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Everyone speaks Spanish

by Adriana Villavicencio

Have you ever borrowed something for so long that it becomes your own? You might not even remember that it wasn’t yours to begin with (this umbrealla has always been mine!) or who lent it to you in the first place (ex-boyfriend who?).

A similar thing can happen with language. Sometimes, people who speak different languages can live together for so long, they end up borrowing words and phrases from each other. Over time, it becomes so common, it bridges the cultures in a way that only something like fútbol can.

In the U.S., for example, you often overhear non-Spanish speakers say things in Spanish almost (or entirely) without noticing. Some common examples:

  • Gringo  – Many gringos like referring to themselves as such, probably because they realize it can be a term of endearment when said to a Latino. We love gringos who use the word gringo and apparently, many of them love us.
  • Mami  – Many non-Latinas use the word mami when talking to other women (who aren’t they’re mothers). Wow, mami, you look hot!  Less frequently used is the corresponding papi, though I hear it makes more appearances in intimate situations. (Every example I can think of should be censored.) Moving on…
  • Macho – While synonymous with male in the Spanish language, the term macho has taken on more of a perjorative color in English to mean overly masculine, aggressive, or disparaging towards women and sensitive men. Don’t be such a pig-headed macho. It seems machismo is alive and well in all cultures.
  • Mojito – Add to that sangria and margarita. Some drinks are so good, they’re universal.
  • Taco – Similar to the sharing of names for beverages, Mexican food (and what to call it) has become a staple of the American diet. Millions of American order in Spanish every day. Tacos, burritos, nachos, enchiladas please…and some orchata to wash it all down.
  • Hasta la vista – Some say ciao (Italian), many say adios, but hasta la vista is for those who want to make an exit with flair. Of course, most of us associate the phrase with the Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger who made it popular (and cheezy) in his Terminator movies. Maybe he should have practiced saying it to his housekeeper.

Spanish speakers do the same thing when we say we are going to parquear the car (instead of using the proper term, estacionar) or puchar for push, when clearly that’s just plain wrong. Spanglish is so common, even Facebook has made it a language option. Even though there are some examples we’d like to do without, borrowing language makes for richer conversation in both languages.

Borrowing makes sense, especially when it’s something you can share.

To learn more about Adriana, visit The Radical Ideas.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


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About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Thanks for the Gringos for Latinos shout out! :) Great story and I’ve posted it on our FB page. Saludos desde NC!

  2. Adriana Villavicencio says:

    Awesome!! Bendiciones de NYC! :)


  1. […] such mixed phrases are only part of Spanglish’s ascension. Where the hybrid really shows its strength is in the formation of new […]

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