‘Chilango’ – Meaning / In English

In short – ‘Chilango’ is an extremely popular colloquial demonym used to refer to residents of Mexico City. If you ever travel to Mexico, you’re sure to come across it at some point or another!

But why are people who live in Mexico City dubbed ‘chilangos’?

To be honest, nobody knows!

Yep, that’s right, ‘chilango’ is a word that’s sure to give even the most seasoned of etymologists a headache, but there is one thing they DO all agree on …

… and that’s the fact that people started to use chilango during the first half of the 20th century as a way of associating specific behaviors with people coming from the Mexican capital (often in a not-so-friendly manner!) and, well, it stuck!

It’s actually still quite a controversial term, just maybe not in the way you’d expect.

Curious? Well, keep scrolling and let’s dive into all the different uses of ‘chilango’!




Uses / Meanings of ‘chilango’

 ‘Chilango’ can be used in the following ways –

  • To refer to someone from Mexico City

  • To refer to someone living in Mexico City

  • To describe the behavior of people living in Mexico City

  • To refer to anything related to Mexico City


To refer to someone from Mexico City

There’s actually still some debate as to what exactly being a ‘chilango’ entails.

Does it refer exclusively to people born in Mexico City, or does it include the more than three hundred thousand people who migrate to the capital every year?

Being honest, I don’t feel I’m qualified to weigh in on the debate, but MANY people use ‘chilango’ in both senses!

Here are some examples –

Manu – Wey, ¿por qué tu coche tiene placas de Puebla?

Sam – Es que es el carro* de mis papás.



Manu – ¡Órale! Yo pensé que eran chilangos.

Sam – Sí lo son, pero ahora viven en Puebla.


Manu – Dude, why does your car have license plates from Puebla?

Sam – Because it’s my parents’ car.



Manu – Wow! I thought they were Chilangos.

Sam – They are, but they live in Puebla now.

*Erika’s top tip – most chilangos use coche when referring to a ‘car’, whilst people from other states often prefer to use ‘carro’ instead.


To refer to someone living in Mexico City

As I mentioned previously, ‘chilango’ is used to refer to residents of Mexico City too.

Mirna – ¡Ahora eres chilango!

Diego – Pero si yo soy de Zacatecas…

Mirna – Sí, pero vives en la Ciudad de México.



Mirna – You’re a Chilango now!

Diego – But I’m from Zacatecas …

Mirna – Yeah, but you live in Mexico City.

To describe the behavior of people living in Mexico City

Oftentimes being ‘chilango’ is more a state of mind …

If you don’t believe me, ask a Mexican to describe a ‘chilango’; they’ll be quick to point out any beliefs, attitudes, gestures, and actions that they believe to be typical of those living in Mexico City.

Raquel – ¿Por qué estás tan apurado?

Vicente – ¡Mira la hora, es tardísimo!

Raquel – Ya pareces chilango: estresado todo el tiempo.



Raquel – Why are you in such a hurry?

Vicente – Look at the time, it’s so late!

Raquel – You’re acting like a Chilango: stressed all the time.


En un puesto de garnachas

María – ¿Me da una quesadilla con queso, por favor?

Óscar – ¡Pues ni modo que sin queso*! ¡Ya pareces chilanga!



At a street food stand

María – Can I have a quesadilla with cheese, please?

Óscar – It can’t not have cheese*! You’re acting like a Chilanga!

*Erika’s fun fact – underneath the seemingly peaceful façade of the Mexican culinary world there’s actually an ongoing civil war between Chilangos and people from other states as to whether or not quesadillas have cheese in them!


To refer to anything related to Mexico City

And ‘chilango’ isn’t used exclusively to refer to people!

A place, a specific dish, or an activity … well, they can all be ‘chilango’ if they happen to be from or in Mexico City.

Antonio – Tengo antojo de una guajolota.

Victoria – ¿Qué es eso?

Antonio – La torta más chilanga que hay: una torta de tamal.



Antonio – I’m craving a guajolota.

Victoria – What’s that?

Antonio – The most chilango sandwich there is: a tamale sandwich.


Dos foráneos visitando el Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México

Marisol – ¿Y sí vamos a Café Tacuba?

Jorge – ¿La banda de rock?*

Marisol – No, no. Es un restaurante chilango de más de un siglo de antigüedad.



Two foreigners visiting the Historic Center of Mexico City

Marisol – How about we go to Café Tacuba?

Jorge – The rock band?

Marisol– No, no. It’s a chilango restaurant, more than a century old.

*Erika’s note – “Café Tacvba” is a very popular rock band from Mexico City. Check out their song “Chilanga Banda” if you wanna learn some VERY chilango slang!



By the way, if you wanna top up on your Mexican slang, you NEED to check out our “Master Guide” … it’s everything you need to know all in one place 👇🌵🇲🇽

Erika pointing to the word "Mexican Slang Master Guide"



Chilango’ pronunciation

Let’s break down this word into three syllables:

  • ‘Chi’ sounds like ‘chee’

  • ‘Lan’ is said like ‘lahng’

  • And ‘go’ sounds like ‘goh’

/ chee-lahng-goh /

Is ‘chilango’ offensive?

‘Chilango’ isn’t considered an offensive word BUT do bear in mind that calling someone ‘chilango’ because of the way they behave – as in the examples above –, however innocent or funny, is a form of stereotyping and could potentially be deemed offensive depending on context.


What is the ‘chilango’ accent like?

Many people outside of Mexico City agree on one thing: ‘chilangos’ have a distinct accent.

It’s often said that Chilangos ‘hablan cantadito’, so it sounds like they’re ‘singing’ the final syllable of words, usually in a somewhat high-pitched voice.

This phenomenon is thought to derive from some of the sounds in the Náhuatl language (one of the MANY indigenous languages here in Mexico).

Ironically, I’ve met many Chilangos (including my wife!) who think that ‘Norteños’ (people from the north of Mexico) ‘hablan cantadito’ too …

The ‘fresa’ (‘strawberry’) or ‘mirrey’ accent is also extremely common and is generally associated with privilege/wealth. Some people think that possessors of a ‘fresa’ accent have a ‘papa en la boca’ (or a ‘potato in the mouth’).

In reality there are many different types of accents in Mexico City, from the so-called ‘barrio’ accent to a more “neutral” way of speaking, which is probably the case in all megalopolises to be honest.


Similar expressions to ‘chilango

Chilanguito/a

This is the diminutive form of ‘chilango’.

Mi bebé va a ser chilanguito*.

My baby is gonna be a Chilanguito.

Chilanga banda

This is the one of the most famous songs by Mexican rock band Café Tacvba.

It literally means ‘chilango gang’ and it’s also another way to refer to people from Mexico City.

Háblale a la chilanga banda, a ver si quieren visitarnos el fin de semana.

Call the Chilango gang and ask them if they wanna come visit for the weekend.

Defeño

Prior to 2016, Mexico City was also known as the Distrito Federal (or D.F.), and ‘defeño’ was another way of referring to its inhabitants.

Although it’s no longer considered a Federal District, don’t be surprised if you hear people using this expression still.

Mis papás son defeños, pero yo nací en Mérida.

My parents are from Mexico City, but I was born in Merida.


Final thoughts

I hope this comprehensive guide to all things Chilango comes in handy the next time you hang out with your Chilanga banda (or Mexican pals)!

Oh, and if you wanna keep improving your Mexican Spanish skills, make sure to check out our article on all the different uses of the word onda!

¡Hasta pronto!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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