Human Side

Making my worst since 1975...

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Location: México City, Mexico

I am a very nasty person, indeed. Ask my friends. Se habla español en el club de los insomnes.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Deconstructing Güero

In the context of what is happening these days, I have been listening so much this remarkable song. I think it is an accurate description of coexistence between mexicans and americans, as well as a picture of the everyday passion you can find on the streets of my country. Someone has described the song like "an entire Mexican street festival compressed into 4 minutes".

Beck was inspired in his childhood in Los Angeles, California, where he grew up like a pale skin boy in a Latino neighborhood.

“Qué onda” means “What’s up” or “Hi”, and I am almost sure is exclusive Mexican slang. On the other hand, “Güero” literally means “blond”, “pale skin”. For a woman the word used is “güera”, and the diminutives “güerito”, “güerita” are pretty common. Very often the word is used as a polite word to interact with a strange, not necessary a blond one. For example in the markets of Mexico City the sellers try to get your attention yelling “¿qué va a llevar, guërita?” ("what can I offer you?")

In a specific context, “Güero” also means “American”. We call Americans nuestros primos los güeros (“our blond cousins”). But there is a difference between “gringo”, and “guero”. Despite both of them could be use to name an American, “güero” usually is more familiar and friendly. It is actually inclusive, so the character in the song, Beck himself, is so familiar that, although he is not mexican he is accepted as a friend.

A last note about the subject: I have no conflict to call “americans” to the U.S.A citizens. I have known many Mexicans and latinos that get very upset when a gringo refers to himself as “American”. Well, they actually are in fact “Americans” as well as all latinos are. We could use the same word in reference to us. If we don’t use the word, it is our problem.

Following are the song lyrics, with some notes about the Spanish phrases. You can listen the song here. Listening very carefully, I have been able to rescue almost all Spanish phrases, despite a couple of them are almost inaudible or incomprehensible. Any corrections are appreciated.

(intro, men talking)

--¿Qué onda güero?
¿Qué onda José?

(inaudible) jojo... marido(3)[3]... no te inquietes? ¿Qué onda José, qué ha pasado?-(4)-

See the vegetable man
In the vegetable van
With a horn that's honking
Like a mariachi band
In the middle of the street
People gather around
Put the dollar-dollar-dollar in the can
¡Ay güey(5)[5]!, ¿Qué onda?
TJ(6)[6] cowboys hang around
Sleeping in the sidewalk
With a Burger King crown
Never wake 'em up
Más cerveza(7)[7]
Til the rooster crows
Vatos de gallos(8)[8]
¿Qué onda güero?
¿Qué onda güero?
¿Qué onda güero?
¿Qué onda güero?

Mano Blancos(9)[9] roll with crowbars
singing rancheras(10)[10] on cheap guitars
Abuelitas(11)[11] with plastic bags
Walking to the church with the Spanish candles
Daily borracho(12)[12] says: ¡Qué putas!(13)[13]
Ándale joto(14)[14], your popsicle's melting
Run better run, da doo run run
Mara Salvatrucha(15)[15] in the midnight sun
¿Güero, where are you going?
¿Qué onda güero?
¿Güero, where are you going?
¿Qué onda güero?

Rampart boys with loaded rifles
Guatemalan soccer ball instant replays
Mango ladies, vendedores(16)[16]
And a busstop singer
Banda Macho(17)[17] chorus

(woman: ya ves?
Ya ves(18)[18]?)

¿Qué onda güero?
A donde vayas(19)[19]
¿Qué onda güero?
A donde vayas

¿Y dónde encontrastes ese? En un hoyo
Allá en La Pico (maybe Tampico?)

La Pico y Vermú (Vermont?)(20)[20]
Hey vamos a jugar futbol ahí en el Griffith park
¡La locura!(21)[21]
Yeah now I'm going to LACC, man
I'm taking a ceramics class

See the vegetable man

(Man saying) --…chela(22)[22]--

James Joyce

¡Michael Bolton!--

Qué onda güero, where are you going?
Qué onda güero, where are you going?

Hey what's up güero?
"You doing pushups?"
¡Hey güero!

¡Hey güero ven acá(23)[23]!
Qué te pasa, no te pasa(24)[24]
¡No te veo güero!(25)[25]
I dunno I saw a puppet at Tang's
with a mullet and a popsicle.

Hey Güero!
¡Qué locura!(26)[26]

Hey Güero!
Yeah Bro?
Hehehe, footlong?

Let's go to Cap'n Cork. They got the new Yanni (27) [27] cassette.

[3] 3. Seems like two persons playing “albures” or word games with sexual content. Seems like a man says to other man "where is your husband?"

[4] 4. “What's happened?”

[5] 5. Mexican slang for “What the hell?” Or “What the fuck?”

[6] 6. Tijuana, border mexican city, 1 hour from San Diego.

[7] 7. “More beer”

[8] 8. I have no idea what Beck is saying here. "Vatos de gallos or "Vatos vergallos" could be "the rooster crows" “Gallo” is also “man”, for exemple: “Ese es mi gallo” “That’s my man”. Also, "Gallo" is slang for a joint.

[9] 9. “White hands” Maybe a musical group? By the way, the correct would be “Manos blancas”

[10] 10. Popular mexican music, played by mariachis.

[11] 11. Grandmas

[12] 12. Drunkard

[13] 13. “What a bitches” We suppose in reference to the catholic grandmas...

[14] 14. “C’mon you faggot” or "Hurry up!"

[15] 15. A central-american gang. Originally from El Salvador, it has become a serious problem in countries like Guatemala, Honduras and the South of Mexico.

[16] Sellers; usually in reference to street sellers

[18] “I told you” (literally, you see it?)

[19] “Whereaver you go” Maybe Beck wanted to say “Where are yo going” that should be “¿A dónde vas?” Another possibility is that he is called “guero” everywhere, in a city full of Mexicans.

[20] Where did you find it? –In a hole, there in La Pico, La Pico y Vermú. It could be about anything, but I like to imagine the man found a body in a hole.

[21] “Let’s go play soccer at the griffith park, pure joy!”

[22] Beer

[23] Come here

[24] What’s happened, nothing happens

[25] I can’t see you

[26] What a crazyness! What a mess! What a joy!

[27] This... thing , very popular among some Hispanic-Latin people


Blogger krissie said...

heh! was gonna go crazy trying to fig out what everything meant..

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It's "Pico" and "Vermont." Both are major streets in Los Angeles.

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