There are certain expressions in Spanish that I find odd whenever I hear them in Latin America.
Some of them rub me the wrong way as I wrote about here.
But, on the flip side, there are certain expressions that I find pleasant and, in some contexts, a bit funny.
One of those is the use of the word “joven.”
Just tonight, I noticed that again.
After leaving my apartment in Pedregal de Santo Domingo in Mexico City, I left to get some food.
There’s this one place about 10 minutes walking from where I am way down the street that offers some of the best Mexican food I can find in this neighborhood.
Once there, I order some alambre and volcanes. Here's some pictures of what this food looks like that I took from other visits to this place weeks ago.
While the first one doesn’t look as appealing, it actually does taste good.
They give you so much anyhow that you can save half of it for another meal later on.
So, as I arrive to this restaurant, I’m given the menu by a new waitress at this place that I hadn’t seen before.
A few minutes later, I know what I want and she says to me “que quieres, joven?”
Meaning “what do you want, young man?”
I order and then wait.
While waiting, some homeless guy shows up and says something to the man making the tacos.
Then he begins singing for money after assumingly being given the OK to sing for some change.
While listening this performance, another man approaches the restaurant.
He parks his car right outside and walks out to order some food to take home.
As he walks up, the same young lady notices him and welcomes him with the same expression “joven.”
Even though the guy is objectively speaking not “joven.”
In fact, he looks like he could pass for 60 easily.
Nothing joven about him.
But joven he is now!
At any rate, I notice how cute the waitress is.
Maybe it’s her liberal generosity in complimenting everyone – even grandpas – with the word “joven.”
It might also be the fact that she looked “more indigenous” and there’s some attraction inside for chicks that look different.
Black chicks, Asian, indigenous looking, etc.
Someone you could impregnate with your White man genetics.
Invade and conquer bloodlines of other races!
The singing continues.
And my mind wonders away from degenerate thoughts about “conquering their women” and more focused on this guy’s singing performance.
While not the best singing out there, I figured to give the guy a little bit of help as the waitress gives me my food.
Now the big question of the night.
She hands me back my change and there are two coins – a 10 peso coin and a 5 peso coin.
While you typically don’t have to tip the waitress if you are not sitting down to eat, I decide to leave her a small tip just because there isn’t much change being given back anyway.
Plus, 5 pesos is only 25 cents and 10 pesos is only 50 cents.
So which one does she get and which one does the singing homeless man get?
While it’s nice to think that she’d be so amazed at a 50 cent tip that she’d get on her knees and thank you “OH THANK YOU, GENEROUS AMERICAN! HOW EVER CAN I REPAY YOU?!”
I then unzip my pants and say to her “you know how. The White Man has arrived.”
Then I blink.
Back to reality. The guy is still singing. And I got a decision to make.
Well, she likely has a salary anyway.
So I leave her behind the 5 peso coin and she says “gracias, joven!”
Even though she looks to be the same age as me.
Then I hand the singing homeless dude a 10 peso coin.
Which, to be fair, he probably did need it more as he’s homeless and nobody else gave him any money.
At 11 PM, I doubt he’s getting any other help this night anyhow until tomorrow morning at least.
He gives me a thumbs up anyhow and says “gracias!”
I then walk back home with my food.
Plenty of delicious food.
The Point: Latin American’s Generous Use of Joven
Moving beyond “Christopher Columbus roleplay” fantasies and showing you what delicious food Mexico has to offer, there’s a bigger point to work with here.
It’s a small detail to life in Latin America that you’ll notice over time.
That being how Latin Americans tend to be pretty generous in complimenting just about anyone with a heart beat with the term “joven.”
Or “young one.”
And, as we have seen, it really doesn’t matter how seemingly not joven you are.
Of course, there are other terms used to greet someone like “caballero” or whatever else.
I prefer to be called Papi.
But, amongst the terms you will be called down here, one of them will probably be joven at some point.
Even if you are a 60 year old man with arthritis, wrinkles and who has to use a cane to walk around.
Do you got a pulse?
Welcome to the club!
You are now a joven just like the rest of us!
Of course, I’m sure some Latin Americans probably understand that it might look silly to call a 60 year old man “joven.”
Not that waitress anyway!
And not other Latin Americans that I have seen down here in various countries whenever they have called anyone – seemingly regardless of age – “joven.”
For a young man like me in his 20s, it’s never been something I have noticed personally.
In part because it’s to be expected.
Of course I’m young!
Though, when I began visiting Latin America at around 18 or so, I didn’t like the term “joven” at first in the same way that I never liked being called “chico” back then.
I’ve always looked younger than what I am by the way. Usually anyhow for most of my life.
Thankfully, I can’t remember when I was last called “chico” and now have graduated onto being “caballero.”
Still joven though.
But being called “joven” doesn’t bother me none anymore.
In fact, as I get closer to 30, I welcome it with a smile!
It’s the reason I even noticed it tonight to begin with and contemplated writing about it in the moment.
At first, I thought this wouldn’t be much of a story until I saw even the 60 year old dude get called “joven.”
Which, if I was his age, I’d probably appreciate the “joven” even more.
I imagine older expats do anyhow.
And, if I’m still down here by the time I’m 60, I sure hope Latin Americans keep up this habit of calling seemingly anyone with a pulse “joven.”
I want to be called joven when I’m 60 too, damn it!
Will Latin Americans still be as generous in the year 2055?
And, as a last point, I wonder if this habit is equally seen across all of Latin America?
I’ve noticed it early on in my travels around Latin America but, being fair here, I obviously wasn’t keeping count on how many times I heard the term “joven” in each country and if all Latin Americans are equally as nice to older people as they are to younger folks with the term.
At least here in Mexico, I’ve noticed it like tonight that folks are generous (even with older folks) when it comes to saying “joven.”
At any rate, that’s all I got to say.
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