Several common expressions you will hear
in Cozumel, what they mean, and what they DON'T mean.
When a Mexican in Cozumel addresses you
as ‘friend’ or “Amigo”
(say ‘ah-ME-go’), it’s not something they’re
doing just for the tourists. The term is used throughout
the country as a common greeting with someone you haven’t
met until now, or somebody you may casually know but don’t
know their name. It’s used by Mexicans toward other
Mexicans as well, and reflects the wish that they hope to
make friends, however casual or fleeting the relationship
may be. Of course, a vendor or restaurant owner wants you
to be their friend for at least the time it takes to make
a purchase or enjoy a meal, so you’ll hear it a lot,
but although it’s common everyday language, it’s
meant with sincerity and with the hopes that indeed you
will be a friend and not an enemy.
another term you’ll here in Cozumel frequently, and
it means somebody from north of the border (say ‘GREEN-Go’).
Although some travelers take offense at this, there isn’t
any insult implied…it’s merely a way of describing
somebody, and considerably easier than saying the Spanish
equivalent of “A person from the United States of
America”. In case you’re wondering why you’re
not referred to simply as an “Americano”, remember
that EVERYBODY who lives in North, Central, and South America
are Americans. If you tell a Mexican that you are an Americano
because you live in the USA, you imply that you are something
he is not and risk insulting him. Most likely, however,
he will chuckle and tell you that he TOO is an Americano,
and it’s true.
The word “Gringo” comes from
Mexican Spanish, where it refers to a foreign language or
a foreigner. It is an alteration of Spanish Griego 'a Greek;
a stranger'. This is paralleled semantically by other uses
of Greek referring to foreignness or strangeness, as in
Shakespeare's "It's Greek to me." The Spanish
word ultimately derives from Latin Graecus 'Greek'.
A persistent legend has it that gringo
comes from the chorus of Green Grow the Lilacs, a popular
song from 1846. Reportedly so many Americans would sing
this song that Mexican soldiers, encountering them in the
wars of that time, referred to the Americans as "Green
grows," which became "gringos." As with most
legends of this sort, there is no basis for this one. Another
story goes that the word was shouted by Mexican soldiers
to the green-dressed military of the U.S., originally as
are referred to in the feminine “Gringa”. Are
Canadians “Gringos”? Mexicans and Canadians
alike disagree on whether they are or not, but it’s
really not that important, eh?
bald, and again carries no negative connotation…it’s
merely a statement of fact and a way of identifying somebody.
Even if you are not bald but have very very short hair,
you may be referred to as “Pelon” (say ‘pay-LOAN’).
There’s even a popular candy here called “Pelon”
which is soft sweet goo in a little plastic plunger device
decorated to look like a bald man…push the plunger,
and the candy squeezes through holes in the head and makes
a light-skinned person (and most of the non-Mexican tourists
to Cozumel are “Gueros”), and once again it
is merely a statement of fact and identification. Blond-haired
people are especially “Guero”. (Say 'goo-AIR-lo',
with the 'g' very 'soft'.)