a few media outlets in the u.s. were offended by mexican fans shouting ‘putos’ during the monday night football game in estadio azteca this week, referring to it as a slur. i wrote the following during the 2014 world cup when the grito de putos first caught the attention of the american press.
there isn’t a good translation in mexican spanish for the word slur. considerably stronger than insult, slur is usually used to indicate a mix of hate with racism, sexism or homophobia. so despite the insistence in the american media that the chant of putos! by mexican fans during mexico’s world cup games in brazil is a homophobic slur, i don’t believe that it is. understanding mexico through the politcially correct filter that has developed in the united states as a reaction to its own intolerant history is misguided and awkward because like slur, american politcal correctness doesn’t really make sense in mexico.
mexicans commonly refer to each other by skin color in a way that would make a modern american squirm. negro, moreno and prieto are all common nicknames and terms of affection (and insults) used to refer to people who have darker complexions. but they are not slurs.
my first few weeks living in mexico, i was blown away to hear the word mojado (the best translation for the racial slur wetback) used as everyday speech. but it is used to differentiate entering the united states clandestinely without the necessary documentation from other alternatives of entry, and it would be ridiculous to call it a slur.
on the other hand, i have never liked the mexican use of indio (indian) as an insult. indios (frequently pinches indios to give it a little more sting) are believed to be stupid and lacking in culture. it feels like a slam that was handed down directly from nueva españa, and the original idea clearly was to underscore the superior intelligence of the colonial power vs the native. but given the fact that almost all modern mexicans have an ancestral connection to both spanish and indigenous cultures, most of the time it’s probably not a slur.
i felt uneasy the first few times i heard thousands of football fans shout putos! in unison. the argument that puto is used in a multitude of ways that don’t have anything to do with sexuality is true, but keeping it real, the shout can’t totally be separated from the word’s origin either. over time it would be fine to replace putos! with something different; it’s not like mexicans will have trouble coming up with something more creative. but putos! isn’t hate speech yelled with the intention of threatening individuals based on their sexuality and it shouldn’t be considered a homophobic slur.
i am an american (expat, immigrant, whatever) who has lived in mexico for many moons (& world cups). i welcome your comments. please post them under leave a reply