About a week ago I happened to be in San José, California (the acute accent in the city’s name is official), and while there I picked up a copy of the local free weekly paper. I noticed an article about something happening in the neighboring city of Los Gatos, whose inhabitants were referred to as Los Gatans.

Los Gatans! What a clumsy formation! But then I realized that, since moving from Berkeley three months ago to the nearby city of El Cerrito, I have probably become, at least officially, an El Cerritan. I checked local publications and found out that that, indeed, is the standard designation.

In the 1950s I lived in Los Angeles. At the time the most common term for the city’s inhabitants was “Los Angelean,” until the city council officially adopted “Angeleno”, based in the Spanish angeleño, at a time when tildes (and acute accents) were not readily available to American typesetters or typists. (A vestige of this lack is still found in crossword puzzles, where a clue like “Spanish year” is meant to refer to ano, the Spanish word for ‘anus’.)

Spanish has many possible endings for what in that language are called gentilicios (the corresponding English word “gentilic” is not widely used, nor is the alternative “demonym”). Besides -eño there are –ino, -ano, -ense, -esano (these last two often appended to a Latinized version of the place-name), -és, -ero (especially common in the Caribbean region), and possibly others. Thus, the people of the Andalusian cities of Sevilla, Granada, Córdoba and Málaga are known respectively as sevillanos, granadinos, cordobeses and malagueños. An inhabitant of Havana (La Habana) is habanero, which is also the name of a variety of chili pepper (the strange American habit of calling it “habañero” — tilde overkill! —  notwithstanding).

But the ending most likely to be used when the base is a common noun is -eño. So, while the people of Buenos Aires are formally known as bonaerenses (Latin!), the more usual term is porteños, based on the fact that the city is a port (puerto).  In the Spanish town of El Palmar (palmar = palm grove), the inhabitants are palmareños. And those of the Colombian city of El Cerrito (cerrito = little hill) are, naturally enough, cerriteños. There must be some cerriteños somewhere in Spain as well, since Cerriteño exists as a surname.

The reason that angeleño was available as the basis for Angeleno was that Los Angeles was the seat of a Franciscan mission, and it was common practice in the 19th century to name Indian tribes for the nearest mission – thus Diegueños (San Diego), Luiseños (San Luis Rey), Juaneños (San Juan Capistrano), Gabrielinos (San Gabriel) and so on. But, to my knowledge, only Los Angeles took advantage of this practice to name its inhabitants.

If the people of Los Gatos choose to call themselves Los Gatans, rather than Gateños (as the people of Gata in Spain’s Cáceres province are called), that isn’t my business. But for myself, I would rather be a Cerriteño than an El Cerritan.

One Response to “Cerriteño”

  1. More tilde overkill « Coby Lubliner’s Blog Says:

    […] tilde overkill By Coby Lubliner In a post of mine of a few months ago, dealing with the Spanish names for the inhabitants of cities, I noted […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: