CHILDREN

Ah kids, ya gotta luv’em. Well maybe not all of them. But those under the age of 6 are especially cute and cuddly, just like adorable puppies and kittens. Although I generally avoid most cute little boys and girls as subjects, there are some I can’t avoid. The same holds true for kittens and puppies. Don’t get me wrong however; it’s not that I have a dislike of kids, or pets for that matter, it’s just that taking photos of the little buggers is like shooting fish in a barrel. Besides, photographing kids doing cute things seem so cliche-ish. That said, I must confess there are times that I give in and actually shoot those proverbial cuties in their barrels. The images below are a few examples.

This little photographer composes and focuses on her subject.

This young street urchin stole my heart on the streets of Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

Although this young girl and her fawns represent what I call a shameless photographic cliche, I could not avoid the innocence of the moment.

Two little Mexican girls make the final adjustments in preparation for the fiesta.

Two little adorable Mexican sweeties

These three little smiling boys begged to have their pictures taken, and I was all but too eager to oblige them.

And finally, a photo of a boy and his dog, the ultimate cliche; yet a satisfying one for this non-apologetic photographer.

While wars, financial crises and natural disasters are daily reminders of our fragile existance it is often refreshing to stop and capture the innocence of a small boy and his dog before returning to the not so realities of our daily lives.

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blog by: Ron Saunders

You can view my photography at: 345.PhotoShelter.com
and http://www.bajareflections.com

PLANES and BOATS and TRAINS

The C-17 Globemaster III is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift force. It is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area.

Pleasure cruising along the Sea of Cortez at  Cabo San Lucas

The Good Life

Though not as glamorous as the transportation depicted above, the freight train remains essential to our way of life.

FREIGHT TRAIN

                              ————————————————————————————————                                                                         NEXT BLOG: OCT 17, 2012

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SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

The WORLD TRADE CENTER

The Sphere is a large metallic sculpture by German sculptor Fritz Koenig, currently displayed in Battery Park, New York City, that once stood in the middle of Austin J. Tobin Plaza, the area between the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. It is now remnant of the World Trade Center The SPHERE

As a photographer I’ve always had a desire to take a view of the majestic Manhattan skyline from the heights of the World Trade Center. I know it was rather corny and touristy, but I wanted to do it just the same. Three times I attempted to take the elevator that leads visitors to the lookout platform.  Three times however,  weather thwarted my attempts. No problem, I told myself, since I live here I’ll have many opportunities to take that view. As fate would have it however, the photo you see here is the only one  I ever got to photograph.

That ill-fated day, 9/11/2001 left  a mark on my psyche that will never be erased. It was Pearl Harbor all over again.

There is one issue however I’d like to add. Many Americans view 9/11 as the day 3000 of their countrymen  were killed. I understand their meaning but to omit the recognition of 463 victims representing 58 countries  also deserve some recognition. For that reason I wish to add a list of the following:

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ARGENTINA     [4 KILLED]

AUSTRALIA      [11 KILLED]

BANGLADESH [6 KILLED]

BELARUS           [1 KILLED]

BELGUIM          [1 KILLED]

BERMUDA        [2 KILLED]

BRAZIL              [3 KILLED]

CANADA           [24 KILLED]

CHILE               [1 KILLED]

CHINA              [3 KILLED]

COLOMBIA     [18 KILLED]

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of the CONGO             [2 KILLED]

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC              [47 KILLED]

ECUADOR          [13 KILLED]

EL SALVADOR  [2 KILLED]

ETHIOPIA          [3 KILLED]

FRANCE             [3 KILLED]

GERMANY         [11 KILLED]

GHANA               [2 KILLED]

GUYANA             [3 KILLED]

HAITI                  [2 KILLED]

HONDURAS      [1 KILLED]

INDIA                  [41 KILLED]

INDONESIA      [1 KILLED]

IRELAND           [6 KILLED]

ISRAEL               [5 KILLED]

ITALY                  [10 KILLED]

IVORY COAST  [1 KILLED]

