A few years ago during a trip to my hometown in Mexico, I was constantly referred to as the “Pocha.” I noticed that the term was used to describe me whenever I stuttered while speaking Spanish, or when I tried to fit in by dancing to “banda” or “mariachi,” the music native to Mexicans. I also noticed that the term was usually accompanied by laughter and judgment. I had never heard the word and was extremely confused. However, judging by the way in which my friends used it when referring to me, I knew to not take it as a compliment. Although I was unaware of what the term meant, I did not want to ask them for its definition in fear that they would laugh even harder at my confusion. Therefore I waited until I got home to ask my mom. When I asked, all my mom could say was that it is a term Mexicans use to refer to individuals who are of Mexican decent but come from the United States. I immediately understood; my friends were making fun of my failed attempt to dance like “Mexicans” and at the fact that I struggled to speak Spanish.
In class, we discussed the definition of this term but I sensed a bit of confusion among my classmates. I hope to alleviate this confusion by further explaining what the term means and when it is used. As defined by Wikipedia, “pocho” is used by native born Mexicans to describe Chicanos, or all those who were born in Mexico but immigrated to the United States at an early age. The typical pocho speaks English and lacks fluency in Spanish. They specifically tend to use code switching and loan words while speaking. Code switching is the act of alternating between two or more languages during one conversation. An example of that would be “Voy a ir shopping ahora en el supermarket” (I am going shopping now at the supermarket). A Loan word is a word borrowed from a language and incorporated into a distinct language without translation. For example, “voy a parquear el carro” ( I am going to park the car). In this example, the English term “park” is modified to “parkear” to replace the term, “estacionar,” meaning park in Spanish. Another popular example of an American phrase that has been adopted, is the quote “make my day.” In Spanish, many pochos have directly translated it to “hacer mi dia.” This phrase is something native Mexicans would not understand.
The sentiment behind the title is debatable. For some pochos, the term has been accepted as a form of expressing pride in having both a Mexican and an American heritage. However, the term derives from the Spanish word pocho, which is used to describe rotten or discolored fruit. Through its literal definition, pochos are seen as inferior individuals who are not worthy of the title Mexican. In this case, a fruit represents life brought by the Mexican culture. For those who have left Mexico to start a new life in the United States, rotting symbolizes the loss of their Mexican identity. For Chicanos, discoloration represents a lack of flavor/culture with which they were raised. It is evident that initially, the term was adopted as an insult for those with Mexican blood that reside in the United States.
The negative connotations brought by the term, serve to illustrate the creation of a Mexican American borderland. “Pocho” illustrates how native Mexicans exclude Mexican Americans from the Mexican culture, judging them as not Mexican enough. When I initially understood the meaning of pocho, I felt offended and confused. All my life I identified myself as Mexican, but after being classified as a pocha, I felt unwanted and excluded from my own culture. I was stuck in a borderland between my Mexican heritage and American lifestyle. However, now I have learned to embrace both sides of my identity. There is nothing wrong with being both Mexican and American! Therefore, I proudly accept that fact that I am a pocha! What do you guys think? Is the term pocho an insult?