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What's the Difference Between "Gringo" and "Gabacho"?
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Dear Mexican: Believe I’ve heard from you, in an interview, that “gringo” is either out-of-date or inappropriate and that gabacho is the better choice. I’ve checked online and most sources say that gabacho is a pejorative and/or generally refers to Europeans. Is this the case, or is gabacho just a better word than “gringo”? Also, as a native SoCal cracker, is it acceptable for me to use gabacho or to refer to myself as such? What is the proper etiquette and usage so I don’t offend anyone or embarrass myself? I’ve also asked friends, but the vote seems to be split.

Gringo-Gabacho Greg

Dear Gabacho: As I’ve explained in this columna before, gabacho and gringo are synonyms for the same thing—gabachos, with the key differences being certainty in their respective etymology (gabacho comes from Provencal, while no one has ever put forth a definite origin story for “gringo”), and the important fact that gabachos long ago appropriated “gringo” into a harmless term that has absolutely no sting, while gabacho maintains its sting. And now you want to proudly refer to yourself as a gabacho, gabacho? No. Content yourself with the theft of half of Mexico back in the day, and leave our treasures alone once and for all.


Just a quick set-up: I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department after 29 years. The last 24 years were spent in Narcotics Division Major Violators. Before retiring, I purchased a lot in Los Barriles. After retiring, I built a home there and in 1997, moved there where I have been full time ever since. In 2005, I received my Mexican citizenship. On several occasions, both by U.S. Customs and regular citizens, I’ve been asked why I moved to Mexico. My response is always the same: I was a Los Angeles police officer for 29 years, and in narcotics for 24 years. I’ve arrested a lot of Illegal Immigrants. Mexico is the only place I have ever been where all the illegals speak English. Saludos

Ballin’ in Baja

Dear Gabacho: I see what you did there—stick to your day job, ‘cause you ain’t the Keystone Kops. But you did bring up an interesting thought: the number of gaba illegal immigrants in Mexico. There are no hard números, given there are hundreds of thousands of old gabachos in Baja and Guanajuato, and I’m sure a big chunk haven’t renewed their visas in years. The better indicator is the number of Americans that Mexico deports—the Mexican Secretariat of the Interior’s Migration Policy Unit showed that for 2013, Mexico deported only 690 Americans—and I’m sure that count is primarily pochos. Compare that to the deportation figures for Central American countries:32,800 from Honduras, around 30,000 for Guatemala, and only about 14.5 thousand Salvadorans (and people say Mexis and Salvis have beef). See that, America? If Mexico can be kind to your undocumented in our country, why can’t you do the same to our mojados?


Ask the Mexican at [email protected], be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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  1. Steve L. says:

    “Gabacho” maintains its sting? Really? Stabbing me with a child’s plastic light saber would sting more than calling me “Gabacho.”

    Here is a good thing for you to learn: Traditional/nationalist/grown-up Americans don’t throw their rattles out of the pram whenever someone calls them a name. We learned about “sticks and stones…bones…and names” when we were children. The Coalition of the Fringes on the Left (as Steve Sailer calls them), however, heads to the fainting couch at the merest hint of a “label” or a “slur.” No, Mr. Mexican, what “stings” my ilk is when we, e.g., lose our job as a result of a Cultural Marxist rattle hitting the ground.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @HLOsuave
  2. Madeira says:

    While it is true that some (including the RAE, the “Spanish Royal Academy”) maintain that the etymology of gringo is uncertain, to say that “no one has ever put forth a definite origin story for ‘gringo’ ” is untrue and does grave disservice to the memory of the great Hispanic linguist and etymologist Joan Corominas (1905-1997). Corominas (or Coromines in his native Catalan) was the author of the magisterial (6 volumes, more than 5,000 pages) Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, the equally magisterial (9 volumes) Diccionari etimològic i complementari de la llengua catalana, and the shorter Breve Diccionario etimológico de la lengua castellana.

    For Corominas, and numerous others who have accepted his explanation (e.g., Merriam-Webster and American Heritage dictionaries), there is little doubt concerning the origin of gringo: it is an alteration of griego (“Greek”) in the sense of one who speaks an unintelligible language (similarly, in English we say “it’s all Greek to me”). While it is often asserted that gringo originated in South American (or Mexican) Spanish, its first attestations are in eighteenth century Spain, as a term for foreigners in general and for Irish (!) in particular.

