Indio has a derogatory meaning in Mexico/California?

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by stephentravels, Mar 25, 2006.

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  1. stephentravels New Member

    english, U.S.A.
    I've heard some Mexicans here in California refer to others as Indios. Does this have a deragatory meaning that is worse than calling someone a fool in English? Is it a "fighting" word? A big insult or just calling someone silly. Thanks for a serious reply, please!
     
  2. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod Chicken

    Arizona
    American English
    Hi, stephen, and welcome to the forum.

    "Indio" means Indian, as in Native American. The more politically correct word in Spanish is indígena, but indio is also used, just like Indian in English.

    For many Mexicans, "indio" is a racist/classist insult. Indigenous peoples in Mexico are generally at the bottom of the economic and social ladder, and native people generally have darker skin than people with European and mixed ancestry. So for many people, to call someone "indio" is to say that they are dirty, uneducated, poor, dark-skinned... in short, undesirable.

    So yes, it can be derogatory. Depending on context, it could even carry the same weight as the "N" word in English , IMO.

    Saludos.
     
  3. Sintonias

    Sintonias Senior Member

    UK
    Spanish/English - Argentina/UK
    In international policy, the term used by consensus by indigenous delegates and international institutions is "indigenous peoples" or "an indigenous person".

    Many indigenous peoples from North America, however, prefer the term Native American, Native Peoples or simply the name of their people in their own language.

    In Central and South America, the term used today, internationally as well as regionally, is "pueblos indígenas" or "una persona o individuo indígena" or "un indígena".

    In certain places however, and among certain people, the term "indio" can be used very affectionately when there is a frienship established. Usually this refers to someone who is darker in complexion or has long hair or a somewhat bohemian appearance or lifestyle, but not always. But you have to be very careful because if the context is not clearly friendly, it can also be taken questionably or as an insult.

    By the way, be careful if you ever cross over into French. It doesn't translate - you have the problem of "faux amis" (false friends). The term used in international policy and accepted by indigenous peoples themselves in French-speaking regions is "peuples autochtones". Never use the term "indigènes" because this means indigent people, and is especially derogatory in French.

    I think in the context of Mexicans in California, it generally has a friendly "clan" connotation among friends. But again, it depends on the context. Since there is now a middle to upper class of Mexicans established in California and a self-denominated Chicano population, the term "indio" among themselves could be used in a derogatory way to refer to one of a lower or working class, recently migrated or who happens to have stronger indigenous rather than mestizo or white physical characteristics, the latter of which unfortunately is still considered by some to be "superior".
     
  4. Liiliia Junior Member

    USA
    Mexico/ español
    I agree with fenixpollo. I cannot explain better than he... it si pretty clear.
     
  5. stephentravels New Member

    english, U.S.A.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don't speak any Spanish and really needed this info. Will post another, similar question tomorrow.
     
  6. Soffi Senior Member

    Español - Argentina
    you don't need to wait until tomorrow! :)
     
  7. Chaucer Senior Member

    US inglés/español

    Having lived two miles from an Indian Reservation in Washington State; having done a university thesis on Native American literature and so having talked to and interviewed many "Native American" persons and writers; and having a brother who has lived on an "Indian Reservation" ("Native American Reservation"?) in the state of South Dakota -- for 15 years and so giving me opportunity to talk to hundreds of "Native Americans" over the years, real ones, at pow-wows, in bars, on the streets, and listening to their comedy and talk shows on their radio programs, I have found that they like themselves as "Indians". It's the academics who like use the "Native Americans". Indians don't feel guilty calling themselves Indians.
     
  8. Chaucer Senior Member

    US inglés/español

    Having lived two miles from an Indian Reservation in Washington State for 4 years; having done a university thesis on Native American literature and so having talked to and interviewed many "Native American" persons and writers; and having a brother who has lived on an "Indian Reservation" ("Native American Reservation"?) in the state of South Dakota -- for 15 years and so giving me opportunity to talk to hundreds of "Native Americans" over the years, real ones, at pow-wows, in bars, on the streets, and listening to their comedy and talk shows on their radio programs, I have found that they like themselves as "Indians". It's the academics who like to use the "Native Americans". Indians don't feel guilty about calling themselves Indians; they were not the oppressors.
     
  9. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod Chicken

    Arizona
    American English
    True, to a point. Most Native Americans I know prefer "Indian" to "Native American" because it's less pretentious. However, "Indian" can be used as part of a name-calling insult. I've never heard anyone insult an Indian by calling him a "stupid native american" or a "dirty first triber". So Indian is not a completely neutral term -- even for the Indians. I suspect that the same is true of indio in Spanish.
     
  10. Sintonias

    Sintonias Senior Member

    UK
    Spanish/English - Argentina/UK


    In each region, the histories, views and preferences on this topic vary. That's why my entry was prefaced from the point of view of international policy, pointing out the "official" terms adopted by indigenous delegates in that context. The reason usually given is that "Indian" was a term given by the colonisers who mistakenly thought they had arrived in India. So many communities prefer not to use the names given by colonisers (much less a geographically mistaken term), and prefer instead descriptive, factual terms that help to affirm their rights as First Peoples or Native Peoples. There is no question of guilt involved, it's a practical and strategic position. In international contexts, the term Indian can also sometimes be confused with nationals of India. Plus, there are also indigenous and tribal peoples in India.

    I know that locally in some (perhaps many) communities in North America the term Indian is still used, particularly if there has not been much contact or dialogue with international processes and reasoning on the subject, but didn't comment further because the question posed to the forum was on the use of the term "indio" in Spanish.
     
  11. Sintonias

    Sintonias Senior Member

    UK
    Spanish/English - Argentina/UK

    I agree, the same can be true of "indio" in Spanish. It's not uncommon for the term to be used in a derogatory way in many Latin American countries, particularly those that still have relatively high indigenous populations, and where there are old "development" paradigms in public views that still attach social stigmas to conserving traditional cultures and lifestyles.
     
  12. Juan dela Cruz III New Member

    Canada / Filipino Tagalog Philippines
    Hi,
    I was in an argument with several people who were in disagreement with me. I just wanted to get your view on this topic. Here is the argument:
    I mentioned that "indios" originated from the word "indigenous" in the english language or as you mentioned "indigena" in spanish. I also referenced an article (from wikipedia) that the word "indios" is synonymous to "indigenous". I dont want to completely ignore the topic as it gives a bad impression on the type of education I have compared to theirs. I mentioned that although the word may actually have racial overtones or is considered a "racial" slur, it still comes from the original word - "indigenous" meaning native to the environment or culture of people. Can you give the correct definitive of the origin of the word "indio"? I am also a native of the Philippines and have light brown skin which tends to get darker under the sun. My features are similar to that of Native Americans or South American / Mexican natives. Is there a correct way to settle this argument? I dont want to sound silly because of this ridiculous argument but whatever I have learned in school may be challenged at this point because they insist that "indios" is NOT synonymous with "indigenous" which contradicts the explanation given in "wikipedia". Thank you for your kind reply. Pls post it so I can show this to them.
     
  13. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod Chicken

    Arizona
    American English
    The name "indio" in Spanish and "Indian" in English to describe natives of the American continents derives from the Indes (the islands of Southeast Asia), not from the word indigenous. Columbus was searching for a western passage to India and the Indes, and when he landed in the islands of the Caribbean, he assumed that the dark-skinned people he met were from India or the Indes, so they became known as Indians/indios.
     
  14. Juan dela Cruz III New Member

    Canada / Filipino Tagalog Philippines
    My apologies then for my misnomer. The assumption I made was due to the statement I read from Wikipedia which then could be printing misleading information when it mentioned "indios" is synonymous with "indigenous". Wouldn't that be the case then? Or are is it just some typographical error? I am referencing "wikipedia" as the source of my information but your knowledge seems to be more accepted. Since it became known and accepted as history then wouldn't it be wrong to say that "indios" is synonymous with "indigenous"? Here is the exact excerpt from "wikipedia" : "Indigenous Filipinos were usually referred to as "indios". This was a result of Spaniards misnaming indigenous peoples of the Americas when they first reached that continent and believed they had arrived in India. By the time the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, they used the term "indio" as synonymous with "indigenous". On a more sombre note, the connotation of 'indio' would have far-reaching consequences; racism being the largest". <--end of quote.
    This does not mean it actually was the terminology given but as it was in the history books, I suppose it still is used even today and is accepted since there is commonality in the way indigenous people were treated by the colonizers or isn't it? Im not trying to offend anyone here or am calling anyone by a racial slur because I myself came from indigenous forefathers. Just trying to interpret this terminology correctly. I am not sure if etymology on the origin of the word would help neither. It could not have started on it's own with a similar meaning as indigenous or relating to natives of a particular land with the same common culture. I guess India and Indio are synonymous? But wouldn't that also mean Indians from India are indigenous to their land "India"? Why would indio be synonymous with indigenous if this statement is wrong if it is directed towards the wrong people (like natives of the Americas or the Philippines)? If it is wrong then why do people (including natives themselves in the Americas) use this term "indios" if this word does not infer to the word "indigenous"? I am now just referring to the word itself and not the people or culture. This certainly confuses me if someone refers to "indios" when he is referring to a fellow "indian" or "indigenous" person but is considered wrong when describing it for clarity on the definitive meaning of the word. I researched the words "indian", "indigenous", "native", "endemic", "aboriginal" and they all have similar meanings. I am sure you are certainly correct about it's origin. It is from the word "indies" as in "west indies" or "east indies" which were the islands colonized during the colonial period. Now here is another question? Where did the word "indies" originate from? Was it "indigenous" or just another misnomer by the colonizers (probably india)? Again I am trying to find the roots of the word and not trying to insult anyone. Just for academic reasons and knowledge because the explaination still appears to be ambiguous to many people particularly myself as well since a lot of people keep referring to "indios" in South America as the indigenous people of the region although other people disagree with this. And this has been going on for a few centuries now, up to the present. If the term of the word is not synonymous then why are they still coining the term "indios" as reference to a "indigenous" person? Isn't there some type of relevance to or denotes the same meaning?
     
  15. Filis Cañí Senior Member

    The hills
    Triana, caló
    Pretty and beautiful are also synonims, but that doesn't mean that the word pretty comes from the word beautiful. Indio comes from India, and indígena from the Latin word indigena.

    Indio does have a peyorative undertone. I once, as a test, asked a man from Honduras who was clearly an Indian if he was an Indian, and his answer was "yes and no". What he meant was that racially he was an Indian, but he had grown up in a "civilized" setting.
     
  16. Juan dela Cruz III New Member

    Canada / Filipino Tagalog Philippines
    ah, therefore we have come to a conclusion that it does mean the same thing although it does not. Sounds ambiguous right? But it just actually means in an educated sense, racially or ethnically speaking he is indigenous however he is not an indian. Well, the publishers of dictionaries and encyclopedias as well as history books will have a nerve-racking time trying to figure that out.

    500 years has passed us by since the first voyage of Columbus and the term "indio" was introduced to refer to natives of the Americas. Natives themselves (I have read the other posts by other people), books, literature, periodicals also refer this word to "indigenous" people, wouldn't that mean it is an accepted fact although it is not intentionally meant to discriminate or prejudice the race itself?

    It is just in reference to? I mean several hundred years actually means it is already coined as a term to mean "indigenous" therefore it does mean it is synonymous or relating to the word "indio". By that I mean in a philosophical sense and not with a racial overtone.
     
  17. MerylStreep Banned

    USA English
    I completely agree. Many US Indians dislike the term "Native Americans." They prefer "Indian" and often pronounce it <INDIN>
     
  18. Filis Cañí Senior Member

    The hills
    Triana, caló
    They only mean the same thing in America. In Africa Blacks are the indígenas, in China Asians are indígenas, etc.

    I've read in old books the term Red Indians to tell them apart from Hindu Indians. Would that be offensive nowadays?
     
  19. Juan dela Cruz III New Member

    Canada / Filipino Tagalog Philippines
    In today's world with modern technology and the coin phrase "Information Technology" , with the click of the mouse, we can find all types of information without leaving our homes to search for the answer.

    I suppose it means we have already entered the stage where we are ready to absorb facts and information without trying to offend or insult anyone. I don't see it as offensive because that would actually make me more ignorant given the fact that the information is readily available within reach. We don't even have to agree or disagree on a certain topic or issue because there is information out in cyberspace that can always dispute someone's theory or verify another's as the absolute truth. It's a matter of how you look at it from an intelligent point of view.

    With that said, thank you very much for your comment. In America, all things are more visible (some slightly more than others) than in the old country where some of the old sentiments or what they call "colonial mentality" still exists to this day. 300 years of colonial rule being instilled in the minds of the native population can result in a "slave" mental attitude being subservient to the colonizers. There is a saying though, "old habits die hard".
     
  20. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod Chicken

    Arizona
    American English
    Definitely... to both groups, because Native Americans are not red, nor are all Indians (from India) members of the Hindu religion.
     
  21. shivanimb New Member

    US, English
    As a "Hindu Indian" myself, I think calling someone a "Red Indian" or a "Hindu Indian" would just show your ignorance (and I mean "you" in a general sense, no offense meant). There are Christian Indians, Muslim Indians, Buddhist Indians...
    The word "Indian" defines one's ethnicity, but "Hindu" describes your religious affiliation, and the two are absolutely not synonymous.

    I often find it hard to distinguish between Indians (as in from India) and Indians (as in Native Americans) in conversation, and it's always awkward when whoever has just said Indians in reference to Native Americans turns to me and amends his/her word choice. Of course, now there is also more pressure to be "politically correct," and I'm never sure how far that extends.
    Any thoughts?
     
  22. Filis Cañí Senior Member

    The hills
    Triana, caló
    Thanks, Shivanimb. I was well aware that not all Indian Indians are Hindus, I was just trying to make myself understood (In Spanish, the first meaning of hindú is "from India"; and in English, the second meaning of the noun Hindu is "from India" also).
     
  23. belén

    belén Ex-Moderator

    Spain
    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca
    The thread has veered off topic, the original question was:

    The question has been answered and after that, a cultural discussion about derogatory terms has been developed. This forum's purpose is to discuss the linguistic aspect of words. Therefore, the thread is now closed.
     
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