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The origin of "Gringo"
I have just returned from a 10 day business trip to South America including
Chile and Argentina. There Europeans are included with North Americans as
"Gringos" though its application is not nearly as deprecatory as in Mexico.
They have appropriated the term with no sense of its origins. I was a
student in Mexico in the mid '70s and quickly discovered that the term
applied only to those north of the border. Sometimes when it was called out
I would respond, "Perdón, no soy norteamericano, soy escocés" (Excuse me I am
not North American I am Scottish). This would generally produce an apology
from all but the most prejudiced! I was told that this was because the term
was associated with the US Invasion of Mexico which is remembered in the US
Marine Corps Hymn, which includes the line "From the Halls of Montezuma...".
This celebrates the successful attack by the US Marines on the Mexican Cadets
Academy at the Castle of Chapultepec in Mexico City, where, when all seemed
lost, (the struggle between the boy soldiers and the US veterans was somewhat
unequal), one of the Cadets wrapped himself in their banner and leapt to his
death from the heights of the Castle. This Cadets are remembered by the
Mexicans as "Los Niños Heroes" (The Boy Heroes). The action was the least
popular event of a very unfortunate conflict, and leads to the other supposed
origin of the term. There is a belief in Mexico that some of the US soldiers
had Green Uniforms, and so the locals would chant "Green Go!". I have to
point out that this is the Mexican version of events, and do not know the US
side of the story.
There is certainly a rather unhappy relationship between the Mexican Republic
and the USA. Undoubtedly the names of the Southern US States owe more to the
Spanish Americans than to those of European orgin: California, Oregon, Texas,
Nevada and Florida, for example! It is often said "Pobre México, tan lejos de
Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos" (Poor Mexico, so far from God and so
close to the USA."!
However, and probably more happilly, the much more accepted belief is that it
is the Burns song that is the origin of "Gringo", appropriately recalled now
as we approach Burns' night!
Apparently there is a new Burns website being lauched, which is aimed at
securing Scotland's National Bard's Immortal Memory into the new Millennium.
I will advise the URL when I locate it.
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