Pocho

pocho

Pocho [poh-choh] 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 English and lack fluency in Spanish.

Among some pochos, the term has been embraced to express pride in having both a Mexican and an American heritage asserting their place in the diverse American culture. The word derives from the Spanish word ‘pocho,’ 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 of loanwords 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’ for ‘trapear’ (‘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 ‘uncultured” Mexican-Americans living across the border in El Paso. However, modern definition of ‘pocho’ defines any Mexican blood (especially Mexican born) who take pride in being Mexican yet indulge and often prefer American culture. Mexico born American residents, for example, watch football rather than futbol. Or listen to American or British music rather than their Spanish counterparts.

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