Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: Is chica too familiar?

Dear Mexican: While vacationing in Mexico, a couple of times I have had vendors or waiters address me as chica. I didn't think much about it at the time, but while relating a conversation with one of these guys to a Mexican friend of mine back in the U.S., he insisted that chica is way too familiar, and that these guys were insulting me by addressing me in this way. I was a little surprised to hear that, since I think I'm a very respectful person and wouldn't have given anyone a reason to disrespect me. What do you think? Were they just being friendly, or taking advantage of my ignorance?  Any advice for the next time I get chica-ed?
La Chica Blanca

Dear Gabacha: While chica isn't the most formal of expressions (it means "girl" in Spanish), it's also hardly the most insulting Mexican-Spanish term that a male stranger would use to get a woman's attention. The starting lineup, in devolving order, is doña (ma'am), señora/señorita (missus/miss), mujer (lady), querida (darling), linda (pretty), chica (girl), chula (honey), mamacita (cutie), pendeja ("dumb" by itself; "bitch" when modified by bruja (witch)), mamona (cocksucker), puta (whore), piruja (slut) and Thalia.

Dear Mexican: I'm wondering what's going on with Mexicans and their seeming discomfort when presented with a handshake as a greeting. Most of the brown guys that I have been around seem like they don't know what's going on when it's time to shake hands. They are slow in taking the hand that is offered, and when they finally do raise their hand for the shake, they don't look you in the eye. The worst thing about it is their grip — limp wrist and fingertips only. It's like you have a wet noodle in your hand. Do guys in Mexico not shake hands at all, or do they just do it differently than Americans? Should I stop trying to shake hands with these guys? What's up?
Not Shook Up

Dear Gabacho: Two types of handshakes exist for Mexican hombres — the firm, look-you-in-the-eye one, and the chokala, which is where the men exchange a light handshake, cock their manos upwards and grip each other's thumbs, do another mini-handshake involving just the fingers, and finally end with a fist bump (sometimes it's reduced to just three steps, with the fingers part dropped). The firm handshake is the hallmark of the older generation and chúntaros; the latter is practiced by the younger generations. You do get the occasional aversion of the eyes, but that's just a vestige from the Spaniards who took anyone looking at them directly in the ojos as a sign of disrespect, but fuck Spanish traditions. But Mexicans, limp wrists? Are you sure you weren't shaking hands with Puerto Ricans?

¡ASK A MEXICAN! VIDEOS ARE BACK! Gentle cabrones: After a years-long hiatus, I've relaunched the video version of this columna. Follow my weekly rants on Twitter by clicking the hashtag #askamexican and ask away. Enjoy!

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano