Nov 10, 2006

Don Gringo

In beautiful downtown Catemaco, I have finally joined the nobility. I now find myself among the ranks of Don Juan, Don Corleone, and Don Quixote.

Derived from the Latin "dominus", meaning master or owner, the shortened "Don" and "Doña" entered the Spanish mainstream as an address of respect for mostly noble folks. A few other international organizations have also usurped the title, namely the American Mafia, British university professors, and a few Christian religious orders (Dom).

A recently met Spaniard was visibly upset when he heard me addressed as "Don (plus first name)". Obviously I was not noble enough for him.

In Mexico usage of "Don" has degenerated to where nowadays most everybody is a "Don". It is only used in combination with a first name and generally reserved for somewhat older people and those with a little political or economic clout. So when I look for the shoeless peasant providing me with tree cuttings, I look for Don Jose, and when I speak to my older maid I call her Doña Maria.

The Spaniards, though, are stuck to applying "Don" to real blue blooded nobles and mailing addresses.
Ironically my name is neither Don nor am I a real gringo. I picked up the nickname when after someone addressed me as "Hey Gringo", I replied the equivalent of That is Don Gringo to you".