Back to Index


The word "chilango", unknown to me decades ago, has become a cuss word in Mexico to express dislike of the people of Mexico City, as in "Save the country and kill a chilango!" George Collier writes: I don't know the origin of "chilango", but it is also used pejoratively in Chiapas to refer to all those carpetbaggers who moved there (and elsewhere) as part of the expansion of the professional class, especially after the 1985 earthquake in the DF. My comment: It is interesting that it is the professional class which is moving out of crime-ridden Mexico City. They can afford to move to nearby places like Cuernavaca and commute, or set themselves up in another city. The poor people who have been moving in cannot afford to move iut. The people who would resent the professionals are colleagues who do not want their competition. Does this suggest that professionals are behind the "kill a chilandgo!" campaign?

Ronald Hilton - 08/04/99

More on Chilangos

     Bruno López, who spent last year at Stanford as a Knight Fellow, has moved to Florida whene he works for Univision. He comments on the hatred of the "chilangos" (people of Mexico City) outside of the capital:
     In Hermosillo, Sonora a store clerk would not take my money when I wantd to buy something. This is the same city where a child was stoned by his schoolmates for being a freshly moved chilango. I've been in places where women will not speak to me (Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon).
     But I think there are historical roots for chilangos being despised beyond the flood of rich people from the capital moving in droves after the September 85 quake: the true perception that the DF, the capital city, drains the states and uses its resources to subsidize the truly inefficient metropolis, when you start going around Mexico you see that services such as transportation are much more expensive that in the capital. It has been frequently noted that the interior pays more federal taxes and gets a slimmer share of those resources. Add the fact that many crucial decisions are taken in the quasi Roman metropolis without the rest of the country feeling it had much to do with the decision making process.
     My comment: Will Mexico break up? The Chiapas trouble echoes the Yucatan secession wars in the last century. Mexico should move its capital as Brazil and othr countries have done, but that would be horribly expensive. A few offices have been moved to places like Pachuca.
     Perhaps Bruno, who works in TV, can tell us why Televisa, which had a good news service about Mexico hosted by Guillermo Ortega, now broadcasts only news about Latin American countries other than Mexico. Censorship?
     More Comments:
     Tim Brown comments on regional hatreds in Mexico: Africa, Asia, even Europe all show manifestations of periphery-center tensions that can become hatreds. But Mexico is a prime example of what can happen when this phenomenon is reinforced by ethnic divisions. When I was Consul in Merida, Yucatan in the 1960s, the term for all Mexicans, from the DF or not, was a Maya word -Huach - usually spit out with more than a little venom. But the antipathy was result not of recent problems such as newly arrived migrants or inequitable distribution of something like earthquake relief. It was far deeper and older than such ephemeral things, and was a combination of both traditionally uneven, not to say unfair, historical economic, social, and political rivalries with identity divisions that predate the Spanish Conquest. My comment: Right! It is incredible how enduring hatreds are. The Old Testament is evidence of hatreds which underlie present tensions.
     More Comments:
     Linda Nyquist, who knows Mexico well, writes:
     Several WAISers have commented on the hatred of Chilangos by other Mexicans, and of Mexicans in general by those in the Yucatan, but not much as been said about the extraordinary contempt that privileged Mexicans (of all ethnic types) demonstrate toward the disenfranchised and/or indigenous groups.
     Some years ago I applied for an extended visa due to work I was doing in the Sierra of Oaxaca with a group of Mixtecos. When I approached the Mexican Consul (who shall remain anonymous!) he asked what I could possibly be doing in this area of Mexico. I replied that I was studying the health care and healing practices of the "gente de la region" (people of the region). He replied, "¡Gente! ¡No son gente!" (People, these aren't people). No comment on my part needed here.
     I hope that WAISers have read the excellent Kendall book on Mexico City, La Capital. It is wonderful reading. Tovar's Mexico City: City of Palaces is quite good, too, and documents the destruction of the historic center of the capital.
     The desagües (floods) in the city have been a problem for centuries, and it is interesting to read about getting around the downtown area in boats in the 18th century.
     My comment: This raises an important point. The drainage canal was a major project to take water from Mexico City to the Gulf of Mexico. Was is justified to put an end to floods, or was it intended to help the real estate developers by drying the lake and thus leading to Mexico City's present problems?

Ronald Hilton - 08/05/99