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01 Mar 2017

Ask a Mexican: What Does It Mean When My Co-Workers Call Me 'Cabron'?

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Dear Mexican: I work at a Mexican restaurant where the majority of the workers are, you guessed it, Mexican. I hear the word cabrón all the time, but each time I ask what it means, no one has a definitive answer. I’d like to think that they’re not bullshitting me, and that it doesn’t exactly translate well.

Is it really that hard to explain, or are they just making fun of my whiteness? Help a güero out.

Phatbudz

Dear Gabacho: There is a literal definition to cabrón—”male goat.” But even the Real Academia Española doesn’t care much for that that meaning, relegating the ruminant to the sixth slot in the word’s dictionary listing. Above that definition: “said of a person, of an animal, or of a thing: That does bad things or is annoying,” “said of a man: That he suffers from his wife’s infidelity, and especially if he consents,” and more. Mexicans get the fifth tense—”Said of a person: of bad character”—but, as usual, Castilians don’t know shit about Mexicans.

You don’t want to call a stranger in Mexico a cabrón, because it means “asshole” in that context. But among friends, cabrón is used as a form of respect (“Él es cabrónhe’s a badass) and as a meme (go find the one of an old paisa in a tejana smoking with the legend “No pos … ta cabrón,” which chipsters use when they’re wowed by something).

If your Mexican co-workers call you that, take it as a form of respect—at least they’re not calling you “Trump,” amiright?

Dear Mexican: I was wondering why no one really talks about Mater Dei High School fucking up Santa Ana for all the Mexicans. I mean, we can’t cruise anymore?

I went to high school there, and now I’m at Columbia University. While I was at Mater Dei, no one, including the lucky Chicano students from the neighborhood who went there, made a fuss about expansion and gentrification—not only around that nasty sore thumb of a campus, but around Santa Ana’s downtown, too. I mean, I guess I’m as guilty as the next mexicano. I lived most of my life a block from Memorial Park. Here at Columbia, Harlem residents are doing something, and some student “allies” are helping out.

Seriously, güey: Why don’t Mexicans make more noise about their dying, gentrifying community?

Fresita

Dear Pocha: For my non-Orange County readers: Mater Dei is the largest Catholic high school west of the Mississippi, an athletic powerhouse that also was one of the largest pedophile priest-and-coach factories in the nation, a fact alumni always try to forget. (I don’t, since its legendary boys basketball coach, Gary McKnight, once threatened to sue me because he didn’t like my coverage of his dealings with an assistant who molested students.) Mater Dei is in Santa Ana (pronounced and spelled “SanTana” by the natives), a muy-Mexican city that has seen mucho gentrification over the past decade. Chicano activists across the country are fighting gentrification in their barrios (shout-out to Defend Boyle Heights!), but let’s turn this on the gentrifiers.

Gentrifiers: where y’all at in the fight against deportations? You’ve only had, like, 25 years to join, but I guess ustedes would rather toast your good life with another Modern Times Oneida—CHAVALAS!!!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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