An interesting article, “Proverbs and prejudice: El Indio in Hispanic proverbial speech” by Shirley L. Arora (De Proverbio, Vol. 1, no. 2, 1995):

The proverbial speech of Hispanic America preserves, even today, numerous traces of the interaction between explorers, conquerors, or settlers and the native populations they found in the various regions of the so-called New World, while printed sources record others that have apparently disappeared from current usage. Many, though not all, of these expressions involve stereotypes of the Native American, some resembling those found in English, others diverging markedly from them.

A little long and could have used editing, but there’s a lot of good data there. (Via dhruva‘s MetaFilter post.)


  1. Michael Farris says

    When I was studying Aymara (from Bolivia, Peru) I was told that the very word ‘indio’ is very offensive in the Andes and never used by indigenous people who regarded it akin to the n-word in English. They always used indígeno or autóctono (or the name of a specific group, Aymara, Quechua, Uru etc). Also offensive was ‘hijo’ and ‘hija’ (son, daughter) used somewhat like ‘boy’ in the old south.

  2. There’s an interesting situation with the word Jíbaro (or Jívaro) which refers to a closely related group of peoples and their languages around the border between Peru and Ecuador. The word ultimately comes from the native ethnonym “Shuar”, but seems to have spread through Latin America with a pejorative meaning of “savage” or “uncivilised”. It is now common in Puerto Rico with that meaning, while in Ecuador it is only used to insult actual Jíbaro people.

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