Retailer denies ‘gringo’ sign is a slur; some see store as catering to illegals
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.”
A store sign that translates as “Credit without gringo papers” is not meant to be offensive, a manager said.