Re­tailer de­nies ‘gringo’ sign is a slur; some see store as cater­ing to il­le­gals

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Tom Ramstack

A Casa Furniture and Bed­ding store in Alexan­dria, Va. has been ad­ver tis­ing easy credit with a twist: “no gringo pa­pers” nec­es­sary.

A sign out­side the store at the in­ter­sec­tion of North Beau­re­gard and King streets reads, “Cred­ito sin pa­pe­les de gringo.” In English, that could be trans­lated to say “Credit with­out gringo pa­pers.”

Blanca Grana­dos, the store’s as­sis­tant man­ager, trans­lated the mes­sage to mean “just ‘with­out white pa­pers,’ like So­cial Se­cu­rity or like that.”

Miss Grana­dos said the store re­quires cus­tomers who pur­chase furniture on credit to fill out an ap­pli­ca­tion and pro­vide per­sonal doc­u­men­ta­tion. The store will ac­cept a pass­port as iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“Some peo­ple say, ‘You know, I don’t have a So­cial Se­cu­rity,’ ” Miss Grana­dos said. “They can show their pass­port if they don’t have any other pa­pers.”

The Amer­i­can Her­itage Dic­tionary de­fines the word gringo as “a dis­parag­ing term for a for- eigner in Latin Amer­ica, es­pe­cially an Amer­i­can or English per­son.”

But the word “gringo” in the store’s sign is not in­tended to of­fend any­one, Miss Grana­dos said.

Casa Furniture and Bed­ding op­er­ates 10 stores in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. re­gion. Miss Grana­dos said she was not sure how long the sign has been dis­played at the store in the 4600 block of King Street.

“I didn’t put it up,” she said. “My boss put it up.”

The other side of the sign ad­ver­tises low prices and states it is hir­ing sales­men.

A wo­man Miss Grana­dos iden­ti­fied as a store man­ager de­clined to com­ment. An­other man­ager did not re­turn a phone call.

Michael Barrera, pres­i­dent of the U.S. His­panic Cham­ber of Com­merce, said he was aware of the sign but said the way “gringo” was used is not nec­es­sar­ily an in­sult.

“I think it’s more for mar­ket­ing,” he said. “Gringo is not al­ways a pe­jo­ra­tive term.”

The sign has been up for years, he said, but might strike a nerve now as the de­bate over il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in­ten­si­fies in the lo­cal po­lit­i­cal arena.

“Be­cause of this im­mi­gra­tion de­bate, ev­ery­body’s be­come more sen­si­tized to that,” Mr. Barrera said. “There have been some His­panic busi­nesses who have felt the brunt of non-His­pan­ics. They’ve made this im­mi­gra­tion de­bate more about His­pan­ics than im­mi­gra­tion it­self.”

Nancy Pas­tor / The Wash­ing­ton Times

A store sign that trans­lates as “Credit with­out gringo pa­pers” is not meant to be of­fen­sive, a man­ager said.

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