Ask a Mexican

Hot Wheels

Dear Mexican: What's the deal with Spanish-language car-dealership commercials that feature bikini-clad porn-star wannabes copulating with used cars? I just saw one where three girls were rubbing melted chocolate on each other. Surely no one in mainstream Caucasian America could get away with such overtly sexual, misogynistic advertising. Does this type of ad actually convince people to buy cars?
Not Buying a Used Sentra With Boob Prints All Over It

Dear Alien: You didn't specify where you're from, so I'll assume eres from another dimension — because no gabacho would ever send in this question. From Betty Boop's race-car driver in Ker Choo to Paris Hilton recording a burger-chain commercial a couple of years ago that saw the heiress washing a carro, Americans have insisted that girls accompany their grilles, and Mexicans are no different. Freudians can debate the whys, but Mexicans only care about the whos (chicas calientes), whats (appearing in car commercials), whens (during weekend mornings), wheres (on your local Spanish-language channel) and hows (vigorously). If you take only one thing from Earth, Sentra, it's that sexo sells in all languages. Oh, and that Guatemalans can't spell.

Dear Mexican: Having been called a gabacho, I couldn't help being interested in the etymological root of that word. I'm never sure what the reference is with the term gabacho, since in my Spanish dictionary (Bantam New College Revised from 1987), gabacho means "Pyrenean" (someone from the Pyrenees, the mountains between France and Spain), "Frenchy," or "Frenchified Spanish." My question is which came first: the Spanish gabacho for the French or the Mexican gabacho for the gringo? Does this go way back to those French vatos who got their trousers kicked on Cinco de Mayo in Puebla?
Ramen Is Yummy

Dear RIY Gabacho: Few features of this column are more controversial than the Mexican's preference for gabacho instead of gringo to describe gabachos. Technically, gabacho refers to an inhabitant of the Pyrenees, but it became a Spanish slur for a Frenchman over the centuries. The Royal Academy of Spanish states that gabacho originated from the Provençal word gavach, which means "bad-speaking." (Quick note for amateur etymologists: Don't believe the 2000 collection Chicano Folklore: A Guide to the Folktales, Traditions, Rituals and Religious Practices of Mexican Americans, which says that gabacho comes from an arcane Castilian term meaning "a current of water." )

When the French briefly conquered Mexico during the 1860s, the Mexicans correctly ridiculed the occupying army as gabachos; after los franceses left, the term remained, and Mexicans applied it to their perpetual European antagonists: Americans. Nevertheless, many Mexicans grumble that I should call gabachos gringos since it's the more accurate term for gabachos (funny, no one ever asks that I stop slurring our pasty amigos). So why does this Mexican use gabacho? Not only did I grow up with the term, but it allows Mexicans to smuggle two ethnic slurs in uno handy word: Not only are we calling gabachos gringos, but we're also calling them French. Parlez-vous double insult, cabrones?

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano