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Naco, Pocho
October 4, 2012 8:20 PM   Subscribe

"It's like a hillbilly, really. You listen to the wrong kind of music, you dress in the wrong kind of way, you have the wrong kind of hair." Mun2tv does a ten minute video on the evolving social implications of the terms 'naco' and 'pocho' within the community of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Featuring Edward James Olmos! It may not be safe for work if you have coworkers who understand Spanish, but it is subtitled in English.

I found it after watching How To Curse Like a Mexican, which is REALLY not worksafe, but is quite funny if you've ever tried to learn a language from books on tape.
posted by winna (25 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm also interested in how "fresas" turned into a term for rich folks - strawberries?
posted by LionIndex at 8:55 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fresa is a fun way to mocking upper class dietary habits while simultaneously acknowledging the troubled and complex racial divisions that can be found throughout history of Mexico.

If you're still confused do you think you could tell if Edward James Olmos; or any of those guys in the video who described themselves as naco were blushing? Sunburn easily?

Anyway that was my conclusion when I was originally introduced to the slang a decade ago. Some people just translate it as preppy, to lend support to that theory there was a fresa fashion movement in the '90s in D.F. that could be briefly summarized as Mitt Romney's Sons: The Spring Catalog.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 9:17 PM on October 4, 2012


Just to be clear ... both of those words are extremely offensive. Even if you're fluent, if you don't look mexican I wouldn't make the mistake of throwing either into a casual conversation with someone you don't know. Shit could get real.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 9:20 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heard these words a lot in my classroom among Mexican-American and Mexican students and never really knew where they came from. Thanks for the post.
posted by Isadorady at 9:36 PM on October 4, 2012


Just to be clear ... both of those words are extremely offensive.

Yeah, I tried to think of a way to put that in the post but thought maybe it would be clear from the discussion in the video. But on reflection it is definitely an important piece of context, so it's good to call it out directly.

They are words that, if one aims at a peaceful life, it's better not to use.
posted by winna at 9:55 PM on October 4, 2012


Wow, I hadn't seen Gloria Trevi since she got out of prison. It took me a minute to connect the name on the screen with the manicured blonde lady attached to it.
posted by ambrosia at 10:07 PM on October 4, 2012


Where I live in Mexico, "fresa" isn't all that offensive. There are even cars with seemingly un-ironic "fresa on board" stickers driving around in the moneyed neighborhoods. It's also used with the same meaning in Venezuela.
posted by ceiba at 10:19 PM on October 4, 2012


Great post.

In the sixties, fresa was used to describe conservative, well-behaved young men and women, who didn't drink or smoke, went to church, obeyed their parents, etc. Today, it's used, as hobo says, to describe preppy, rich guys and girls who get shitfaced in the popular antros (clubs), although I've still heard it used as it was originally intended: "Wanna go to my apartment, girl?... no? qué fresa."

I couldn't find an exact origin of the word, but I've heard theories that the meaning changed (in the 80's) because of a pop music group called "Fresas con Crema".

More about naco and fresa in Effective Swearing in D.F.

Where I live in Mexico, "fresa" isn't all that offensive.
Yeah, people who are truly fresa wouldn't mind called that way. Some people would defend themselves by saying "Me? Nooo, I really like Arcade Fire!".

As with any groups and subcultures, fresas have recently evolved into mirreyes (called that way because they refer to themselves as "mi rey"). As you see, our future president is a mirrey, despite his poor English.
posted by clearlydemon at 10:37 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Fresa" isn't offensive, "naco" certainly is. Even worse, I've heard people use just plain "indio" as a synonym for "naco", even as an adjective (adjectives and noun tend to have fluent boundaries in Spanish), so people say "¡Qué indio!". Which I find incredibly offensive.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:37 PM on October 4, 2012


This is really fascinating. Thanks.

I'd like to find out more about the referenced shift in the meaning of "naco" to mean a kind of Latino analog of "hipster."

A brief search didn't turn up anything about that (in English, anyway), but I did find Chicano! A History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement posted by ob1quixote at 10:38 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even worse, I've heard people use just plain "indio" as a synonym for "naco", even as an adjective (adjectives and noun tend to have fluent boundaries in Spanish), so people say "¡Qué indio!". Which I find incredibly offensive.

This is what I was going to mention, and what interestingly the video elided: naco as a term has a big racial component. That doesn't mean that everyone who uses it is a big old racist, but it has long had a racial tinge, sometimes overt and sometimes covert. Wikipedia says it is comparable to "white trash," but it's a nastier word than that, at least on a par with "mud person" and maybe closer to "dirty indian" or even the n-word.

I love that people are constantly reclaiming words like queer or naco or pocho that are said with the intention of being hurtful. Anything that complicates easy bigotry is a plus in my book.
posted by Forktine at 11:16 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think terms like these exist in a lot of cultures. In Pakistan, the fresa analogue would be a burger, and it evolved in the same way. Rich, sheltered kids with no exposure to the daily hardships of the majority of the population. A privileged mama's boy, who goes out daily to eat Western food that costs more than some people's monthly income. Hence: Burgers!

