Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Greens Go Home!"

The title of this post does not refer to the greens as the ubiquitous environmentalists but rather explains another often-misused and sometimes-derogatory term: "Gringo." In Chile, the word gringo often refers to foreign-looking people such as myself, but to limit its use to that does injustice to Chileans' poetic and highly imaginative use of language.

In rural southern Chile the locals often use "gringo" to mean anyone that is obviously a stranger. So a Chilean from Santiago is often a "gringo" in rural Chile. Even a familiar, affluent Chilean from a nearby city who is dressed differently or is driving a newer car will be called gringo by my cowboy and farmer neighbors in the South.

Scholars disagree concerning the origins of the word gringo, but a popular argument is that the green-uniformed soldiers occupying Mexico during the Mexican-American War were encouraged to leave by the locals writing "Greens go home" on walls.

"Gringo" is usually not meant to be derogatory in Chile nor in most of South America, although the user's tone of voice and emotions must be taken into account to truly understand the use of the word. Anyhow, I'm back home in northern California for a month; this gringo has gone home to eat home-cooked food and surf unknown waves where no one calls me a gringo. It's an honor to be able to revisit this coast and reencounter how this place inspires me to work in Chile.

Our short film Pulp, Poo and Perfection is showing at 4 pm this Saturday at the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival. I will be there to present the film and talk about its impact on the Chilean conservation movement and coastal socio-politics. The film was also recently awarded best of show in the category of "Oceans, Water Quality and Watersheds" at the EarthVision Environmental Film Festival in Santa Cruz, California, and the film will screen there on March 6th. Stoked!

I will also be at the headquarters of clothing company Patagonia in Ventura next week with surfer-activist Will Henry and Laguna Beach photographer Geoffry Ragatz to screen Pulp, Poo and Pefection and Will's film, Lost Jewel of the Atlantic. The event also features the launch of a stunning photography exhibit by Geoffrey Ragatz which chronicles our work in Chile. Look for this traveling exhibit coming soon near you!