The Gringos Have Landed!
By: A.D. Kenlan
Mexico has a long history of invasion by foreigners, among others the British, Spanish, and the French. All left their influence on the Mexican culture, but perhaps none more than the “Gringo” arrival into Baja California, which is especially apparent in Cabo San Lucas.
What, or who is a Gringo? There are many different explanations.
At the end of the 18th century, the Spanish used the word “Griego” which came from the Greek word meaning foreigner. It is possible that this was later introduced to the “new world” as boatloads of Spaniards fought their way into Mexico.
It was also the name that Mexicans called the American soldiers during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. As the soldiers marched, they sang an old ballad, “Green Grow The Bushes, Oh”, which was altered to “Gringo”, the Mexican term for the foreigners.
Another possible explanation for the term “Gringo” comes from the time American soldiers wore green uniforms as they formed a 10,000 expeditionary force trying to hunt Pancho Villa. He was the Mexican revolutionary leader in the early 1900s who fought for land reform and the poor. The Americans were unsuccessful in capturing Pancho Villa. The rallying cry of the Mexicans against the invaders was “Green, Go Home.” This evolved into “Gringo”, a derogatory term standing for any North American foreigner.
Language constantly evolves and meanings change. During the 1970s, North Americans living along the Mexican-American border and tourists arriving in Mexico began using the term for themselves, at first shocking the Mexicans and then slowly making “Gringo” an acceptable, common term.
There are also less familiar meanings for Gringo. One refers to the gibberish of people who could not speak Spanish. “Gringuita” is used today as a warm term for a foreign girl,
Baja California, the neighbor of the southern United States, has witnessed the numbers of American visitors increasing from the handfuls of fishermen in the early days who were willing to risk driving on unpaved roads providing minimal services, to those like John Wayne, lucky enough to arrive in their private planes.
Today, thousands of Gringos arrive daily by air, sea, and modern highway. The effect on the Mexican culture is noticeable throughout Baja, especially in Los Cabos,. Where once it was difficult to obtain fresh produce in order to make a tasty salad, or basic tools for repairs, American chains like Costco, and Home Depot have captured the market. They led the way for the Mexican “Super Mercado” in Los Cabos. Finally, Walmart, with seemingly anything a Gringo could need or want.
Once, the entrepreneur Mexican sold tacos on the street, three for $1. Today, the Mom and Pop Mexican restaurants with their tasty authentic Mexican food must compete with Subway, Carl’s Jr., and Burger King. Will Taco Bell be arriving soon too?
Beautiful, spacious condos are popping up like mushrooms after the rain, far out of the price range for the average Mexican but far below the price range that Gringos pay Stateside. The once empty beaches are lined with resorts that cater to the foreigners, blasting American music, showcasing bodybuilders, and sex appeal.
Yet one can still find solitude on breathtaking beaches with their soft white sand and magnificent waves. They still exist all over Baja Sur but out of town. Unfortunately, they are too distant for the average Mexican family to enjoy, who content themselves with umbrellas and coolers on the local sands.
Gringos in Los Cabos come in all shapes and sizes, from the rich and famous to the wandering backpacker. It’s not unusual to see famous movie stars and multi-millionaires walking around in town, relaxing in their anonymity and flip flops.
The Cabo Marina is filled to the brim with beautiful million dollar yachts, usually owned by foreigners, that sit most of the year cared for by local deckhands waiting for great Bisbee marlin tournaments. These mega yachts are in stark contrast to the small local fishing pangas, or simple rowboat-style boats with motors, that go out every day in all weather, returning with their catch to the restaurants.
The fresh seafood offered in the Los Cabos restaurants is unparalleled. It can even be found in the smallest local eateries at a fraction of the cost.
During Spring Break, Cabo changes from a peaceful, relatively quiet town to a world famous location whose beachfront is filled with raucous, unrestrained Spring Breakers. Gringos walk around town holding beer bottles, and girls in tiny, weeny bikinis
enter local shops barefoot. They feel unleashed from the restraints of their hometowns where dress codes are observed, and open beer cans in the street are prohibited. They fill the beach bar/restaurants and exhibit themselves during eye-popping provocative “games” while special waiters shove tequila down unsuspecting throats.
In the desire to encourage foreign visitors, Mexicans with their lenient spirit often turn a “blind eye” to the Gringo antics, except for the Mexican parental concern about the influence on their young.
On the other hand, Gringos have presented opportunities for Mexicans for more jobs, new businesses, work with Americans, English conversation, modern clothing and lifestyles, increased salaries, improved infrastructure, and increased trade.
It’s impossible to miss the effects and changes that the Gringo has made on the Mexican people and its environment.
Yes….. The Gringo has landed with a big footprint.