Neza York. Arabronx. Xochihouston.
Sound somewhat familiar?
Mexicans have an affinity for wordplay. They mix and mash their words up, they make lots of puns, and they have a very, ahem, rich tradition of albures, or double-entendres.
Of course, for a word or a concept to enter Mexican wordplay with any degree of efficacy, it has to be part of the collective experience and vocabulary of Mexico. Some of the wordplay around place names in Mexico City have caught my attention, because they reveal in an especially colorful way the constant presence of the USA in Mexican life.
Various neighborhoods and delegations make up the greater Mexico City area, and locals are fond of giving them nicknames. Some of the names are based on stereotypes that arise from each area’s socioeconomic profile or cultural peculiarities. Iztapalapa, for example, is sometimes called Iztapalacra. The word “lacra” basically means “thug.”
Some of the nicknames, though, are simply based on loose association with whatever is on people’s minds. Xochimilco is a delegation in southern Mexico City. Sometimes people call it Xochihouston.
Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl in the bordering state of México is shortened to Ciudad Neza, or just Neza. The augmentative form of a word in Spanish has suffixes like -ón or -ota. Call Neza yours (mi Neza), slap on an augmentative suffix (Nezota), and voilá, the land of 10,000 lakes: Minezota.
Sometimes people call Nezahualcóyotl “Neza York.” And playing off of that, you get one of my favorite nicknames. Favorite because it reveals just how great Mexican collective knowledge of the U.S. is, compared to U.S. collective knowledge of Mexico. One of the areas next to Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl is San Juan de Aragón. In slang, Neza York is next to Arabronx.
That would be like if people in the USA jokingly called the state of Oregon “Aragón,” and for kicks called Washington “Washingcóyotl,” just for the sake of referencing well-known neighborhoods in a bordering country. A country, of course, to which 10% of our population had migrated, and whose music, movies, products, politics and unwanted free t-shirts had seeped into our society for decades, like (to keep in mind that culture has seeped in both directions) salsa into an enchilada.