fact that most Latin American nations have an ugly racist history that remains unacknowledged and unchallenged. At least in Central America, derogatory jokes and commentary about black and indigenous people are socially acceptable in ways they would absolutely not be in nations where Fox News feels threatened by political correctness.

  41. This is a really interesting discussion – I am a British Citizen, hoping to move to Peru in the coming years with my novia. When visiting last time I was referred to as blanquito, colorado (after some sun), gringo etc…

    Ggolden rule #1 is ‘Do you feel comfortable’ – If not then say so!

    When my girls mom kept calling me blanquito I did not take offense at all. I am thick skinned and found it funny. Therefore I did not raise it as an issue.

    When negotiating with taxi drivers, charging me double because I am white: different story altogether. When these people call me gringo for asking for cheaper fare – I felt the same feelings described by some bloggers above. At the time my Spanish was not good so I did not say anything. Next time will be very different. Not happy. So…..

    Golden Rule #2 – If you dont know me dont call me a gringo unless you are bigger and badder than me :) haha

  42. First off it refers to a white person. I live in south America and I personally hate the word. It’s passively racist. Ask a Latin American if they consider someone of Latin American or black or Asian decent born in the united states a “g”word. For me it’s the same as the “n” word. Of course Latin Americans will tell you they think it’s not offensive. If you asked a white male 70 years ago if they they thought the “n” word was racist they would tell you the same. Unfortunately black Americans still use it today to describe each other. Much as you use it with your friends to describe yourself in context to being the minority. I am offended by it because it’s racially segregative. If you wish to continue to use it feel free…. Just don’t do it around me. It’s insulting, and to others it’s insulting too. There is no intellectual argument for blatant of passive racism. You can try to justify it all you want but you are only desensitizing yourself to the word. Just think about your primary emotional response the first time you heard the “g” word in context to you, I know I do.

  43. I absolutely HATE the word gringo and I tell them please don’t refer to me or my family as gringos, ni bolillos, ni gaubachos..me cae gordo esas palabras!

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Is Gringo offensive? « Latinaish.com -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: GringosAbroad.com | What is A Gringo? (Am I One?)

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