Mexico" by Boye Lafayette De Mente. Specifically, it will discuss five words from the text and reflect on their meaning both literally and culturally. This is an interesting book that is much more than a dictionary. It tells the reader about Spanish words, but also what they mean in the Spanish culture, and why they are important.
The first word is "charros," which is the Mexican word for what Americans would call the "cowboy." Even before the Spanish arrived in Mexico, there were horses in Mexico and men who knew how to use them. The Spanish outlawed Mexicans from owning horses, but the Spanish could, and became expert horsemen who could perform numerous tricks and feats on horseback. These men became known as "charros," and they were brave, manly, and had manners. If they had lived in Europe, they would have been a brand of knight. Literally, they were men who knew how to ride a horse, but culturally, they were elite and elitist, and an important element of Spanish high society. Eventually they became the model for the American cowboy, who rode the range and worked his cattle. American cowboys also embodied the same characteristics as the charros, they were brave, manly, and had manners when it came to women, anyway. They were expert horsemen, and that is how they made their living.
The cultural differences between these two ideals are quite important. In Mexico, it was the rich, leisure class that had the time to devote to becoming expert horsemen, while in the United States cowboys were low on the social scale, but they performed a vital service. They raised cattle and drove them to market to feed hungry Americans around the country.
The second word is "gringos," which is (or was) a very derogatory term for Americans used by Mexicans. This word came into use after the U.S. marched into Mexico in 1847, and it has a very derogatory meaning. It is a contemptuous term used by Mexicans to mean Americans, and it may mean anyone who cannot speak Spanish well. The word seems to have come from either a song Americans sang during the Mexican-American War, or it is derived from a Spanish word that means "gibberish." It is interesting that in recent times, the word has come to be kind of an affectionate term for Mexico and for Mexicans. It does not seem normal that this word would come to be an affectionate term for the people who created it to be such a negative term. It almost seems like it is self-deprecating or used in a lack of self-confidence, but that does not seem to be the case.
The author likened this word to "greaser," which has been commonly used by Americans as a contemptuous term for Mexicans. Compared to gringo, it seems that Americans would never turn the tables and use the word to describe themselves or their actions. Perhaps culturally, the Mexicans are more able to see themselves with a sense of humor, while Americans take themselves and their racial epithets far too seriously.
The third word is "siesta," which is the Mexican word for the traditional afternoon nap. Almost every Hispanic country (and many others) enjoys the calming institution of an afternoon siesta, or nap. Siestas can last as long as four hours (from 1pm to 4pm), and many people think they are ancient customs that came about as people looked for food in the coolest hours of the day and rested during the hottest hours. This makes sense, and it still makes sense to Mexicans. Many do not use the time for an actual nap today, they use it for personal business, meetings, and long lunches. Still the idea of the siesta seems far more civilized, cultured, and ideal than the American customs of bolting down lunch at our desks, working 10 or more hour days, and barely taking any personal or family time. Siestas in Mexico are commonplace and important, and it points out a big difference in our cultures and what we see as important in our lives.
Today, the siesta is not just a nap; it speaks to the culture and the entire mindset of the Hispanic community. They live their lives at a slower pace, and taking time out for an afternoon nap helps keep this way…
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