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Jotos and 41s

Main Piece: In Spain, they call gay people “Jotos” because of a jail cell. Jail cells are either numbered or labeled by a letter , and until recently, when gay people went to jail they used to put them in cell “J”. Don’t ask me why, ‘casue I don’t know, that’s just the way it was. Now cells are numbered with much more complicated digits because of the increasing number of criminals, but back then, the cells had normal numbers to label them: 1, 2, 3… Again, they used to put gays in cell 41, maybe to keep them away from everyone else. That’s why 41 is the gay number in Spain. It’s like when people in America laugh when someone uses the number 69. If someone says the number 41 or something, it’s pretty funny here. And not only that. In some of the most conservative parts of the country, the number is seen as obscene, and some hotels even take it out of its room numbers, like the number 13. That’s why if you’re gay, the call you a Joto or a 41. It could be used both as an insult or a sign of affection, but they can call you this even if you’re not gay as an insult.

Background information about the piece by the informant: Jordi was raised in Mexico and resides in Madrid and claims to hear people being called Jotos and 41s on a daily basis. He knew that Jotos were gay people because they are also called that way in Mexico, but didn’t know about the 41s. He asked about that to one of his close friends, who told him the story.

Context on the piece: Although there is no recorded reason to why gay people are called Jotos (Jota is the Spanish pronunciation of the letter “J”), there is one about the number 41, which actually originated in Mexico. Apparently, in 1901, there was raid in which 41 men were detained for showing up in women’s clothing. This was reported by the contemporary press and became a scandal during the conservative years of president Porfirio Diaz. The new reached Spain and they adopted the insult.

Thoughts on the piece: Considering the recorded history of using 41 as an insult for homosexuals, it shows how history still has an effects on the present. This is something that happened over 100 years ago, and not only that, but people in Spain have adopted the insult and gave it their own story. To goes to show how the folk from a culture can appropriate even insults to serve their own purposes, and as Jordi says, most of them believe that the term originated in Spain. Not everyone knows the story behind the terms though, showing the disregard of the history of certain words that might be offensive to an entire group because of their past which is also present in American culture.

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