My wife is from Michoacán state. We’ve bought a home in the small town of her birth. I love everything about the quiet little place—even her mother is kind to me, as if I were her son. The food is incredibly good. The puerco is killed that morning, and the taste is like nothing you ever find north of the border. The federales stare me down, but so what? They mean well—besides, they rarely come around. My wife’s village is Old Mexico at its best. The problem is, I can retire today and go live the good life in Mexico, but my wife wants to stay here in California, where it just gets worse by the hour. Why do Mexicans not want to go back to their homeland while Americans can’t wait to go live there? Please help me convince my wife it’s time to retire to Santa Inés. —Camino a Michoacán
Dear Gabacho: Ever stop to wonder why your wife and millions of her compadres left Mexico? Sí, about a million yanquis now live in Mexico and the living is easier, cheaper—but it’s still Mexico. It’s a place where any gabacho can live like a king provided they have mucho dinero and remember the William Walker part of their American DNA, but regular Mexicans must deal with centuries of class discrimination to eke out a living. Yeah, Mexicans up here weep nostalgic tears a bit much over leaving their homeland, but again: Ever wonder why they left in the first place? Sorry to break it to you, Camino, but “Old Mexico” only exists in Westerns, as murals in Tex-Mex restaurants, and in the Simpsons episode where Krusty the Clown takes a bunch of kids from Kamp Krusty to Tijuana as atonement for his endorsement of shoddy products.
Is chingar really a Spanish verb? Or is it Mexican slang? When I awakened my Spanish-speaking Chilean sweetheart one morning with a grin and “¿Quieres chingar?” she said she didn’t understand. (I later learned that the word is a rather coarse version of what one says to his/her sweetie when you want to . . . you know . . . and that I was probably lucky she didn’t understand.) Are there different versions of this verb for different Spanish-speaking countries? I wonder, because in the Anglo countries (the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand), we all use the same cute little four-letter word. —Coarse Gabacho
Dear Gabacho: You might be coarse, but you’re really a pendejo. If you want to ask a chica, “Wanna fuck?” in Mexican Spanish, you don’t say, “¿Quieres chingar?“—you’d more properly say “¿Quieres coger?” (actually, if you want a real chance to get in her chonis, you’ll be a gentleman about it and ask if you can pluck her flor). Although chingar (derived from cingarár—”to fight”—in Caló, the language of Spanish Gypsies that had a profound influence on Mexican-American slang) can mean the act of coitus, the Royal Academy of Spanish lists nine separate entries for the verbo, from the aforementioned “to fuck” to “annoy” or “to unevenly hang” in Argentina and Uruguay, and “to cut the tail of an animal” for Central Americans (I blame Guatemalans for that weak interpretation)—and these definitions don’t include chingar‘s numerous slang versions and tenses. Like I discussed with the word pinche a couple of columnas ago, many curse words in Spanish have benign meanings in other Latin American regions. Remember coger? We Mexicans might prefer the word in its sexy incarnation, but the Royal Academy of Spanish includes 31 more—chingao!