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According to the Real Academia Dictionary, this word can be traced back to 19th century Carlist Wars in the form "guiristino," the pronunciation of Basque-speaking Carlist forces of the name of their enemies, the Cristinos (after regent Queen Maria Cristina).
"Guiri" is used by the inhabitants of Reus for visitors from near the city of Tarragona. It is also widely used as a depreciative term by inhabitants of the Balearic islands, Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca, as well as the Costa del Sol, for pale visitors usually from European countries. A brief web search of the term "los guiris" is sufficient to see its widespread use, although a depreciative term in some areas, in many Spanish sites and even local TV and Radio.[original research?]
Finally, there is a theory that it derives from Moroccan Arabic gaouri, which in turn stems from Ottoman Turkish gâvur.
The term guiri is street slang used to describe what is considered to be the stereotypical tourist or foreigner from European countries to the northeast of Spain and the Anglo-Saxon sphere. An alternative slang for Anglo-Saxons is "langosta" (lobster), rising from the often red-faced appearance of visitors after spending time in the sun.
It entered the Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española in 1925. When a ""guiri"" would be the term used by the opposing political parties of the time, later to be exclusively used for the Guardia Civil and Policía Armada (Armed Police) under the Francoist régime. The term mainly limited to Barcelona in years of suppression following the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) when large numbers of Police were brought into the city to repress the Catalan population. Use of Catalan in the mass media had been forbidden by the so called ""Guiris"", but was later permitted from the early 1950s in theater form which marked the start of the decline in its usage.
Another local use today of the term guiri started in late 1990s in the city of Reus, Spain, started from the late 1990s when the city of Tarragona declined and the shift in importance for business and commerce turned to the expanding area of Reus. The importance of Reus and the use of the term Guiri for those living in Tarragona was further altered in perception after the battle over the high speed train AVE station in the province of Tarragona. Both cities campaigned heavily for the station to be in the limits of their cities, Reus being the favorite, due to the expansion of the Reus Airport. But at the last moment the ""guiris"" of Tarragona surprised all parties concerned and won the right to place the station in Camp de Tarragona north of the province. The location is a 21.3 km drive to Reus, 11.2 km drive to Tarragona and 13.5 km to Reus Airport. This compromise of placing the AVE station literally in the countryside away from all towns and cities in the region, has led to the station having little or no visitors. The term "Només un guiri pensaria així", which translates to; "Only a Guiri would think in that way", was continuously used as a form of protest against the supposed madness of the idea.
The use of the term guiri by the Spanish is becoming widely accepted as a descriptive term for foreigner or outsider. For example those that get sunburned on the first spring sunny day are considered "guiris".
In India and Pakistan the word "ghauri", which probably comes from Turkish "gâvur" or Arabic "gaouri", has a similar meaning.
- The Spanish Republic and the civil war 1931-39, by Gabriel Jackson, New Jersey, 1967
- Marc Howard Ross, "Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict", page 139. Cambridge University Press, 2007