Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Gringo? Perceptions and misconceptions

Green Grow The Rashes

This song was known from the time of Bobbie Burns, the Scottish Poet, and a literary genius many times over.   He was obviously influenced by the English and the Irish, and he influenced them.  He was the Gringo Viejo's father's favourite in the panoply of those who job it was to stain paper with ink.   Over the years Robert Burns has risen in the estimation of this writer as well.
      The thing is, although many would never admit it, and many more have never heard of Bobbie Burns, there are those who would say that this famed bard was the father of the term or word....."gringo".    A poem this short-lived, talented man wrote, and titled Green Grow the Rashes, Oh! was a popular ditty set to music in various pubs throughout the British Isles.   Songs, with varying lyrics, some quite bawdy, some quite delicate were sung by men in all corners of the world.   It is thought that exhanges between the lines during the War Between the States were sung by soldiers during the night.   The Gringo Viejo's mother and grandmother....the ones from the South...both sang this song while doing housework or driving in the auto.   At times, they would sing it as a lullaby for a feverish, sick, or injured child or grandchild.
     They both would use the Scottish or original form which is printed below.....

Chor. - Green grow the rashes, O;
Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
Are spent amang the lasses, O.

There's nought but care on ev'ry han',
In ev'ry hour that passes, O:
What signifies the life o' man,
An' 'twere na for the lasses, O.
Green grow, (refrain)

The war'ly race may riches chase,
An' riches still may fly them, O;
An' tho' at last they catch them fast,
Their hearts can ne'er enjoy them, O.
Green grow, (refrain) 

But gie me a cannie hour at e'en,
My arms about my dearie, O;
An' war'ly cares, an' war'ly men,
May a' gae tapsalteerie, O!
Green grow, (refrain)

For you sae douce, ye sneer at this;
Ye're nought but senseless asses, O:
The wisest man the warl' e'er saw,
He dearly lov'd the lasses, O.
Green grow, (refrain)

Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears
Her noblest work she classes, O:
Her prentice han' she try'd on man,
An' then she made the lasses, O.
Green grow, (refrain) etc.

     However, the OROG will see below where it is stated that ".....other scholars date the term...." the Old Gringo would like to dissuade any OROG from consideration of such a statement as anything remotely possible.    The term "gringo" most certainly became a part of the constant Mexican vernacular suddenly during the first months of the  Mexican - American War of 1846 - 1848.   It was heard by John J. Audubon when he left the wharfs of Vera Cruz during his sojourn in Mexico even during the hostilities in 1847.
     The term began to be used during the penetration by American forces under the commands of Generals  Taylor and Worth on the route between Matamoros and Monterrey in 1846.   Troops would draw up in rank and file, and in parade order when moving through the various small towns and major ranch communities, so as to control the men under military discipline and to provide the Mexicans with the fair impression that the invaders were civilised and intended no harm to the general populace.
     Part of this march order presentation was to sing marching songs.   Two of the songs were those posted here.   The lyrics had perhaps hundreds of slight variations, scores of geographical variations, and different venues where one set of lyrics might have been more appropriate than others.   Children would run out of the villages when the American soldiers would come near....demanding "Gringo...!   Cantan Gringo!    Cantan!!!"   Sing...Sing the Gringo song....Sing!
     Gringo as a word in Spanish was the best effort made by people unused to new words, especially with the use to two hard "g's" and one with a following sub-ligual "r" ....and an "r" that was not a rolled double "rr"  such as the two adjacent words "Green grows the grass"....Difficult for any Mexican, literate or illiterate, and impossible for almost all children.   Further, the Mexicans had made it fairly clear that their citizenship and patriotism were not for sale, but their amiability and desire to do business with the "new reality" was certainly "for lease".     So, the relations were not perfect, but there were wide areas of common effort and interaction "for the greater good". 
      This assisted somewhat lax relationship between invader and defender helped an Irish-Mexican priest from one of the local parishes to penetrate the Americans security apparatus and in fairly short order seduce away about 500 recent Irish conscripts and/or voluteers in the advancing American army.   This formed the nucleus of the famous Batallon de San Patricio, with made up a smart and effective infantry and light artillery unit, finally numbering about 700 effectives.   These fellows would see heavy action during the enagements in and around Monterrey later, and then once again to the southeast of Saltillo where the Mexican Army essentially defeated the American Army, and then for some unknown reason pulled away and moved to the south, without taking the surrender or forcing the retreat of General Taylor.   The Americans, the Irish defectors, and the general demeanor of men away from home, children, and the innate sense of hospitality of the Mexican at any level brought two adjacent words into eternal fame as a contraction that identified that new race of man, the American....the Gringo.
      Couriers and other transfer of information could normally link the Capital of Mexico with these outlying areas in about one week....very quick by American reckoning for the the tales about the children, the songs, and the interaction between invader and defender were fairly well known in fairly short order.   In 1847, the term "Gringo"  was published in newspapers quite commonly, and referred always to Americans, American soldiers, and American whatever.    Therefore, whomsover believes that the term comes from the green uniforms and gold buttons of General "Black Jack" Pershing, and his mainly Negro units of regular cavalry and mounted infantry during their pursuit of Pancho Villa.....that is fine....but whomsoever professes it as knowledge of fact to other people, is an ignorant fool.    Simply not true....simply 70 years too late....    And yes, they referred to the Negro soldiers as Gringos, too.