JAMAICA           [16 KILLED]

JAPAN                [24 KILLED]

JORDAN            [2 KILLED]

LEBANON         [4 KILLED]

LITHUANIA     [1 KILLED]

MALAYSIA       [3 KILLED]

MEXICO           [15 KILLED]

MOLDOVA      [1 KILLED]

NETHERLANDS   [1 KILLED]

NEW ZEALAND    [2 KILLED]

NIGERIA                [1 KILLED]

PAKISTAN             [8 KILLED]

PERU                      [5 KILLED]

PHILIPPINES       [16 KILLED]

POLAND                [6 KILLED]

PORTUGAL           [5 KILLED]

REPUBLIC of CHINA (Taiwan)  [1 KILLED]

ROMANIA              [3 KILLED]

RUSSIA                   [1 KILLED]

SERBIA                   [1 KILLED]

SOUTH AFRICA   [2 KILLED]

SOUTH KOREA    [28 KILLED]

SPAIN                     [1 KILLED]

SWEDEN               [2 KILLED]

SWITZERLAND   [2 KILLED]

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO  [14 KILLED]

UKRAINE              [1 KILLED]

UNITED KINGDOM     [68 KILLED]

UZBEKISTAN       [1 KILLED]

VENEZUELA        [1 KILLED]

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NEXT BLOG: SEPT 30. 2012

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UGLY AMERICANS

They come to enjoy the benefits of the country, its political freedom, its economic advantages, and the chance to live the good life. Yet, they refuse to participate in the culture of its people. They make no effort to learn the language, they isolate themselves within their own communities while expecting the locals to accommodate them in the traditions of their former country. If this sounds familiar it is. Ironically this is not the typical complaint of U.S citizens railing against the attitudes of Mexican immigrants in the United States, instead it is the audacious complaint of many U.S expats towards Mexicans IN MEXICO!
Mexico has the greatest number of U.S. retirees than any other country in the world. You would think that statistic alone would engender a closer bond between the two cultures. Unfortunately, the attitude of a great many U.S transplants suggests quite the opposite.

A telling example of this attitude is evident whenever gringos complain of their inablitiy to communicate with mexicans due to language difficulties. Their ironic excuse for this inability to commuinicate is that the Mexicans do not speak English. Rarely does the U.S person say, ‘I don’t speak Spanish.’ Can you imagine the outrage in the U.S  if the roles were reversed, and it was the Mexican who complained that the U.S person didn’t speak Spanish?

Another example of condescenion is the constant comparisons made between the way things are done in the States as opposed to Mexico. This view seems to suggest that the way things are done in the States is the way things should be done in Mexico. Imagine how that view would go over if the roles were reversed in the U.S.

That being said, I acknowledge there are many U.S expatriats who do not share those condescending views. In fact, many of us who are more informed of  Mexican culture often strive to enlighten our lesser informed brethren expats to do likewise. I believe many U.S citizens who behave badly do not do so deliberately. They are merely unconscious of the fact as to just how insulting their behaviour might be taken. I don’t believe they are bad people by nature. They’ve merely been programmed by the culture of which they were nurtured. Perhaps proper care and feeding by those of us who are more sensitive to these unintentional insults would serve them well by teaching them to accept others the way they are.

Anyway, that’s my rant.

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My next blog: August 31, 2012

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The OTHER SIDE of CAMBODIA

Though my previous post centered exclusively on the horrors of genocide, I’d be remiss if I did not acknowledge the life and culture after Pol Pot. Therefore, I will give  a short glimpse of  Cambodia as it is today, one which focuses on the history and culture of this proud nation.

SILVER PAGODA, aka TEMPLE of the EMERALD BUDDHA at the CAMBODIAN ROYAL PALACE

SILVER PAGODA

ANGKOR WAT STONE FACES

The country’s most famous attraction is ANGKOR WAT, a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. The giant heads shown above are awe-inspiring.

This Angkor Wat temple below is but one example of an ancient highly complex city;  It too  is recognized as an UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE

ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE

During the vietnam war many vietnamese civilians escaped their homeland and fled to the Tonle Sap fishing village in Cambodia where they have taken up permanent residence. The woman in the barge is herself a vietnamese refugee and has contributed much to the Cambodian culture.

Father and son wash their oxen in the Choeng Ek river; a culture common to Cambodians. There is an ironic aspect to this routine however, in that the name, Choeng Ek, is the name for both river and town, a name which would be forever rememebererd as the Killing Fields. Nonetheless, life in Cambodia  goes on.

FATHER & SON WASH OXEN

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My next blog: August 15, 2012

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The KILLING FIELDS

TUOL SLENG PRISON

It seems 37 years have still not washed away the horrors of one of the most fiendish atrocities the world has ever known. In 2001,  at the dawn of a new millenium, my camera and I traveled to Cambodia to get a view of a land and a culture rarely visited. Although the country had since recovered from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, some remnants still remained.

The image above is Tuol Sleng, previously a  high school. Under the tyrant, Pol Pot however, it was converted into a prison and an interrogation center; and, one might add, a torture chamber.

Although the dictator had no ability for painting, he did, however, enjoy viewing the works of others. As it happened, one of the prisoners was a painter.  Pol Pot, therefore, ordered the prisoner to paint the images of those suffering in their cells.  As a result we have 2 samples of his work.

STARVED PRISONER

 

     

                                                                        

           PAINTING SHOWS TWO JAILERS CARRYING STARVED VICTIM TO the KILLING FIELDS
 
 
Pol Pot photographed all his victims. In the photo below we see a poor condemned woman and her baby.

Photograph of a young man in the foreground and others crammed in the background

The KILLING FIELDS

Where victims are murdered and tossed in these mounds

The atrocities of the Pol Pot regime had no limits. In fact, the crimes I have listed are but few compared to the actual amount. There is one crime however, that,in my opinion, stands higher than most: the murder of babies.. Babies are first put into a sling, the sling is then pulled high in the air, then released in such a way that the baby is smashed against a huge tree. Afterwards the dead child is unceremoniously thrown into the mounds you see here. These innocents then lay forever with their families in what is now referred to as THE KILLING FIELDS.

What I learned from the people I spoke with and the horrors they tell, and the remnants I saw,  convinced me I will carry to my grave that unspeakable  horror called the KILLING FIELDS.

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My next blog: August 15, 2012

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ANIMALS in their NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

Among my favorite photography topics, are animals, particularly those who do not answer to humans.  What I admire in them the most is their independence. Because  I live in an area where these creatures are easily accessible I often have the opportunity of quickly grabbing my camera and snapping off several shots with ease. Take this coyote for example who, by the way, happens to be a frequent visitor to my backyard.


THIS DESERT MULE is ONE of MANY in the RUGGED TERRAIN

This desert mule is one of many in this rugged terrain.

Elk rummages for food at the Grand Canyon

 
CALIFORNIA GRAY WHALE
 
Marine biologists in boat search for California Gray Whale. The whale however, approaches them from the other side 

 

 

 

My next blog: July 31, 2012

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BULLFIGHTING

At the outstart I must state I am no fan of animal mistreatment. In fact, I deplore it. It is for that reason I’ve chosen this topic as a stark example of one of the most heinous acts of animal brutality imaginable. I took these photos not because I was curious, but because I wanted others to the get a sense of the outrage. The images below speak for themselves.

IT BEGINS as MATADOR and BULL ENGAGE

a life and death struggle

MORTALLY WOUNDED BULL

         IN THE END the WOUNDED   ANIMAL SUCUMBS

According to PETA. “Approximately 250,000 bulls die in bullfights.” “It is an inaccurate term for events in which there is very little competition between a nimble, sword-wielding matador … and a confused, maimed, psychologically tormented, and physically debilitated animal. “According to one matador, some of the top performers may “ask breeders to deliberately select placid bulls …. It’s the only way to sustain your energy for the duration of the season.”

Ritualistic Slaughter “Most bullfights are divided into three parts. First, a bull is forced into the arena and taunted by a matador with a cape. The bull is then approached by picadors (men on horses), who drive lances into the bull’s back and neck muscles, impairing the bull’s ability to lift his head. They twist and gouge the lances to ensure a significant amount of blood loss. Then come the banderilleros on foot, who proceed to distract and dart around the bull while stabbing the animal with brightly colored darts called banderillas. After blood loss has weakened the bull, the banderilleros run the bull in more circles until he becomes dizzy and stops chasing. In the final act, the matador appears. After using his cape and sword to provoke a few exhausted charges from the dying animal, the matador tries to deliver the death blow,… with his sword. If he misses, succeeding only in further mutilation, an executioner is called in to stab the exhausted animal to death. If the crowd is happy with the matador, the bull’s ears and tail or a hoof may be cut off and presented as a gift. A few minutes later, another bull enters the arena and the sadistic cycle starts again.”

“Pope St. Pius V decreed that “spectacles” such as bullfights are “removed from Christian piety and charity.” He wished that “these cruel and base spectacles of the devil are not of man” they must be abolished and he forbade attendance at them under penalty of excommunication.”

“Barcelona has declared itself “an anti-bullfighting city,” and 38 Catalan municipalities have followed its lead; the last bullring in Barcelona closed in 2006 because of poor attendance. As of January 2012, Catalonia becomes the first Spanish mainland region to officially ban bullfighting, although the final bullfight occurred there in September of 2011 when the “season” ended. The Spanish state broadcasting network, RTVE, no longer broadcasts bullfights because it does not want children exposed to violence against animals.”

“Interest in bullfighting has also declined in Mexico and Portugal, and according to one report, officials in Beijing, China, decided not to build a bullring at a popular tourist destination for “fears of the country’s image.” The photos shown in this photos however, were taken in Mexicali, Mexico. Unfortunately, there are still more than 1,200 government-funded bull ranches and dozens of state-sponsored bullfighting schools in Spain.”

“Bullfights are sadistic acts of animal torture. Innocent bulls are speared, stabbed and die slowly as their blood pour onto the arena floor. And while these animals suffer, sick and morally corrupt crowds cheer the even more sick and vile matadors who perform the executions.

Bulls are not the only creatures to suffer in bullrings. Horses are sometimes attacked by the maddend bull who is experiencing utter agony and lashing out where ever he can. It is not unusual for horses used in bullfights to die as well.

This is the fate of these beautiful animals; to be used to entertain a crowd that lusts for blood and suffering.”

Make no mistake, bullfighting is no sport. There should be an end to this horror show. Unlike bullfighting, sports have rules and the competitors have chosen to participate in them, bulls however, do not..

July 1, 2012

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What exactly IS the American dream?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve heard that phrase but I’ve never quite grasped its full meaning.  At times I thought I understood it but at other times I wasn’t quite sure.  It was all kinda vague. And now, at this ripe old age, that same  refrain still begs and asks that question. Furthermore,  I would not be surprised if many others share that same uncertainty though they might be ashamed to admit it. In my particular case however, a young kid, knowing only poverty, the concept of an American dream was far beyond my comprehension. In fact, even beyond the comprehension of the adults that surrounded me.  And so, the concept of an ‘american dream’ escaped me, even into my adulthood. As time moved on however, it no longer mattered. Life went on, and as my personal circumstances improved, the question of an american dream was no longer relevant to me.

As it is my nature to be curious about almost everything however, I was still intrigued about the continued use of the phrase; especially since it is used constantly, almost to the point of monotony. So, one day when I had nothing else to do, I decided to dig deeper into its origin. First stop, Wikipedia, where I found James Truslow Adams, the man who first defined the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement.” Impressed by that definition I made a visit to Ellis Island.

ELLIS ISLAND

I could only imagine the euphoria those refrugees felt when they stepped on  shore; and who would they find there to greet them but Lady Liberty.

LADY LIBERTY

What I learned there opened my understanding and my appreciation as to what acheivements were possible, acheivements made possible by the United States of America.

When I was a school boy, I was naively led to understand that the american dream meant one thing, and one thing only, that is, that anyone could grow up to be  president. It didn’t include other signs of success. Since I knew it was unlikely I would ever become the president of the United States I concluded I would never attain the american dream .
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Later, I have come to learn the American dream means more than just the right to be free, it is also the right to pursue your dreams and goals; it your right to free speech, as well as the right to demonstrate and to assemble;  in general the right to pursue all that is legal.

Yes, there have been ugly periods in our history, witness: slavery, racism, Japanese internment, Native American atrocities, the inability of women to vote. These are nightmares that have at times marred the American dream. Some still exist. As we have progressed as a people however, many of those blotches have been eradicated. Others issues still remain and must be addressed if we are to truly attain that ‘more perfect union.’

****
The United States is a relatively young country and still have much to learn, despite some of its shortcomings. A brighter day however always dawns over the horizon for our country.

There are varied examples that depict the face of  the American dream. This is one.

WALL STREET MOGUL

Follow my next blog: May 30, 2012

 

SAYINGS I WISH WOULD GO AWAY

For years I have wanted to do away with those mindless words and cliches that have trivialized our everyday speech. Take for example, the overused phrase of ‘the middle of nowhere’  Can anyone in the world tell me where I can find ‘nowhere? and if so, how would I know it once I was in the middle of it?

Could this be perhaps the elusive NOWHERE?

***

How about this one: ‘illegitimate child‘ ?  Although a child conceived out of wedlock is considered illegal, it is the behavior of the parents that are illegal, not the child. Therefore, the term illegitimate, as it pertains to the child is, in fact, an oxymoron and I wish it would go away.

                                                                                                                    ***

Here’s another worn-out phrase: “caught between a rock and a hard place” Instead, how about saying “caught between Scylla and Charybdis” one of my favorite expressions. For those of you who are mythologically challenged however, and asking themselves ‘what the heck is Scylla and Charybdis?,  here’s the story. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus was challenged to navigate  his crew past two narrow passageways and into the open sea. On either passageway however, there lurked  a hideous monster. One was named Scylla, the other named Charybdis. Either choice however, threatened immediate death for the crew. Fortunately the hero survived but sadly, many of his sailors were killed. So, whenever I find myself in a situation where there are no good options, I consider that I am caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

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HEBREW MAN

Due to the influence of the Yiddish word (yatata, yatata) the expression yada, yada was born and used to imitate many people talking at once.

There is one saying however, I wish never to hear again; that is the expression ‘jew’m down’, a slur used by many uninformed people and needs to be erased from our vocabulary forever.

***

In recent years it seems cliches have hit the sports scene in a big way. The biggest saying these days is now: step up to the plate. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big baseball fan, but what’s so great about stepping up to the plate?

Playball!

After all, just because you stepped up to the plate doesn’t mean you’re gonna knock one out of the park.In fact, you’re more likely to strike out: so while we’re at it we might as well get rid of that cliche too.

***

Here is one cliche I do like. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but laugh when I hear: “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

On the surface this expression is not what it appears to mean. In the 1700’s cannon balls and black powder were carried by boys who were referred to as “powder monkeys.

Perhaps I like this phrase because it is colorful and not so frequently used as the other overused cliches.

***

Though I know there are literally thousands of cliches that we use daily, we can’t go around creating new ones each day. Every generation however, should at least cast out the old ones in place of the new.

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I would like to hear what you think.  Go to this blog and send your favorite and least favorite sayings.

***

Next blog: May 15, 2012

Send your comments

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GRINGO


A MEXICAN'S IMAGE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL GRINGO;

Do you know where the term “gringo” originated?

If you don’t, don’t lose any sleep over it. In reality, its doubtful anyone really knows. Nonetheless there are probably as many explanations and speculations on the topic as there are people who claim to be authorities on it. In fact, Wikipedia claims there are 53 versions. In listening to those “authorities” I have concluded there are perhaps 3 or 4 basic themes. Variations over time however, have swelled the actual number to 53, that is, if you believe Wikipedia.

One recurring theme suggests the term originated during the Mexican American War in 1846-1848. This theory holds that the word Gringo comes from “green coat,” in reference to the American soldiers and the green color of their uniforms.

Another story, also from Mexico, and similar to the one above, holds that those Mexicans who could read and write English used to write “greens go home!” on street walls referring to the color of the uniforms of the invading army and subsequently it became common for the rest of the population to yell “green go!” whenever U.S. soldiers passed by. These explanations are unlikely however, since the U.S. Army did not use green uniforms until the 1940s.

One of my favorites is the assertion that one of two songs – either “Green Grow the Lilacs ” or “Green Grow the Rushes ” – was popular at the time and that Mexicans heard the invading U.S. troops singing “Green grow…” and contracted this into gringo. However, there is ample evidence that the use of the word predates the Mexican-American War.

In fact, that version has morphed into one in which Mexican cowboys, gathered around their campfire along the Rio Bravo River (Rio Grande in the U.S), would listen to their U.S counterparts camped on the opposite side of the river singing “Green grow the Lilacs.” Not understanding English however, they referred to their U.S neighbors across the river as the “gringos” or those who sing the song, “gringo”.

There are many popular but unsupported origins for this word, several of which relate to the United States Army in some way or another.

Many people from the U.S assume the term is exclusive to Mexicans. In fact, most, if not all of Latin America use the term and not all of them use it to refer exclusively to U.S. citizens.

Wiki tells us that “gringo, gringa” is a Spanish and Portuguese word used in Latin America to generally denote people from the United States, but in some cases it is also used to denote any foreign non-native spanish speaker regardless of race, especially English speakers.

Here, in Mexico, I have come to learn from my mexican friends, the term applies to white U.S. citizens only.

The only controversial issue concerning the word is whether it is a derogatory term. Even in this however, there is no unanimous agreement. Dictionaries such as the American Heritage Dictionary classify gringo as an “offensive slang,” “usually disparaging,” and “often derogatory.” The authoritative Diccionario de lengua de la Real Academia Espanola however, disagree on whether or not gringo is derogatory.

Latin migrants to the U.S. occasionally use the term as a more derogatory synonym of Anglo. However, it is also said the term may apply to anyone who lives in the U.S. regardless of race.

In Mexico and Colombia the term applies exclusively for U.S. citizens and is , widely accepted as a colloquialism. Depending on the context, it may or may not be an insult.

In Central America, the word is not derogatory. In Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama the term refers to U.S. citizens (regardless of race)

In the Dominican Republic it also means a non-free range store bought chicken (pollo gringo).

In Puerto Rico, the term refers to U.S. citizens in the U.S. mainland.

In the countries of South America where this term is used, the word is not derogatory. In some countries it may be used to refer to any foreigner who does not speak Spanish as a native language, or in Brazil, someone who does not speak Portuguese as a native language, but in other countries it is used just or especially to refer to U.S. citizens; it may also be used to describe a blond or brunette white native person with soft facial features and light colored eyes. It is also a popular nickname.

In Uruguay and Chile, apart from being used to refer to citizens of the United States, it can be applied to all Europeans; particularly those who conform to the physical stereotype (tall, blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin).

In Peru the word gringo is used all over the country among white and non white population. It is used to refer to white people but it is not insulting.

In Ecuador the word gringo can be used to refer to foreigners from any country, not only the United States, though the likelihood of being described as a gringo increases the closer one’s physical appearance is to that of a stereotypical northern European.

In Argentina it was used in the past to refer to European immigrants. In modern times the term is rarely used at all, but it can be used to refer to small and medium farmers from the Pampas that still use it as a nickname.

So there you have it. Hope it answered any questions that might have kept you up at nght.

Sleep well!

See you May 1
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