I think the class divide may be a little bit greater in Pakistan, so the burgers might feel less of a necessity to come up with a term for their counterparts, although there's plenty of general terms for someone of lower class, from a rural area, uncool, etc. e.g. Paindu (essentially the Pakistani version of hillybilly).
posted by legospaceman at 11:49 PM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder if the medieval word "Burgher" might be part of the etymology of that slang as well (cognate with bourgeois).

In fact, Wikipedia tells me that there is an ethnic group in Sri Lanka called "Burgher people" who are usually of mixed European/Sinhalese descent and have a distinct culture.
posted by msalt at 12:15 AM on October 5, 2012


This was a fascinating look at how another culture classifies "class." Great post.
posted by kuanes at 4:11 AM on October 5, 2012


Nacho Pocho is a bad idea for a pool game.

At 1:42, when La Bronca comes on, I was suprised to see that someone had issued Mexico with a Fran Dreschler. Is every country issued one?
posted by eriko at 5:43 AM on October 5, 2012


OMFG GLORIA TREVI! her transformation is astounding. WOW! good for her. and thanks for the video. Loved seeing Lalo Alcaraz --kind of obligatory to have him there what with his Pocho Mag.
posted by liza at 6:04 AM on October 5, 2012


As you see, our future president is a mirrey, despite his poor English.

Not nearly as much as his daughter Paulina, the tweeting fresa to end all fresas, no?
posted by Skeptic at 6:09 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


This got me to look up "Chicano" and saw some of the impetus for the Chicano movement was a Mexican-American GI, Felix Longoria, who was denied services at his funeral home in Texas. Apparently someone had a push to get a memorial made in his honor, and the current owner of the funeral home (that is basically abandoned now) decided to go along with it, but of course, all the bigots out there be bigoting and denying that there's a need for it and that apparently really he wasn't denied funeral service cuz the owner was racist, nuh-uh!!!

So that was definitely interesting, and I'm glad to see some of this history, because it's obvious when you actually think about it, that there would have been plenty of racism (and in fact, segregation) against Mexican-Americans, but yet... We never really get told that or anything...

Fascinating stuff - thanks for linking this, it's inspired me to learn more about Mexican-American history, and boy does it really make me hate the whole nativist bullshit even fucking more, to see how deep the roots of this bullshit goes. Obviously it's not new, but to see the stark history of it is definitely a wake-up in some ways (not sure why I'm surprised, really).
posted by symbioid at 6:34 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to find out more about the referenced shift in the meaning of "naco" to mean a kind of Latino analog of "hipster."

Well, there are hipsters in Mexico, too And popsters, which are fresa-hipsters. Naco is a bit different because, as others have said, there is a racial and socio-economic component.

I'd track it to the seventies and eighties, where, probably in response to manufactured bands like the aforementioned "Fresas con Crema", the Mexican Rock movement shifted, as many bands used traditional Mexican elements, instead of just copying what was fashionable in the US. One of the most famous bands, Botellita de Jerez, combined rock with cumbia and blues, and created the phrase "lo naco es chido": naco is cool, where chido is a very naco way to express coolness.
posted by clearlydemon at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that the young woman thinks that Mexican-American culture is a "new" thing. I'm guessing that, her being young and a little naive, it's really just new to her.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:06 AM on October 5, 2012


Thanks for the post; that's one of the best filmed accounts of language use I've seen.
posted by languagehat at 7:08 AM on October 5, 2012


I'd like to find out more about the referenced shift in the meaning of "naco" to mean a kind of Latino analog of "hipster."

I don't think naco has come to mean hipster at all; it's more that hipsters have been the ones trying to reclaim the word (and the word pocho), often in ironic ways, like the shirts that show up in the video. It's a very knowing and highly self-aware code-switching that's involved.

What's interesting is that the reclaiming of the two words works in two very different directions. Middle class hipsters are "naco" in the sense that a Williamsburg hipster is "trashy" -- only in the most ironic of ways, like drinking PBR along with artisanal food. Whereas pocho gets more at accusations of acculturation, whitewashing, and inauthenticity (perhaps the exact position from which someone might be inclined to assert a connection to nacedad, sort of a "keeping it real").

There are other, overlapping, word reclaimings that could have fit well into this video -- joto is one, for example.
posted by Forktine at 7:55 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's joto?
posted by msalt at 10:32 AM on October 5, 2012


It's a pejorative way of saying "homosexual man", and as an extension, coward, effeminate, etc.
I have seen it used by gays to refer to femenine gay men, not necessarily in a good way.
posted by clearlydemon at 10:43 AM on October 5, 2012


Another example of a word reclaiming is "Chilango". It's supposed to insult someone from D.F. but my impression is that the term is now more descriptive than an insult. There's even a magazine.
posted by cnanderson at 10:51 AM on October 5, 2012


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