Wetbacks = Mexicans or all 'Hispanics'.

And what does it mean exactly?

Your back gets wet from swimming across the Rio Grande. So, originally applied only to Mexicans, but Americans are notorious and not being able to distinguish between different types of foreigners.

Ah, thanks.

Thats funnier than most racial slurs (but still not that funny. Or smart.).

It references the swim across Rio Grande as was stated. Thus it is about illegal Mexicans.

And surprisingly to most Americans, not all people wading across the river are from Mexico. Just “sayin’”. It’s not unusual to have people from South and Central America, as well as from places like China and India. (a lot of places in the Rio aren’t even deep enough to swim!)

And since the Rio Grande forms the border between Texas & Mexico, should the term be applied to people illegally crossing through California, Arizona or New Mexico? Not many rivers to cross to get to “el otro lado.”

Regardless of all that. the term comes from crossing the Rio Grande. It doesn’t matter that illegals cross other places as far as the term goes.

[I am so going to hell for repeating this]
Since drought hit the Southwest, they are no longer called “wetbacks” now they are called “Dusty butts”

If your talking to someone that uses the term ‘wetback’ it isn’t likely they know or care about the difference between Mexican and Hispanic. Brown is brown and thus less then white in their minds.

True enough today.

But when the term was coined (M-W online says 1929) the border crossers were pretty exclusively Mexicans, and mostly from the towns & villages near the border. The whole migration northward from as far as Tierra Del Fuego didn’t really get underway until the 90s.

And most illegal immigrants (of all origins) actually enter the country legally under a tourist visa or something similar. They’re overstaying a visa after legitimately coming through a port of entry, rather than surreptitiously crossing the border at an unguarded point.

“Espalda mojada” (lit., “wet back”) is actually a perjorative term used by real, live Mexicans (here in Mexico) to refer to people who enter into the United States illegally. I should think it safe to say that they clearly understand the difference between “Mexican” and “Hispanic.” Furthermore, not all Hispanics and certainly not all Mexicans are “brown.”

To the people who use the term around here, there is no difference. You certainly can’t expect logic or consistency from bigots.

Mexicans used to be also called “Scab backs” in Arizona and California. They got the name because they supposedly crawled under the fence and got cut on their back. Of course that name died out in the 70s, but it was a term I heard in my youth, especially on trips to San Diego

My ex in-laws, brown-skinned Hispanics born and raised in South Texas (where their family had lived for generations), often used the term “wetbacks” for newly arrived illegal aliens from Mexico.

So, while racism is certainly PART of the reason for widespread hostility toward Mexican immigrants, it isn’t the whole story by a long shot.

Think about it- who’s more likely to be bothered by the presence of a large pool of illegal Mexican immigrants- a rich white guy in Plano, Texas or a blue-collar brown-skinned Hispanic man who was born and raised in Corpus Christi?

To the rich white guy, more Mexicans in the workforce just means he can hire maids and gardeners more cheaply. To working-class American born Latinos, it means unemployment!

It’s not surprising that Cesar Chavez and his brother used to beat up Mexicans who tried to cross the border. They didn’t look at illegal aliens and cry, “Welcome, my brothers!” They cried, “Go home, scabs!”

My family from West Texas also have a few terms they use for white people in Texas; invaders, trespassers, sqautters, late comers . . . :smiley:

And don’t forget illegal Canadians: Snowbacks! :smiley:

[quote=“astorian, post:15, topic:538986”]

Think about it- who’s more likely to be bothered by the presence of a large pool of illegal Mexican immigrants- a rich white guy in Plano, Texas or a blue-collar brown-skinned Hispanic man who was born and raised in Corpus Christi?
QUOTE]
You haven’t met too many Tea Party Patriots have you? :dubious:

Although it has little to do with your question, there was an Operation Wetback by the US Government in 1954, in which roughly a million mexicans were deported.

This obviously makes it a government endorsed racial slur :slight_smile:

I imagine any Native Americans in the area would call y’all the same thing.