How Do I Properly Say 'Hola' to Mexicans?

[¡Ask a Mexican!] And what's one thing Mexicans are good for?

DEAR MEXICAN: I'm a white, rural, ninth-generation Texan who left the farm and is now a lawyer for a large corporation in one of the largest cities in the state. Maybe a quarter of the clients they assign me speak Spanish, so the company's paying for me to learn the language. I'm glad, not only for work-related reasons, but also because I just moved into a neighborhood close to the heart of the city, and 85 percent of the residents in my ZIP code speak Spanish. I love this neighborhood. Only a few blocks from me are little tiendas, pupuserías, taquerías, botánicas and mercados; all the people who work there are so nice, and all of their products are of excellent quality and price. When I enter the stores, I'm usually the only white guy in the place, and everyone's speaking Spanish.

When I go into a store or when I'm walking around the neighborhood and see my neighbors, how should I greet Spanish speakers? I worry that, since I don't know Spanish, if I say, "Hola," and can't follow it up with a basic conversation in Spanish, I'll come across as patronizing. And I feel like if I walk up to the counter at the tienda and say, "Hi! How are y'all?" to the clerk and his wife, who are speaking in Spanish to each other, I'll come across as one of those gringos who wants everyone to speak English to him. Which is more appropriate? I'm hoping to be conversational in Spanish soon (I am a month into my course and progressing nicely), so when I reach that point, would that change your answer?

Abogado Blanco

DEAR WHITE LAWYER: You can be as ignorant of Spanish as the host of the BBC's Top Gear or fully conversant in all of Cervantes' works, and my answer would be the same: Ditch the hola. To not come off as patronizing, to appear at the very least down with la raza and at best someone willing to learn the lengua, greet Mexicans formally by the time of day: buenos días for morning until the early afternoon, buenas tardes for the afternoon until the beginning of sunset, and buenas noches for nighttime. Doing that will show any wab that you are polite and that you've made enough effort to learn Spanish linguistic formalities beyond the tú/usted divide. Indeed, it's those little touches that help us Mexis determine whether the new gabacho in the barrio is a good neighbor we can invite over for carne asada Sundays and marry off our brainy daughters to or some patronizing hipster looking to gentrify us out of existence.

 

DEAR MEXICAN: Tell me one thing Mexicans are good for.

Mexicans Are Fat, Ugly and Disgusting

DEAR GABACHO: Showing the world the irrational insecurity of gabachos!

 

GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK: John Boessenecker isn't a Mexican, but the subject of his latest masterpiece is. The San Francisco lawyer pens great books about the turbulent early years of California, a time when gabachos invaded Mexican territory, married Mexican women, then proceeded to rip off the native families at every possible turn, provoking said Mexicans to turn Robin Hood and defend la raza against capricious gringo invaders—at least that's the story told in Chicano Studies. Boessenecker tackles one of those folk heroes in Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez. Using sparse, descriptive prose and combing through hundreds of newspapers, letters and archives, Boessenecker reconstructs Vasquez's life and shows that the reality of the man is somewhere between the romanticized legend and the murderer he was. Essential reading for lovers of history and the West, as well as for understanding why Mexicans in California are always encabronados.

 
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21 comments
Darwan Winkler
Darwan Winkler

I can not believe that you wrote that! That is awful Mister.

You might be the 7 generation, but somewhere down the line your family were strangers in a strange land too!

RobE
RobE

"DEAR MEXICAN: Tell me one thing Mexicans are good for."

You need to direct that question to the Republican Party since their main man G.W. Bush appointed anchor baby Gaddy Vasquez (his parents came to the U.S. as illegal migrant farmworkers) to the post of director of the Peace Corps. Before that, Vazquez was an Orange PD officer and an Orange County Supervisor.

Also, you might inquire into the parentage of Tom Fuentes, a bigwig in the California GOP, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, and Texas Congressman Henry Bonilla. The Republicans might mouth hate for hispanics but they love them for electoral purposes in a lame attempt to demonstrate that it isn't a party geared almost exclusively for old, rich white folks.

Jaime
Jaime

I've lived in Morelia, Michoacán for three years, which is also when I first started studying Spanish and Mexican culture. When I greet Mexicans who are complete strangers, I use the formal greeting. On the other hand, if we know one another even a little bit, the most common greeting by Mexicans here, which I have adopted, is "hola" or "que tal" followed by Buenos Días or Buenas tardes, etc.

Pvilla
Pvilla

why do gringos like to come and try to be funny or just try put us down when they know that we don't just come and cut the grass but to fix there wife's pluming too and that's no joke

Rose Toole
Rose Toole

MY HUSBAND IS SPANISH AND I GREET HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY ALL THE SAME WAY_ HOLA COMO ESTAS_

Gdebaca
Gdebaca

How do we say Hello? In New Mexico we use "orale". Is that expression familiar? Is it appropriate?

Pepe
Pepe

In response to today's first query: Try saying "Hola mis amigos latinos" in a used-car salesman voice. The kiddies love it.

Pepe
Pepe

In response to today's second query: mocking your sorry ass, Gomer.

Phrenchi
Phrenchi

I prefer to greet mexicans with the more polite term "MIGRA!!!"

urbanleftbehind
urbanleftbehind

That sounds a lot like the Car Credit Center guy from Sur de la Western (7600 S Western Ave) in Chicago. Car Credit Center sponsors the narco-movies on the local Telemundo on Saturday mornings - I would be able to tell how the weather was that morning because of the salesman's cut-ins. Its how I learned what Sin Enganche and other finance terms in Spanish.

Noe
Noe

and you ignorants bow down to the chinese goverment because at this rate well be taking over the jobs requiring college degrees...

Alberto Cohen
Alberto Cohen

Good luck saying that to the "Mexican Mafia" gang.

Phrenchi
Phrenchi

I do. All the time. See I belong to Border Brothers and we're tight. They usually invite into their houses to sample their sisters' delicious, creamy panocha

accordioncannon
accordioncannon

ur not funny nor irritating......but u sure did waste my time...hahah fool

Joejujo
Joejujo

why not? Mexicants wave the race card when the citizens simply want our laws enforced, our resources provided to our own people, our children to not be overrun by children of illegals who have no desire to "be americans" and ruin the fabric of our country (which again is not yours)See how that works?

Esmerillon
Esmerillon

Phrenchi, no, you cannot suddenly wave the "satire" card to excuse yourself. This is like somebody publicly ridiculing somebody then, when someone criticizes them on it, claim that they weren't be serious, it was all in satirical fun -- while providing no contextual cues to suggest it beforehand. When you provide no contextual cues that something is satirical beforehand, people are going to read it nonsatirically, have every reason to do so, and no reason not to.

Phrenchi
Phrenchi

As Gustavo explained the other day, Satire, my friend, Satire.

Cuahtemoc
Cuahtemoc

People like you who use language or words that are hurtful and demeaning of others, reveal a sad sick part of their psyche. Using such langauge is only one step away from being violent and psysically abusive. Using such words is a weapon that gives one a false sense of validation albeit at the expense of belittling, demeaning and insulting other people. Ultimately there is no value and substance to it, perhaps reflecting buried anger and resentment within. Pobrecito Phrenchi.

 
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