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04 May 2016

Ask a Mexican: Is It OK for a Gabacho to Use the Word 'Gabacho'?

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Dear Mexican: I believe I heard from you in an interview that “gringo” is either out-of-date or inappropriate, and that gabacho is the better choice.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.”)

The important fact is that gabachos long ago appropriated “gringo” into a harmless term that has absolutely no sting, while gabacho maintains its sting. 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.

Dear Mexican: Just a quick setup: 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 (in Baja California, Mexico). 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, but 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 14,500 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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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