I am content being called “gringa.”

Screen-Shot-2014-10-25-at-2.39.25-PMNell Haynes,
Chile.

Sometimes it’s hard being the person that always stands out in a crowd, especially in an impoverished city in the middle of the Chilean desert (the driest place on earth). I get catcalled daily. I’m charged more for public transport and at the market. But I’m always surprised when people ask if I’m offended that they refer to me as a “gringa.” Especially because here it’s quite common to call people by the nicknames “Negro” [Black] “Gordo” [Fat] or “Flaco” [Skinny], such as “Oh my Gordo is so sweet, he cooked me dinner last night.” Having grown used to these terms, “gringa” seems pretty inoffensive. Of course it has colonialist connotations, but I also understand that as an anthropologist from the US researching people in Chile, well, I’m doing something that stems from colonial legacies, making “gringa” all the more appropriate.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • In Japan, there’s the full term for foreigner “gaikokujin” and the short version “gaijin.” The shorter form is probably used equally as an everyday term and as an offensive term. It sort of has the feeling more of “outsider” than “foreigner.” It’s important to recognize the situation, probably just like your case. Sometimes I am a cute gaijin, sometimes I am “ugh… gaijin.”

 

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