Disreputable Spaniards Versus Middle-Class Limeños: The Coloniality of Speech in Lima, Peru

Diego Arispe-Bazán*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


At the height of the Spanish economic crisis that began in 2008, tens of thousands of Spanish migrants and Peruvian return migrants moved to Peru following openings in an unprecedentedly promising Peruvian job market. Tensions ensued; colonial history came to be more actively discussed by locals as the number of Spanish businesses increased. This article shows that extant notions of “local” and “foreign” emerge from sets of complex characterological figures defined by sign-clusters that index “Peruvianness” and “Spaniardness,” developed to uphold middle-class speech practices as quintessentially Peruvian. Three features are explored: excessive volume, the presence of the phoneme /θ/ in speech, and the perceived excessive use of expletives. Enregistering these features as “foreign,” middle class, nonmigrant Limeños sought to match their actualized upward mobility within the space of the city to the world stage, but in doing so, they ironically repurposed colonial forms of respectability to criticize the behaviors of Spanish migrants and return migrants who they found to be tainted by Spaniardness. This case demonstrates that while the specific colonial aspirational horizon (i.e., directly copying the metropole) may be gone, its ethos remains moored to nationalized ideologies of propriety, respectability, and class distinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-63
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Linguistic Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Latin America
  • migration
  • Peru
  • postcolonialism
  • register
  • rhematization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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