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What ‘Puro’ means in San Antonio

Learn how San Antonians use this Spanish word

Fiesta medal attire

Fiesta medal attire? So puro.

Photo by @medalsandmargssa

We already know y’all love learning local grammar. But there’s another word we love that we didn’t get to talk about — and it’s puro San Antonio.

Let’s start with the basics: puro is a Spanish word meaning “pure” — literally clean or uncontaminated, as in agua puro. Of course, when you say, “City Editor Adriana’s outfit is so puro,” you’re not saying it’s safe to drink.

Most Spanish adjectives come after the noun. However, some can come before, and they take on a different meaning when they do. In Mexican Spanish (and Latin American Spanish in general), puro can go before the noun to mean “exclusively,” “simply,” or “just.”

OK OK, so we know what puro means — but puro what? That question gets at the heart of what makes this word (and San Antonio) so special.

In the example from before, puro was the only Spanish word in an otherwise English sentence. Linguists call this “code-switching,” or “the process of shifting from one [language] to another” (even mid-sentence). It’s a result of language contact, when speakers of one language live in close proximity to speakers of another language. Code-switching has received prejudice over the years, but it’s actually a major part of how languages naturally change.

So what? So it means that puro gets right to the heart of Alamo City’s identity as the largest Hispanic-majority city in the US. 44% of San Antonians speak Spanish. Code-switching lets Spanish speakers represent their Hispanic identity even when speaking English.

And that’s what puro means: It’s a way of expressing identity + pride in being San Antonian. Puro San Antonio is a Sunday morning with barbacoa tacos and Big Red. It’s Chicken on a Stick at Fiesta. Saying puro is… well, puro.

Since the word stands for deep roots + local pride, it can be hard to define (although we encourage you to send us your best shot) — but if you’re reading this, you may already know. Stay puro, San Antonio.

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