    As for gabacho, this indeed comes from Provençal, from gavach (“goiter”) used as a slang term for Alp dwellers to the north who frequently suffered from this disease (due to lack of iodine); the corresponding (Swiss) French term for such Alp dwellers was crétin (from “Christian”, used as a compassionate euphemism), which gave rise to English cretin. Gavach (and hence Spanish gabacho) came to be used as a general term for “people coming from a northern region who speak poorly the language of the country”.

    By the way, for answers to many questions about the etymological origins of Spanish vocabulary, I can heartily recommend (I am, after all, the author) Spanish Vocabulary, An Etymological Approach (University of Texas Press, 2008).

    • Agree: Marcus
  3. gruff says:

    1.We conquered that land fair and square, just as you conquered it before us when it was Indian land. So suck it up and quit crying like a bunch of niñas que menstrúan.

    2. The correct view of that situation is that Mexico treats immigrants from its north very well because they are wealthy and law-abiding, and treats immigrants from its south poorly because they cause trouble. And the U.S. does the same!

    • Replies: @seth
  4. seth says:

    Mexico didn’t even conquer the land…Spain did. Mexico inherited a dubious claim to millions of hectares of unsettled Indian land, and it held that claim for about 25 years before ceding it to the United States.

    Mexico has no legitimate claim to the American Southwest. Its ongoing invasion is illegal and will be reversed soon.

    • Replies: @Marcus
    , @Anonymous
  5. Marcus says:

    If Mexico had kept that land, it would’ve remained an unsettled waste. The invasion (not just by Mexicans) extends well beyond the area ceded

  6. “while gabacho maintains its sting”

    only to stupid people,

  7. They are both anti-white terms. Who cares what the difference is?

    • Replies: @Marcus
  8. Marcus says:

    Gringo can just mean “foreigner,” as it does in much of South America.

    • Replies: @Jefferson
  9. Priss Factor [AKA "Dominique Francon Society"] says: • Website

    Dear Mexerez,

    ‘Gabacho’ sounds okay to me as far as insults go.

    Now, what would be a good pejorative that non-Mexers can use against Mexers?

    • Replies: @Flemur
  10. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Theft of half of Mexico?

    That is a tenuously held stretched half-truth at very best. The southwest was never part of historic Mexico (the Aztecs and such). It was extremely sparsely settled even by the mid-nineteenth century. Mexico just got a de-facto inheritance of Spain’s empty claim to the territory when it broke away in 1821.

  11. The United States did not “steal half of Mexico.” Under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in return for Mexico’s northern territories, the U.S. paid the Mexican government $15 million (a staggering sum at the time) and agreed to pay off $3.25 million in claims of American citizens against that government. Subsequently, in 1854, Mexico received $10 million for the Gadsden Purchase.

    That may be contrasted with the $11.25 million in cash, and $3.75 in cancellation of debt, paid to France for the Louisiana Purchase; or with the $7.2 million paid to Russia for Alaska.

    Mexico got a relatively good deal for what was, at the time, a sparsely populated tract of undeveloped land, largely desert, inhabited mainly by hostile Indians that the Mexicans had never managed to bring under its control.

    • Replies: @interesting
    , @Jeff77450
    , @Clyde
  12. Jefferson says:

    “Gringo can just mean “foreigner,” as it does in much of South America.”

    Mexico is not South America. Among Mexicans in both Mexico and The U.S, the term Gringo/Gringa has racial connotations. No Mexican would ever refer to Beyonce and Jay-Z for example as Gringos.

    • Replies: @Marcus
    , @Anonymous
  13. My experience points to it being pejorative.

    From a diary I kept for a couple of months in Mexico in 1977:

    I leave the Tampico Recrativo ( a cheap lodging for offshore workers in dull, still cold weather and go for a dip in the Gulf after asking a local “Esta seguro a nader aqui- no tiburones?”, as no one, but no one, was in the water.
    He assures me sharks are not a problem, and I go in with not quite a complete sense of security, as I had overheard him say”gringo” when he was talking to his mates, and I have an idea it’s a pejorative .
    Later we head for “el estacion del Autobus” A helpful teenager walks out of his way to help us make a connection. I’m starting to like Mexico, as I keep getting the eye from pretty Mexicali roses, much to Kate’s annoyance, and I consider pushing her under the wheels of passing juggernauts.
    Much difficulty obviated when Kate spots an obvious Gringo,a blonde American name of Duddy who teaches English to Mexicans. He is immaculate, emphasising my own shabbiness, and he boos tickets for us to Mexico city with impressive efficiency, and out money exchanged. The Dagoes rip us off with their customary efficiency, which seems to be the only thing that IS efficient here!
    I ask him his informed opinion on Mexicans and am pleased when he replies “Nice, when you get to know them.”
    Not so nice, apparently, was the little shit I’d heard using “Gringo” as he confirmed that it equates to N/gger. I wish I’d kicked that little [email protected] in the balls that said it was ok to swim- maybe he was lying about the sharks to the Gringo?

