What’s a Pocho?

What’s a pocho, or a pocha for that matter?

It’s a question that’s not confusing to me, but my piece last week about how dating Latinos doesn’t make me racist generated some commenters who didn’t know what these words meant. And, truth be told, unless your family is Mexican or you grew up around Mexican families, you probably won’t know what this is.

Pocho is an insult, a culture, a way of life, a manner of speaking, a language, a style, gesticulation, the way you dress, types of foods, your understanding of the world, an accent, where you go during summer vacation, who’s at home when you get there, the way you relate to your family, etcetera, and much more. A basic definition of pocho is that you’re the child of Mexican immigrants, and so you become neither black or white, but gray — ni de allá, ni de acá (from neither here nor there).

I would extend this definition, however, to include people like myself, the grandchildren of immigrants, who strongly identify not necessarily with Mexican culture from México, but with the immigrant way of life, or the border way of life, or that gray way of life that is neither completely Mexican nor completely “American” (whatever that means).

Pocho/a is when you speak Spanglish, or get hooked on telenovelas in 2 minutes or less, or when all you want after a long day are some beans, or when you speak one language in the world and another at home, or when you make Pepito jokes or naming your children things like Jasmine Guadalupe, it could also be the way you celebrate 5 de mayo instead of el 16 de septiembre. The list is long, but the point is that you can’t fit yourself into one square box, you simply dabble, and fall along the spectrum somewhere beween apple pie and Tenochtitlan.

I think back in the day the term pocho was a derogatory word that Mexican nationals would use against Chicanos/Mexican-Americans to put them down for somehow being inauthentic. But, nowadays, there are just too many of us, I think, for the term to be something of shame.

I had very little to do with becoming a pocha, for it’s entirely due to circumstances in Mexico and the U.S. that I’m here in the first place. My grandparents couldn’t find work in Mexico, but they did over here. Punto. I’m not ashamed of being a pocha, and I don’t think I should have to be; as a matter of fact, if there were a box on the Census that said pocha, that’s what I’d pick because I think it’s the best, spot-on description of who I am. Al contrario, I’m proud of being a pocha, of riding that gray line. of being ni de allá, ni de acá, because to not be would mean I’d have to reject one or the other, and I’m certainly not going to do that.

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD

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