Last week Fulano blogged about Don Alejo Garza Tamez, the rancher who died defending his property from a drug mafia that wanted to take it over.
Don Alejo has become a folk hero in Mexico. He is more famous than President Felipe Calderon right now. There has even been a corrido [ballad] written about him, which you can hear playing in this video. The video recounts the story, in Spanish, of the events described in Fulano’s blog linked above. The speakers in the video speak slowly and clearly, so students of Spanish should understand the storyline. If not then follow the story in the link above.
“Don” is not the man’s first name. His given name is Alejo and his family name is Garza Tamez. In Spanish, Don is a title given to a gentleman or a person of royalty. The feminine version is Doña. It is not a title that is earned easily or treated casually in Latin countries. If you are ever introduced to someone who is called Don or Doña, be sure to be respectful and deferential and refer to that person with the title Don or Doña, as the case may be. It would be insulting to be too casual when speaking to a Don.
While the word “Don” translates as “Mr.” it is not used precisely the same way. “Señor” is also “Mr.” or “sir” in Spanish. One refers to a Don with the title and his first name, or the title and his entire name, but never with Don and just the family name. For example, “Don Alejo” is a proper usage, as well as “Don Alejo Garza Tamez.” But “Don Garza” or “Don Garza Tamez” is not a proper usage. To refer to someone by his last name only, one would say “Señor Garza” (or Señora or Señorita, as the case may be.) By the way, there is no equivalent of the title “Ms.” in Spanish.