  14. Marcus says:

    Really? I had no idea! Here’s something that might also surprise you, it’s also not the only Spanish-speaking country.

  15. Camlost says:

    Who cares? Gringo or gabacho?

    Only the incompetent worry about slurs. I welcome the expansion of anti-white “slurs” in the USA, it will only push our people to the right quicker.

  16. @Crawfurdmuir

    “Mexico got a relatively good deal for what was, at the time, a sparsely populated tract of undeveloped land, largely desert, inhabited mainly by hostile Indians that the Mexicans had never managed to bring under its control”

    from what I’ve read settlers in the area got no protection from the Mexican government and turned to the US government for help. So America asked to buy the land for quite some time since they were tasked with policing the area. Then war broke out. But in the end America did buy the land.

  17. Jeff77450 says:

    Gustavo, I’ve asked this before in this forum and I’ve never seen a satisfactory answer you: If the U.S. hadn’t “stolen” California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas from Mexico then what, exactly, would Mexico have done with it? Remember: The reason why Mexico invited Americans to colonize Texas was because they couldn’t get their own people to go their in significant numbers.

    Seriously, what would Mexico have done with it? Eventually used it to breed another 100,000,000 illiterate peasants to illegally move to what was left of the U.S.?? *WHY*??? *TO* *WHAT* *END*????

    “I’ll be blunt: everything that you love in life requires the presence of white people.” –Jared Taylor

  18. Jeff77450 says:

    You spoke to the issue much better than I did. Many thanx.

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve L.

    When called a racist slur, many whites just let it roll off their backs because they know deep down they know that being white is nothing to cause shame. Wc assume the issuer of the slur is just jealous.

    • Replies: @Fakenews
  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I know what gets white people really mad: white privilege.

  21. jackson says:

    I’ve heard the term “steezer” applied to persons of Hispanic descent. How does that term differ from the more traditional “beaner?”

  22. Flemur says:
    @Priss Factor

    ‘Gabacho’ sounds okay to me as far as insults go.
    “Gabacho” sounds like food to me…

    Now, what would be a good pejorative that non-Mexers can use against Mexers?>
    ..and “Latinx” sounds like a detergent or floor wax.

  23. A beautiful blonde Gringo introduced me to Gazpacho. It was as delectable as she was. There may be a difference, but in my mind they will always be associated in a positive way.

  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    After reading the posts on this thread, I can only observe that so-called ‘Americans from North America” are the most racist of all nationalities. It kills most North Americanos to say anything positive about our friends to the south….who are also Americans.
    Were it not for them, what would you eat instead of Tacos, Burritos, Frijoles, Tamales, Cerveza, and all kinds of goodies. Mexicans and people of Central and South America have contributed much to our society other than food and entertainment and casitas along the beautiful beaches of Mexico. Show a little intelligence, North Americans (who by the way are probably from Europe, Great Britain, Russia, China, Israel, and all points around the globe. Intruders on our continent by any manner of definition.
    Mexican music is the most beautiful. Mexican food the most delicious. Mexican people the warmest in heart and soul. True Americans, born and bred on our continent. The rest of us are Gringos for sure. Viva Mexico.

    • Replies: @Jeff77450
  25. The difference? About the same as the difference between a huevón and a pelotudo. Que esta columna es una huevonada o una pelotudez.

  26. Clyde says:

    Mexico got a relatively good deal for what was, at the time, a sparsely populated tract of undeveloped land, largely desert, inhabited mainly by hostile Indians that the Mexicans had never managed to bring under its control.

    Those very hostile Indians were Apache and Comanche. Fierce, terrorist horseback riders who could only be broken later on by the US Army.

