Cultural Insights Into the Much-Maligned Chilango

When you spend some time in Mexico, sooner or later  you’ll come across the word chilango, probably in some derogatory way, such as “¡típico chilango!” or “¡tenía que ser chilango!

Chilango is the name given to inhabitants of Mexico City, who are notorious in the provinces for being obnoxious when they venture out of town. The expression chilango initially referred to people from the provinces who migrated to Mexico City, although it later came to be applied to those born and bred in the capital, and that is now the commonly and universally accepted usage. The opposite of chilango could be provinciano.

The chilangos’ disdain for the provincianos’ lack of sophistication has earned them a reputation for being both pedantic and manipulating. It’s not only their sacred CDMX (Mexico City) license plates that supposedly exempt them from red lights and no-parking signs in one-horse towns, they’re also the ones who talk about nothing but money and YouTube, and between sips of piña colada loudly and condescendingly proclaim that they could stay here forever—knowing full well that they couldn’t.

The charm of the colonial towns, the relaxing atmosphere of the holiday resorts, are only good for the chilangos when they need to rest from the daily rush of the capital, the pushing and the shoving, the traffic snarls, horn-blowing and general stress that ultimately make them important.

They’ll pay outrageous sums of money for specific brands of clothes, shoes, and electronic goods at their local mall, but will haggle down the most reasonable price asked by the local artisan at a handicrafts market.

There’s a saying in certain parts of Mexico, particularly the north and the west, that goes: haz patria, mata un Chilango – “do something for your country, kill a Chilango.” This is a bit misleading. Despite their negative idiosyncrasies, particularly seen from the provinces, the chilangos make up a great deal of the domestic tourism in Mexico—and some tourist towns and villages situated within a short drive of the capital absolutely depend on chilangos taking weekend sojourns. (The capital accounts for a fifth of gross domestic product, and Mexico City, which engulfs parts of the adjacent Mexico State, is home to one sixth of the country’s population.)

The chilangos’ bad name is a generalization which often turns out not to be the case. In that sense, people from Monterrey are said to be stingy; people from Puebla not very bright; people from Jalisco and its capital Guadalajara are said to be  particularly priggish. The chilangos just happen to have more negative traits than anyone else.

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