In the U.S., you could send teenage girls, or even grown women for that matter, running away in tears by such a small phrase. However, in coming to Ecuador, you better leave your weak self-esteem at home! I think this catches many of us by surprise when we first hear it, and we’re not even sure how to respond. Nevertheless, Ecuadorians basically just call it like they see it. To us “gringos,” it may seem tactless and out-of-line at times, but it’s definitely never meant to be so. I’ve noticed that in the culture here, things such as this are simply more open, friendly, and joking. This goes with questions and curiosity as well. I’m not sure if it’s a test or a greeting!
So, within the first few weeks in my site, host family and friends had no problem calling me “gordito” (which means “chubby,” or “fat” with a hint of endearment) which is where Taco Bell got the name for their “gorditas”. In fact, you can take the ending of many words in Spanish, in this case “gordo,” drop the –o, add an “-ito,” and it becomes a term of endearment. I’m often called “Mateito” (pronounced “Ma-te-e-toe” which is “Mateo,” the Spanish equivalent of “Matt” and pronounced “Ma-te-o,” changed in this same manner.)
Regardless, I hear tons of these terms all the time. They include, but aren’t limited to: gordo/gordito (fat/chubby), flaco/flacito (skinny), Moreno/morenito (dark), blanco/blancito (white), negro/negrito (dark/black), etc.
Therefore, my first encounter with being called “gordo” or “gordito” went something like this:
“¡Mateo, esta gordito!”
(Matt, you’re fat!)
– Friendly Neighbor
After a look of “have you lost your mind!?” combined with a “mean-mug”…and then quickly followed by a smile, I said:
“¡Gracias!” (Thank you!)
This was welcomed with an eruption of much laughter from all within earshot!
Another thing used here are terms to describe where people are from, such as: Cuencano (people from Cuenca, pronounced “Kwain-can-o”) or the term “mono(s)” (people from the coast of Ecuador, and translates as “monkey or monkeys”). This term is often used derogatorily, but there are some people from the coast that don’t mind it. Many of these terms are used to describe people, especially when referencing someone that the other person doesn’t know. You’ll even here “gringo” or “gringito” used to refer to almost any foreigner, from the U.S. or otherwise. This is similar to the “mono(s)” term in the sense that it could be used derogatorily. I suppose this goes with almost any word, it’s all in how it is said!
Like I was saying before, the idea of just saying what is on your mind is commonly true with questions as well. People will ask all kinds of questions from “What do you parents do?” to “How many brothers/sisters do you have?” to “What all do they do?” to “What religion are you; what do you believe?” to “What does this cost or that cost?” etc. The list goes on. They aren’t afraid to ask hardly any question, which some might feel is too personal. It doesn’t really bother me; I don’t have anything to hide. I do however think it makes a few feel uncomfortable. So, I’m sure they haven’t entered the era of “political correctness” here. If they have, I haven’t seen any evidence of it! Who needs political correctness anyway!? People need to grow up and quit dancing around the truth and just call it like it is… So, regardless, if they are curious, they just ask, we should probably take a few notes on this one…it’s just to say that we often tip-toe around so much when we could just get straight to the point!