      Finally, as has been stated before, the word "Gringo" is not a perjoritive unless it is used as one.   El Gringo Viejo and his late brother made a pact to restore and maintain the word "Gringo" as the neutral title for Americans and things of and/or of an American nature.


(The following is presented from a source which is, in its first part, probably substantially accurate.  The second part is patently untrue. It is probably also false that Pancho Villa's forces had anything to do with the attack on Columbus, New Mexico or on about 99% of the banditry and Mexican military provocations during the terms of Carranza and Obregon during their presidencies the 1916 through 1924 period on the American border with Mexico.) 

This ballad is based on a similar song, Green Grows the Laurel, that was popular in 17th century Scotland. The American ballad tells the story of an American soldier's love for a Mexican lass. Though I don't have the words for the earlier version, it evidently had a similar theme, albeit with different nationalities.There are countless versions of the song, I have included only two.
One story of the songs origin speculates that Cowboys in South Texas loved to sing the song. Across the way, Mexicans, who could not understand the words, could only hear "GREEN GROW". So white Americans became known as "Gringo" by the Mexicans. However, other scholars date the term to the incursion of American troops in Mexico to search for Pancho Villa.
Green grow the lilacs, all sparkling with dew
I'm lonely, my darling, since parting with you;
But by our next meeting I'll hope to prove true
And change the green lilacs to the Red, White and Blue.

Green grow the lilacs reminding me of
The ones that I brought you with all of my love,
The gates of my country will open for you
And change the green lilacs to the Red, White and Blue.

Green grow the lilacs, Your favorite flow'r,
So sweetly perfuming - a sad parting hour.
Oh send me a message - That you love me too,
Let's change the green lilacs to the Red, White and Blue.

Repeat first verse.

Alternate Version:

Green grow the lilacs, all sparkling with dew
I'm lonely, my darling, since parting with you;
But by our next meeting I'll hope to prove true
And change the green lilacs to the Red, White and Blue.
I once had a sweetheart, but now I have none

She's gone and she's left me, I care not for one
Since she's gone and left me, contented I'll be,
For she loves another one better than me.

I passed my love's window, both early and late
The look that she gave me, it makes my heart ache;
Oh, the look that she gave me was painful to see,
For she loves another one better than me.

I wrote my love letters in rosy red lines,
She sent me an answer all twisted and twined;
Saying,"Keep your love letters and I will keep mine
Just you write to your love and I'll write to mine."

This picture was taken during happier times, and included General Alvaro Obregon (l), General Francisco Villa (c) and General Black Jack Pershing in El Paso, Texas in 1914, before Villa and Obregon went at each other in a series of famous battles during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 - 1917.    Pershing and his white and mainly Negro forces were all considered "Gringos" even before the later incursion in 1916, which pitted the two friends, Pancho and Black Jack against each other in a confrontatin neither wanted, and both knew to be a CYA by Woodrow Wilson and his lackies who were trying to cover up the failures of their Mexican policy.  The next year, 'peace candidate' Wilson would have the "Gringo" in a war in Europe.   Wilson's Mexico policies indirectly would be the cause of 50 years of ensuing rot, corruption, and socialist misery.