Why are Mexicans called "Wet-backs"? What the hell does that mean?

I know its a racial slur to Mexicans but whats the history behind the name? And who the hell are making these stupid names up?

38 Answers

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  • TY
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Here is the etymology of the racial term "wet-back": in the 1940s Mexicans were labelled wet-backs because they swam the Rio Grande to get into the US.

    US Border Patrol began using the word in 1944 to refer to illegal Mexican immigrants who were easily identifiable by their wet clothing.

    In 1954, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service made the word "wet-back" official by naming the mission to remove illegal immigrants from the United States ("Operation Wet-back").

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  • john
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    That's a Texas term for illegals that enter the country by swimming across the Rio Grande, hence the term "*******." In California or Arizona the term would just be "illegals." But realistically the idea that it's racist is debatable. Cesar Chavez used it, so would many of the Hispanics that speak perfect english and run San Antonio and are millionaires. It is a certain class of Mexican that hops the border and is trashy and immoral. Now that's not everyone, and the people who it isn't would probably just be called "migrant workers." There are people that cross the boarder, that work hard and do good things. There are also these other people in that are crazy cave people--"hillbillies," would be the white equivalent, that will rape any woman, even rape a man or kids, steal anything not nailed down, shoot you, stab you, in a gang, pimp women, brutally violent and must be killed to be stopped, racist and looking for any opportunity to slit anyone's throat and take their money. And there is no surprise Hispanics and other people have a name for those people because they can't be trusted. I dont know where the come from in Mexico either, maybe they are like the people that live in dumps there, all their lives, though I suspect those people are too poor to cross the border. Anyway I suspect they are from a different background that the other illegal Mexicans that cross, have morals, work hard and within a generation or two are either middle classed or maybe even wealthy, usually. I've know the two kind. Both often start out in the fields or doing odd jobs, but the immoral ones end up in crime and the moral ones end up in legitimate business. And you can tell even when they're in the odd job which ones will be which, and that's probably due to a different background in Mexico. If you've ever known unabashed white trash you know what I'm talking about, there's a difference, and those people have no problem killing white people, just like wetbacks will kill Hispanics. I'm not talking about county folk or the poor, I'm talking about meth manufacturing types that live in trailer parks or maybe wherever they can move to and drive other white people crazy. I had one as a neighbor a little while ago and I'd rather have regular people of any race compared to that piece of criminal $ h ! +, and you can't blame people for feeling like that with wetbacks.

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  • 1 decade ago

    It didn't start out as a deragatory name for Mexicans, but merely as a word to classify those Mexican citizens residing in the U.S. that illegally crossed into the U.S by crossing the Rio Grande, getting their back wet in the process. The term saw official use by the U.S. Government in 1954 with "Operation Wet back." This operation was mounted by Pres. Eisenhower to remove about 80,000 illegal immigrants from the southwestern United States, with a focus on Mexican nationals, in an effort to crackdown on the illegal immigration that was becoming prominent at the time (not that it has been much on the decline since).

    Because the term presently can be construed as racist or stereotypical, as it is now associated with Mexican and Central American illegal immigrants in general, it has become deragatory.

    Note: Yahoo is not letting me type Wet back as one word here.

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  • # one
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Wet-back is a derogatory term for a Mexican or Central American who is in the United States illegally. The term is based on the presumption that the person in question swam or waded across the Rio Grande to get into the United States, getting their back wet in the process. "Wet-back" may also be used as a blanket term to describe anyone of the Mestizo race, although this is less common. The English term was first used in 1920s and saw official use by the U.S. Government in 1954 with Operation Wet-back. It is used interchangeably with the Spanish term, mojado. The Spanish-language translation espalda mojada – or, more tersely, mojado – is used in a similar sense by Hispanic Americans.☼

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/*******_(slur)

    In the source above put in the word Wet back with a capital W and make it one word where the ******* is. This site will not let me use the word as one word.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The most common answer is that illegal aliens come to the United States by swimming across the Rio Grande. (They got their backs wet in the process.) Since many are Mexican or passed through Mexico, the name stuck to the Mexicans. I have also heard from a few people that it refers to the illegals that work in the fields. (Their entire body gets wet from sweat, and since they are hunched over picking crops, you see their wet backs.) The first example, however, is the most widely accepted reason.

    • dennis3 years agoReport

      Why can't people just take the education and learn rather than want to be called the million dollars when they're a dollar

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  • 1 decade ago

    The term is a reference to them crossing the Rio Grande river to get into the us. Originally it was not so much a slur as simply a way of referring to new immigrants. A way of pointing out that they hadn't been here very long. Similar to referring to a young person as being "wet behind the ears".

    It became a slur as a means of denegrating them and hopefully discuraging the illigal grossings (and we see how well THAT worked). Personally, hey anyone that wants to come here more power to them and if they can get in under the radar then score one for MY side...

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I don't know who invented the racial slur, but it originated in Texas around World War II. The phrase was used to describe how migrant laborers swam across the Rio Grande River to work in the Texas and other portions of the southwest United States to fill the labor shortages created due to the war efforts.

    After the war many Americans refused to do the blue collar jobs (now filled by the Mexican labor force) that they once did in the depression era. And the term "wet-back" took on its present-day negative connotation.

    Source(s): Sociology class I once took.
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  • 1 decade ago

    It is given to all Mexicans but accurately, it refers to the illegal Mexicans. When illegals cross the border they have to get in the Rio Grande and swim. They get wet as do their backs so they are called wetbacks. I don't know who came up with the name.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Wetbacks is a derogatory term of address to Mexicans referring to them crossing illegally into the United States by swimming either via river or ocean and then having "wet backs". I don't know who made it up.

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  • 1 decade ago

    There is a very long river between Mexico and Texas called the Rio Grande. When they swam across they got wet. People can make even the most innocent of statements cruel.

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