What's the History of the Words Wetback, Beaner and Spic?

What's the History of the Words Wetback, Beaner and Spic?EXPAND
Mark Dancey

DEAR MEXICAN: Not too long ago, you answered a question about the anti-Mexican slur greaser, then I read the info you provided for illegal and the N-word. I was wondering if you can break down for us beaner, wetback and spic, too? What are their definitions historically, who "invented" them, and what are their connections to certain regions?

Etymologically Curious

DEAR GABACHO: White supremacy invented these Americanisms, silly! Wetback came from the days when Americans thought Mexicans only came to el Norte by swimming across the Rio Grande—the earliest known reference is in a 1920 New York Times article. Spic isn't really about Mexicans per se; the Oxford English Dictionary attributes it to Americans and Brits ridiculing how Panamanians working in the construction of the Canal pronounced "speak." As for beaner, the earliest known printed reference is in a July 9, 1965, column for the Detroit Free Press, in which an Orange County surfer told a reporter that "not much good can be said about 'beaners' (Mexicans)." But the slur is descended from previous terms such as "bean bandit" and "bean-eater," which go back to the days of the cowboys. The common thread, of course, is the Mexican love for frijoles and the American anger that they can't properly digest refrieds without ripping a bunch of pedos.

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DEAR MEXICAN: Why do Mexicans leave their cars in the middle of the street with hazard lights on while they pick up their friends/kids/drugs? My friends and I deemed this "Mexican Hazard Light Syndrome"—MHLS, for short. Those blinking lights are supposed to be used when a car is broken down and a person is in distress, not when someone is too lazy to park and walk. It's annoying enough when they do it on a two-way street and turn the road into an obstacle course—but when they do it on a one-way street, it's just unforgivably inconsiderate and stupid. My (Mexican) friend hit one of these cars once and decided it was the MHLS sufferer's fault, so he just left the scene without even leaving a "sorry, you idiot" note. I don't endorse this kind of hit-and-run behavior, but I'm telling that little anecdote so that the dumbasses who leave their cars in the middle of the street aren't too shocked when they find their '83 Buick Skylark in pieces. . . .

Cross at Lazy Mexicans

DEAR CALM: Patience is no Mexican virtue. We smuggle ourselves into this country again and again—you think we're going to wait until a spot on the street opens up? Nah, we'd rather annoy pendejos like you and your pal—and it worked!

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DEAR MEXICAN: I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My parents were born in El Salvador, which makes me a Salvadoran American—NOT pinche mexicano. Don't get me wrong: I like you guys, and my heina is Mexican. My problem is with the whiter breed. Maybe it's that they're lazy, but they tend to classify all us brown folk as Mexican when in fact we've got a nice assorted pack on display. We Salvadorans have our own food (pupusas, not tacos) and our own language (decimos "vos," not "tu"), and we're obviously shorter. Please tell all the gabachos to think before they classify.

Guanaco Guillermo

DEAR POCHO: No argument from me here, other than Salvadoran horchata is superior to Mexican and MS-13 [censored by the Mexican's publishers lest his head become a soccer ball].

Ask the Mexican at themexican@askamexican.net, be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!


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