Monday, October 20, 2008

Yes, I am la Guerita: about those derogatory pet names

"The good flavor/taste of my little black girl" - I think it's safe to say this name for a restaurant would never fly in the United States.

When I studied abroad in Cuba, we had various work shops in preparation and were provided a handbook on "culture shock." One of the first pieces of advice? Don't get mad if people call you "Gordita" (little fatty). Indeed, it is somewhat common throughout Latin America for people to mine your appearance for pet names - chaparrita (Shorty), flaca/flaquita (Skinny), chinita (Curly-haired) and, in my case, guerita, which translates loosely to Whitey or Blondie. One of the girls on our trip to Cuba was from Guam and, on account of her Asian features, was universally called "Chinita" (little China girl). In three months, she made little progress pointing out she was not from China.
I probably get called guerita at least one or two times a day, usually by vendors trying to get my attention (Que le damos, guerita?), sometimes by taxi drivers making kissing noises as they pass me on the street.
Is it offensive? Maybe a bit. Can I deny that I am indeed a Whitey? No. So basically I will take this Mexican custom and get used to it because I'm sure not going to succeed in changing it. And why would I complain when the building caretaker calls me "mi guerita, la mas bonita" (my little blondie, the prettiest one)? I'll take it.

*And a final note - La Guera is also a popular name for restaurants and businesses, as evidenced by this banner in Mercado Jamaica. There is nowhere I get called "guerita" more that in the market - check out the sound clip to experience the market as I do.

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