Gringo or not?

Chileans like to lump people into Ethnic groups. If you’re Asian, you’re Chino (Chinese). If you’re Middle Eastern you’re Turco or Arabe (Turkish or Arabic). If you’re Canadian, from the U.S., British, Irish, Scottish, Australian or Kiwi, you’re Gringo. In fact, a lot of Chileans lump Germans, French and other light haired, light eyed Western Europeans in with the Gringos, despite the fact they’re native tongue is not English.

In Chile, I’ve never thought twice about being called Gringa. I realize that in other Latin American countries, like Mexico, it can be offensive. During my time in El Salvador I don’t remember the topic coming up, but I do remember no one called me gringa or gringuita (little gringa) but rather chele or chelita which basically translates to “whitey” and “little whitey.” (Funny, in Chile chela or chelita means beer!) But the point is, in Chile being called gringo or gringa is simply a descripitive term 99% of the time.

However, I never thought about how English speakers from across the pond thought about being called gringo. Apparently, some of them don’t like it very much!

Yesterday I went to N.’s* soccer game. He plays in an International League and there are teams made up of ex-pats and immigrants from various countries around the world. I think that most of the teams are Chilean, but there was a Japanese team playing when we arrived, and N.’s team was going to play against the team he called, “Los Gringos.” He wasn’t sure where they were from, but he guessed they weren’t from the U.S. He was right. They were sponsored by Flannery’s Irish Pub and from what I could tell, there were some British, some Irish, maybe Australian players. There were at least two Chileans as well.

This game was important, because whoever lost was in danger of dropping down into the second division of the league, which would be very damaging to all of the players’ egos. N’s team was pretty confident they were going to win because they had beat this same team 6-0 a few weeks ago. However, after N’s team made the first goal right off, The Gringos came back strong and at half time the score was Gringos 3, Chileans 2.

Things got sloppy in the second half. The refs were calling lots of fouls and giving out yellow cards left and right. At one point the Gringos were up 4-2 after putting in a penalty kick. Everyone was pretty tense, and some choice words were exchanged between the Chileans and Gringos. The Gringos threw around the F bomb as if it were nothing, and one Chilean player called one of them “gringo culiado”(effing gringo). The gringo in question got mad. Really mad. So he goes, “I’m not even a gringo!” and proceeds to pull down his pants and moon N’s team’s bench. Lovely.

The ref didn’t see, but N. (who was on the bench at this point) went over to complain to the lady who was keeping the time. She had seen everything, so she called over the line judge (is that what they’re called in soccer?) who called over the ref, who kicked out the immature little twit who had mooned us. The idiot kept insisting that he was just arranging his tee-shirt, but he was full of it.

I’m not sure if this was just because the atmosphere was so heated during this game, or if people who aren’t North American, or aren’t from the US even, don’t like to be called “gringo”. And if they indeed don’t like it, I don’t really understand why. Is it because they don’t like being grouped into a stereotype? Does it have something to do with not wanting to be associated with people from the U.S.? I mean, showing your ugly white butt a bunch of Chilean players (and an innocent gringa bystander) is a pretty strong (if not strange and immature) reaction, even given the tense situation.

Anyway, N.’s team came back to win 6-5. It was an exciting game. Strangely, despite the fact that it was a Chilean team playing against a team called “Los Gringos” (a group I’m a part of, according to Chileans) not once did I feel any sympathy towards them. The guys on the bench were doing some serious trash talking and not once did I feel bad for “Los Gringos” or feel as if I were betraying my “kind” in any shape or form. I wonder if I would have had the same feeling if it were a team of players from the U.S.? Is it because the group “Gringos” is artificial for me, as in a group that was invented by Chileans but that I don’t identify with? Maybe in my mind, although I call myself a gringa, I separate U.S. Gringos from Australian Gringos from British Gringos.

I could go on and on about all the societal groups I identify with, but that’s another post.

*N. will now be “the guy I am dating.”


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