Dear Readers: I was supposed to deliver this column to ustedes for Cinco de Drinko, but then Arizona's reprehensible SB1070 reared its ugly head. I could devote this column to that issue again, but Mexican-hating is a national sport, and we must darle chingazos wherever it pops out. Big shout-outs, though, to the Phoenix Suns for coming out en masse against the resolution, and the City of Tucson for suing its home state over the pendejada. Root for the former, and eat a bacon-wrapped hot dog in honor of the latter — and don't boycott either of them.
The issue before us: regional anti-Mexican slurs. A couple of weeks ago, I asked ustedes to share with me your home region's unique way of insulting Mexicans — in other words, hyper-local synonyms for wetback, beaner and other anti-Mexican slurs. My theory was that I would receive many, and my theory was proven correct. But like any good Mexican, I pirated that theory from someone else. "The number and nature of nicknames and particularly derogatory nicknames for particular ethnic groups in America is a reflection of the strengths of the ethnic conflicts in which they have been involved and the kinds of ill-feeling that such conflicts generate," wrote Christie Davies in her 2002 study of ethnic humor, The Mirth of Nations.
Below, in alphabetical order, are some of the better ones, followed by the region from which each slur originates and its etymology, if any. If your home town's way of hating Mexicans isn't listed, e-mail it to me, por favor!
Brazer: Chicago. Shortened version of bracero ("fieldworker"), a term most famously known in the United States under the auspices of the Bracero Program. This agreement between the American and Mexican governments, lasting from 1942 through 1964, officially brought cheap Mexican labor into the United States and helped kick off in earnest the Reconquista. Made famous in Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street.
Bronc: Santa Barbara, California. No known etymology.
Bully: Inland Empire, California. Refers to the bull decals wabs put on trucks.
Cheddar: Denver. An Anglicized shortening of chero, itself an elided way of saying ranchero ("farmer").
Chicali: Coachella Valley, California. A shortened version of Mexicali, the Mexican city two hours away.
Chook: Readers across the border region spanning New Mexico to McAllen, Texas, sent this in. It's short for pachuco, a slur against Mexican youth during the 1940s that was eventually appropriated by them and turned into the iconic zoot suit-wearing chuco suave.
Chopa/Chopita: The former comes from California's wine country, with sources ranging from Sonoma to Napa; the latter is more prominent in the San Francisco Bay Area. Etymology unknown.
Fronchis: El Paso, Texas. An abbreviation derived from "Frontera Chihuahua," the legend printed on license plates for cars in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, just across the United States-Mexico border.
Jagger: California's Central Valley. One theory says it's a badly mispronounced version of llegar ("to come") and refers to recently arrived wabs.
Mojarra: I received multiple entries for this word from the Dallas area, but I've heard mojarra uttered in other areas as well. The word is a play on mojado ("wetback"), as mojarra is the Spanish word for tilapia.
Paisa: American prisons. Short for paisano ("countryman"), this is actually a widespread slur but has a distinct definition in our prison system, referring to inmates born in Mexico to differentiate them from the Mexican cons born in the United States ("raza").
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
TJ: Oxnard, California. Acronym for Tijuana.
Wab: Orange County, California. No known etymology; theories range from it being an acronym for "went across border" to wab deriving from the classic anti-Italian slur "wop." The only problem with the latter explanation is that la naranja historically has had little Italian immigration and thus has as much reason to hate guidos as Know Nothing Arizonans do the Klan.
Webber: East Los Angeles. Though comments on urbandictionary.com suggest it derives from "wetback," the Mexican theorizes it's probably related to "wab." After all, until Arizona beat us last month, who knew how to hate Mexicans better than Orange County?