Reader: "Why do you use the word 'Gringo'?"

A Narco News reader, Paul Silvester, writes:

Dear Sir,

I read with interest your publication and praise the fact that you do not shy away from the more accurate reporting of incidents or events in Central & Latin America. I am sick of reading and watching negative reporting on South America, particularly Colombia where I have an apartment and spend several untroubled months every year, and cannot praise enough your efforts to show the realities of the situation prevailing.

However I do have one negative. Why do many of your articles persist in using the term 'GRINGO'?...

I love this discussion. One of the best reasons to use the word "gringo" is to provoke such conversations. I'll spell out my answers to his questions in the comments section below, but first I'll print the rest of his letter in entirety, below, because when someone takes the time to write a thoughtful critique and commentary to us like this, The Narcosphere is a place for his voice and views too... Paul Silvester continues:

I don't expect you to use the word 'beaner' to describe anyone from south of Tijuana so why the need to use the word gringo. In reality the term is not used exclusively for persons from the United States. I am British, I am not from the United States, and  I have been called gringo on many occasions and I find that it is generally used for any 'blondie' or fair skinned person obviously not of Latin origins.  Normally it is used as a throw away remark, sometimes however, it is fundamentally racist in its overtones. I have also heard it used by Hispanics in Europe referring to Germans, French and other nationals

So using the term gringo does not really specifically imply people from the United States, or are you actually trying to implicate every non Hispanic person worldwide when you use it. If you want to use something with a little more Latin ring to it surely you could find something more specific. 'Americanos' is of course unacceptable as the people of Latin America consider themselves 'Americanos' as they are from the continent of America. They require a clear distinction between 'Norteamericanos' and 'Sudamericanos' o 'Latinoamericanos'. And using the term Norteamericanos has a problem because that includes Canada. Even if you were to associate the term gringo with only those from the United States it does of course implicate every single non Hispanic resident and I assume that you are in fact referring normally to United States government or establishments. If you are using it purely for dramatic effect, shame on you, why should you need to resort to overtones of that nature to make a point. Let your syntax influence minds, don't allow terms like these to show the sentiments of the writer. I want to read unbiased truth. UNBIASED. Nothing more and nothing less. Using terms like gringo lead me to believe that a bias is in fact present and that actually LESSONS the power of the text. The final possibility is that, as it commented on occasionally in the European press, you, like some of your fellow citizens, see the world as being only the continents of America. (You have a World Series that does not involve any other countries aside of Canada!!). This logic would of course mean that all 'blondies' were from the United States. Oh hang on.. again, what about the Canadians?? They are North Americans... Aren't they???...  Anyway I am sure you get my point. The United States is not North America and it is not the world!!!!

This may seem particularly pedantic but as the term gringo is primarily believed to be used in a derogatory sense it saddens me that you use this term apparently also in a racist or at the least derogatory context, in a manner you would not dream of using, for example, the term 'nigger', or I suspect the aforementioned 'beaner'.

So what else could you use. Using some examples from your articles;

"not to mention the gringo role as the world's largest exporter of tobacco and pharmaceuticals"

Could be...

"not to mention the United States' role as the ........."


"It is Mexico's unlucky geography that makes this country of 100 million people the straw between the South American coca plant and the gringo's nose."

Could be...

"............... between the South American coca plant and the nose of the end user.

Both are actually more accurate (the drugs are consumed worldwide, not only in the United States and I hate to have to tell you, but Hispanics all over the world use these drugs too....) and detract nothing from the point...

In conclusion, I am not pro or anti anyone. I am pro truth and anti lies whichever hemisphere they originate from and with this regard I say, keep up the good work!!

Kind regards

Paul Silvester

There are really two main questions here:

Why do I use the word "gringo" in my writing so unapologetically?

And why don't we censor others who use it?

As we will see, this discussion (I have it a lot) can get into some pretty interesting places regarding language, culture, and "a world in which many worlds can fit."

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.