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Pocho

Pocho (pocha fem.) is a term used by native-born Mexicans to describe Chicanos who are perceived to have forgotten or rejected their Mexican heritage to some degree. Typically, pochos speak Englishand lack fluency in Spanish. Among some pochos, the term has been embraced to express pride in having both a Mexican and an American heritage[1]asserting their place in the diverse American culture. The word derives from the Spanish wordpocho, used to describe fruit that has become rotten or discolored.

Pochos are usually identified by their use of poorly spoken Spanish. Code switching and the use ofloanwords is common as is the use of phrases popular in American culture translated to Spanish, sometimes literally. Code switching often involves inserting English preposition or objective nouns, such as, “Voy a ir shopping ahora en el supermarket” (I am going shopping now at the supermarket). Modified loanwords are referred to as “pochismos.” Examples include mopear fortrapear (to mop), parquear for estacionar (to park), or chequear for mirar or verificar (to check, to inspect or to verify). A clear example of a popular American phrase that has been adopted by people familiar with both cultures would be Clint Eastwood’s famous quote “Make my day.”, which has been increasingly used in Spanish as “Hacer mi día.”.

The term does, however, imply different meanings. In San Diego/Tijuana, “pocho” carries no negative connotations. The word simply refers to one who has both Mexican and American roots. By contrast, in Ciudad Juárez, the moniker is very much a term of abuse, referring in particular to (what residents of Cd. Juárez see as) “uncultured” Mexican-Americans living across the border in El Paso, though this is certainly not universal.

However, modern definition of “pocho/a” defines any Mexican blood (especially Mexican born) who take pride in being Mexican yet indulge and often prefer American culture. After 9/11, pocho/a is a Mexican with American taste. One can be born and raised in Mexico yet be a pocho/a because he/she rather takes part in American culture over Mexican culture. Mexico born American residents, for example, watch football rather than futbol. Or listen to American or British music rather than their Spanish counterparts.

In general, the word “pocho” can sometimes have these different meanings:

  • A person of Mexican heritage who is assimilated and acts “American” (a “wannabe” American).
  • A Mexican-American who can speak little or no Spanish.
  • An American who speaks Spanish and acts “Mexican” (a “wannabe” Mexican).
  • A person who frequently crosses the U.S.-Mexican border and feels at home on both sides of the border.

Pocho is also the title of an important 1959Chicano novel by José Antonio Villarreal.

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