Ask a Mexican | Mexican Jimi & the Origin of Gringo 

click to enlarge art7230widea.jpg

Dear Mexican: I recently received the biography of Rolling Stones bassist Ronnie Woods. While reading about his friendship with Jimi Hendrix, Ronnie described him as part black, Cherokee and Mexican. I’ve always read about Jimi’s grandmother being Cherokee, but this was the first I read about him being Mexican. I Googled Hendrix’s name with the word “Mexican,” and received many hits. Is this another mentira originated by Mexicans like Anthony Quinn’s supposedly real last name being Quintana?
n—El Habrano

n

n

Dear Wab: Man, the locuras some people believe and repeat, ¿qué no? I’ve seen mentions of Hendrix’s supposed Mexican heritage everywhere from the aforementioned Ronnie: The Autobiography to mainstream American newspapers to even the bloody BBC. But don’t believe what you find on the Internet—it’s only good for DailyRotten.com and reading my column. I have no idea why or when people began believing Hendrix was part-wab, but the rumor’s been around since at least the late 1990s. The closest I can peg him to possessing any Mexican roots is gracias to Charles R. Cross’ 2005 book, Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix. In it, Cross cites an interview Hendrix once gave in which he remembered how one grandmother gave him a “little Mexican jacket with tassels” as a child and was ridiculed for it. Also, Cross found a Hendrix diary entry that makes mention of his “Mexican mustache.” Cross’ bio is a must-have for any music fan, since it’s the best of the many Hendrix books out there, and he also gives the most thorough genealogy of Hendrix’s family I’ve seen, going back through both sets of grandparents—the guitarist did indeed possess gabacho, negrito, Canadian and Cherokee blood, but no Mexican sangre whatsoever.

n

Mexicans claiming a major historical figure as one of their own is nothing nuevo. I’ve read that Thomas Alva Edison was from Zacatecas, that Walt Disney was the bastard child of a Mexican, and that Jessica Alba wants her baby to be Mexican. Wishful thinking all of it, just like the many gabachos who insist a Cherokee princess is in their family tree (never mind that the Cherokees had no such royalty). In fact, the only crypto-Mexican that’s ever panned out is also the most unlikely—Ted Williams. Yep, America: Teddy Ballgame’s mami was May Veznor of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

n

n

My co-worker Maria and I are having a disagreement about the meaning of the word gringo. Would you be able to tell us the true meaning and street meaning of gringo?
n—Veritas vos Liberabit

n

n

Dear Gabacho: I think Mary and you are having the wrong discussion. Even the dumbest gabacho knows gringo is a pejorative Mexicans use against Americans, one nowadays so harmless even gabachos call themselves gringos. What ustedes are probably trying to determine is the word’s origins. The Mexican usually consults the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary for such queries, but even the world’s foremost body of Español has no clue—its entry describes the etymology as “disputed.”

n

Here’s what we know: gringo did not originate during the Mexican-American War as a result of—take your pick—the invading Yankees wearing green coats and the terrified Mexicans shouting “Green, go!” at them, or because said soldiers sang either “Green Grows the Lilacs” or “O Green Grow the Rushes” while trampling through Santa Anna’s armies. Both explanations are self-serving urban legends repeated by gabachos who get a perverse pleasure out of dominating all aspects of Mexican life, from former territories to our women to even our slurs for ustedes. Besides, etymologists can date gringo in Spain centuries before the Mexican-American War, in the context of referring to strangers. Some say it’s a corruption of griego, (Greek, the classic Western European ethnicon for something that makes no sense), others claim it referred to Irish immigrants in Madrid. Whatever its genesis, the Mexican recommends not using gringo, as it’s an antiquated term like Celestial or greaser, and one should always be up on their Rolodex of Racism.

n

n

Ask the Mexican at TheMexican@askamexican.net, MySpace.com/ocwab, or write to him via snail mail at: Gustavo Arellano, P.O. Box 1433, Anaheim, CA 92815-1433! tttt

Pin It
Favorite

Tags:

More by Gustavo Arellano

  • Uptight Gringo Ladies

    Also: Why the bedsheet dresses?
    • Nov 7, 2011
  • B to the W to the S-Words

    The three anti-Mexi slurs you used are so 1950s—the only people who use those words nowadays are old gabachos and Alabamans.
    • Nov 1, 2011
  • Conquests & 9/11

    Also: Is 'Mexican' Offensive?
    • Oct 24, 2011
  • More »
  • Ask a Mexican | Crime of Being Undocumented & Clamato Juice

    Dear Mexican: I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been these past few days, as a U.S. citizen and ciudadano Mexicano, how I’ve been seeing more and more stories about los narcos and how the Mexican government keeps getting screwed over in newspapers. I think that you should dedicate a whole article in your column telling your gringo readers what their pot and crack consuming h...
    • Feb 4, 2009
  • The Straight Dope | A Lion Shame

    My friend says Christians weren’t actually thrown to the lions in ancient Rome, but when I was at the Colosseum, I saw a big cross there in honor of all the Christians martyred at that spot. He insists this was just made up by the church to perpetuate their religion. What gives? —vbunny nThe story has its suspicious aspects, I guess. According to the historian Tacitus, Christians durin...
    • Feb 4, 2009
  • News Quirks | School Daze

    Curses, Foiled AgainnPolice in Council Bluffs, Iowa, reported that a man who threatened a store clerk with a gun took cash and then pulled out a can of pepper spray and tried to spray the clerk. Instead, he accidentally sprayed himself in the face and ran away. n• A shoplifter who made off with $1,200 worth of designer purses from a store in Cape Coral, Fla., was run over twice by her getaway...
    • Feb 4, 2009
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

© 2014 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation