Pop Culture

It's Hip to Be 'Naco'

Mexican Slang Becomes a Symbol of Kitsch and Cool

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/3202097/3213038" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Carlos Meza holds a naco t-shirt.

Carlos Meza, co-owner of a t-shirt company, displays one of his naco brand t-shirts. Eric Niiler, NPR News hide caption

toggle caption Eric Niiler, NPR News

In Great Britain, they're known as "Kevins." In the U.S., the words "nerd," "redneck" and "cheesy" come to mind. For Mexicans, it's "naco" — a term that covers everything from guys draped in gold chains to people who dance funny.

Some Mexicans still find the word offensive. It was initially a derogatory term used to insult indigenous people and the poor. But for many, "naco" has morphed into a term that represents personal style — or lack thereof — rather than class or wealth. And now, young hipsters are reclaiming the word and making it cool. Through t-shirts, magazines and Web sites devoted to "naco-ism," they're celebrating their inner naco.

Day to Day's Eric Niiler visited Mexico City to discover what being naco really means.

Are You Naco?
Here are some clues: (translated from the June 2004 edition of Chilango magazine)

» You drive a Ford Topaz with a Porshe decal.

» You follow behind ambulances just so you can drive fast.

» You wear a polyester blouse made in China with a Lacoste crocodile logo.

» You take "mementos" from hotels and restaurants.

» You buy the latest Chanel perfume and tell everyone it's your fragrance.

» You park in handicapped spots.

» You clap when the airplane lands.

» You use a clothes hanger when the TV antenna fails.

» It's always the other guy's fault.

Related NPR Stories

Web Resources



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from