    And Mexico’s ludicrous claim to those (in reality) Indian ruled SW territories existed for only 25 years. Between Spain ceding them to Mexico and the US winning them in the 1848 war.

  27. Jeff77450 says:

    Every country south of the U.S. border is a chronic basket-case and you know it. That incident in Mexico of 40-odd college students being kidnapped & murdered *by* *the* *police*…can you imagine that happening in the America?? Yes, occasionally an American police officer commits a serious crime but a planned, organized mass-kidnapping and murder? Wouldn’t happen here.

    I like the American version of Mexican food as much as the next guy but I would gladly do without it if it meant being spared the crime and the strain on society caused by all these parasites.

    I won’t hold my breath waiting for any Latino society to do something comparable to inventing antibiotics & vaccines, air-travel, splitting the atom, putting a man on the Moon, creating a network of GPS, weather and communications satellites, the Hubble telescope, detecting gravitational waves, etc. To put it another way the cure for cancer and cold-fusion won’t come from any Latino, African or Islamic society.

    Give credit where credit is due: The many Latinos countries (not nations) came together and made their fair-share contribution to defeating Fascism and Communism with their dead-and-wounded numbering in the millions…oh, wait, no they didn’t. They basically sat-out WWII and the Cold War. *Worthless*.

  28. Anonymous [AKA "johnnyremeber2"] says:

    So if my beloved co-worker calls me “Gabacho”…he is toying with me a bit? I always thought gringo sounded so dated and old fashioned, like a bad western.
    Can Mexicans, Mexican-Americans use this term with some degree of affection? Or does it always have a negative tinge? sting.
    So I am not super-gabacho…white guy for justice? john

  29. Anonymous [AKA "johnnyremember2"] says:

    I support dreamers and believe strongly that the US should grant any foreign worker in the USA a path to citizenship if the applicant can show X amount of time working.
    5 years? 10 years? 15? Also, a fully legal status for any foreign worker in the USA. Regardless if the individual wants US citizenship.
    Also, The MEXICAN government must be pressured to build a much stronger middle class. The states of the American Southwest have much more vibrant and fairer economies than the large Northern states of Mexico. There is no reason that these states of Mexico cannot be as productive, or for that matter, any state in Mexico.
    We need to end the corruption and drug trade, both supply and demand…and help Mexico build a true Middle Class. johnny remember2

  30. Anonymous [AKA "Adan"] says:

    Oye viejon tu eres un “pocho” tambien wey. Why do you use it in a negative light?
    Mexican American culture has its own distinct values and flavor.It is different! A combo of both cultures. I love(visit at least once/year)REAL Mexican culture(Mexicans from/grew up in Mexico) but there’s no need to denigrate Mexican-AMERICANS by using that phrase. Use Chicano if you’d like to make a distinction. I’m a fellow Angelino.

  31. Fakenews says:

    Using that idiotic logic, you’re saying that when a person uses slurs like the N word, they are just jealous and want to be black. Right… We all know that ain’t true.

  32. Anonymous [AKA "Azetec Warrior"] says:

    Mexico kick Spain out of Mexico, do now you want to be historically corrected. I like to read your insight of the Alamo.

  33. Anonymous [AKA "Gabacho"] says:

    I live in Mexico and no matter what race you are if you are from the US you are referred to as gabacho. Gabacho also is like saying “its the shit” positive connotation

  34. HLOsuave says:
    @Steve L.

    Don’t be mistaken by Steve L’s use of “nationalist” in the above comment. Nationalism is not a fundamental American value. As a matter of fact, the need to establish what exactly made someone an American citizen was an afterthought.

    Initially, G. Washington even expressed his belief that an American was anyone who stepped foot on this soil and shared the same values and rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    As far as the sticks and stones matter, you can bet your butthole that a lot of people who are so caught up in the political spectacle nowadays that they value the political over the personal is going to be as emotionally weak to verbal assaults as they are physically weak to the proverbial sticks and stones. We have room so come on over compañeros. Hope to meet you if you do. Employees don’t take jobs. Employers give jobs. So don’t buy any of that old BS either. That argument is such a tired misrepresentation of reality and always has been. The delusional confidence that Americans have in that kind of false logic has always been such a disappointment. Just wait until you hear someone start defending the idea of “trickle down economics” and you’ll see what I mean.

  35. My genuine air max 90s are made in Vietnam and my air max classics are
    from Indonesia just fyi

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