Go gringo go

16 Jul, 2011 | Ciaran Raymer

Social issues

When I hear the word ‘’gringo’’, the first thing I think of is Mexico. However the word is used throughout spanish-speaking countries. In Spain, for example, it was first used to describe foreigners in Malaga and Madrid who spoke Spanish with an accent. Popular local belief states that the term was made offensive in Mexico, when the Mexicans called for the American army to leave their country. The US army wore green uniforms, and so the term ‘Green-Go!’ came about. Today in Bolivia, ‘gringo’ remains an offensive term, but what counts as a gringo? ‘’Gringo’’ is the stereotypical description of a person from America or Europe, though foreigners, white people, and blondes in general can also qualify as being gringos. The stereotypical gringo is Nordic in appearance : tall, white (or sunburnt), with blonde hair and blue eyes. Besides the striking differences in appearance between gringos and Bolivians, one can also spot them by their apparel - which includes but isn’t limited to; llama print/alpaca clothing, flip flops, khaki shorts, hiking boots, and their trusty camera hanging from their body.
But how do people feel about them?

Small things

This includes the way in which
gringos dress, the accents they speak with,
and the fact that some of them
don’t know Spanish, making
communication difficult(though some gringo
s try by repeating themselves over and over,
hoping the locals will magically master the English language)


The local people find that gringos are cold and unfriendly towards them, and that they care nothing about Bolivia or its culture. This enforces the local rumour that gringos enjoy imposing themselves on others and interfering in business that isn’t their own.


Many people find that gringos carry an air of superiority. That is, they appear presumptuous, sometimes snobbish, because of the differences in levels of development between their countries and Bolivia.

They hold others in contempt

Carrying on from the second point, the attitude carried by the gringos makes the locals feel like they are constantly being looked down on and belittled.


One of the biggest problems associated with gringos is their open relationship with drugs. The ‘Route 36’ club is world famous for its trafficking of cocaine, which gets served tableside by smartly dressed waiters and attracts many tourists from Europe and America.

They’re friendly!

Many find that gringos are cheery, and very easy to get along with. They are described as easygoing social beings with open minds and good manners (especially towards the ladies)


Gringos carry a ‘make every day count’ attitude that spreads to the people around them. These gringos make us want to climb Illimani, or take on The Worlds Most Dangerous Vindaloo.

They’re exotic

People in every country find foreigners exotic, Bolivia is no exception to the rule. With notably different features, accents, fashion sense, and customs from the locals, gringos are loved for being different

Travel stories

Lots of gringos pass through Bolivia as backpackers and drifters, making them full of exciting and thrilling stories, like that time they were sent straight to the loo after eating the wrong street food, or when they were chased from a cathedral for taking pictures inside...

They contribute to the economy

By eating from local restaurants, going to museums, and engaging in the activities a country has to offer, gringos put money into a country’s economy – a major source of income for some places..

For the record, the information for this article was taken from a survey completed by a group of 50 university students, whose answers range from approving of gringos, to an almost xenophobic view on foreigners in general. This is what people like about gringos.


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