Mexico’s latest linguistic fashion in “them” versus “us” is fifís versus chairos.
The expressions —roughly pitching the haves against the have nots— are seemingly more palatable in these days of identity politics and social media and probably more politically correct than the naco versus fresa of days gone by.
Neither of the words are new, but they have been popularized by contemporary politics. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador likes to refer to his political adversaries as fifís, and to critical media as the neo-liberal or fifí press.
The fifís, meanwhile, have adopted the word chairo to describe the unconditional supporters of the president who are seen more or less as left-wing in their politics and into the kind of causes espoused by the left. Into the causes, not necessarily dedicated to them.
The monied classes were called fifís as far back as the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century, predating such expressions as “fresa,” “junior” (the offspring of the wealthy), and “mirreyes”—the badly behaved, ostentatious offspring of the wealthy.
Use of the word chairo could be traced back as far as the 1960s, although the meaning has changed somewhat, and it now supposedly describes those who could be considered as modern-day hippies. The comeback “derechairo” was coined to refer to chairos on the political right.
As with most social dichotomies, no one really fits perfectly or entirely into one group or the other. Academics can easily be fifís or chairos, or a bit of both; so can bohemian types. Attitude has a lot to do with it, but there are no clear battle lines.
This hasn’t stopped pollsters from coming up with “fifi-o-meters” and creators of memes have composed entire collections on the theme, illustrating how people haven’t lost their sense of humor over it.
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