Ask a Mexican: Wouldn't the People in Some Parts of Mexico Want Their States to Become Part of the U.S.?February 15 2017
Dear Mexican: My parents were born in Mexico. I was born in Dallas, Texas. This makes me a first-generation American, right?
So, if my best friend’s dad was born in Mexico, and her mother is a Chicana born in the United States, does this make her a first-generation American or a second-generation American?
Dear Pocha: In the eyes of the current attorney general, both you and your friend are Mexicans. ¡Trucha!
Dear Mexican: When do you think Baja California and other locations in the madre-land with lots of American expatriates will become U.S. territories, or better yet, states? I would be very eager to live in a beautiful coastal area surrounded by people with nice cars and the world’s most powerful military to back them up. I think the Mexicans would, too.
Dear Gabacho: Be careful what you wish for. If the United States and Mexico ever went to war, snowbirds like yourself would be the first people targeted by Mexicans. Don’t believe me? Ask the Chinese during the Mexican Revolution. You’d better make plans to move to Costa Rica, Nicaragua or whatever other Latin American country gabacho retirees like to set up colonies in nowadays where they refuse to learn Spanish besides “gringo,” “cerveza” and “Soy americano.”
Dear Mexican: Why do Mexican women, who are basically good drivers, turn into morons when they turn into the Walmart parking lot?
Also, here in New Mexico, you get the guys who sneer at you, pull into traffic in front of you at the last possible second, and then slow down to 15 miles an hour. I’ve never seen this anywhere else. Are they Mexicans or just those “I am Espanish!” assholes showing off their inferiority complex?
Dear Pocho: With all due respect, EVERYONE turns into a moron at the Walmart parking lot—hell, at Walmart, period. However, I surprised while researching your pregunta when I learned how relatively few Mexis shop there.
A 2014 study by Kantar Retail found only about 10 percent of Walmart shoppers were Latinos (read: mostly Mexican), with raza preferring Dollar General and Family Dollar stores, by far. I guess it makes sense: Mexicans prefer swap meets and yard sales when looking for low prices.
But the stats are incomplete: In a graphic, Kantar excluded New Mexico. They gave no reason, but I know the answer, which also answers your queja about slow-driving men: The Land of Enchantment is where all preconceived notions about Mexicans go to claim they’re pure-blooded Spaniards going back to Cabeza de Vaca—but definitely not related to Estevanico!
Dear Mexican: What is the deal with Mexicans and their fear of U.S. banks? A recent home invasion netted robbers $2,000 that the Mexicans who lived there were using for their next house payment. When I mentioned this to a Mexicana friend, she told me she was once robbed of the $15,000 she was keeping at her apartment for a house payment. Doesn’t word reach the wabs from their relatives in El Norte that U.S. bank accounts are insured to $100,000?
Huero in the Barrio
Dear Gabacho: Ask Washington Mutual.
Dear Mexican: When Americans retake California from you low-IQ Mexicans, should we call it the Reconquista? Why don’t Mexicans (and blacks, for that matter) understand that when they move into a white neighborhood because it is such a nice place to live, they will turn it into a bad place by their presence? Why don’t Mexicans understand we don’t need or want them, and they will be replaced by automation? Would Mexicans welcome a U.S. invasion by God-Emperor Trump in order to replace their corrupt elite with decent right-wing Americans, who will rule competently? Where will Mexicans go when Diversity+Proximity=War becomes true? Mexico doesn’t seem to want them, either.
Your New Master, Same as Your Old Master
Dear Gabacho: I talked to one of your kind last month for about a half-hour over the phone, until his Bolivian wife told him to hang up. I told him the biggest issue I had about anti-Mexican arguments—you know, besides the blatant racism—is the lack of sources for the right’s pathetic claims. Same with you: Just ’cause you and Steve Bannon say something is true doesn’t make it so.
And here you come proving my pinche point. A 2013 Reason article tracked IQs among immigrants of previous generations and concluded “modern Hispanic immigrants seem to be no stupider than the immigrant ancestors of other Americans.” Yay! (And before you trot out stats insisting that the IQs of Mexican Americans don’t increase with generations—ask them if they’ve tracked the same among poor gabas in the South.)
Mexicans turning gabachos neighborhoods bad? Read USC professor Jody Agius Vallejo’s magisterial Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class, which debunks both Know Nothing AND yaktists who say Mexicans must remain perpetual peons across generations. Automation? Ask the Rust Belt how robots have treated gabachos. Benevolent conservative rulers? Ask the Rust Belt how right-wing Americans have treated gabachos.
And as for that last neo-Nazi dog whistle—here’s where the stupidity and insecurity of your movement gets exposed at its worst. The United States is the greatest country on Earth because multitudes of immigrants like Jews, Italians, Russians, Irish, Asians Mexicans and, sure, even some “whites” came to make the U.S. great. The only people who freak out about diversity are gabachos who keep fearing that Mexicans will ISIS them once we’re the majority, and who don’t bother to realize most Mexicans would rather see the Oakland Raiders move to Los Angeles than kill whitey (except Roger Goodell and Tom Brady).
You know the one thing Mexicans truly don’t like about gabachos? Their propensity for excuses and whining like CHAVALAS.
Dear Mexican: I’m an American and have a Mexican boyfriend of one year. He doesn’t seem to want his family to know anything about our relationship. I do know he doesn’t have another girlfriend, as I visited him in Mexico while he was there. I saw his house and his family, but he explained me as a person who works with him. It’s true that I work with him, but there is so much more to the story that he doesn’t want to share.
Is he a private person, or am I his dirty little secret?
Gone Gabacha Girl
Dear Gabacha: When it comes to gabachos, Mexican men have a hard-set rule before they introduce them to the fam: two years, or two kids. The choice is yours!
Dear Mexican: I’m a wetback myself; actually, in the eyes of a gringo, we are all wetbacks.
I’m sick and tired of the political caca about illegal immigration. The gringo government knows and very well understands the pluses and minuses of our vatos’ economic effect to the U.S. economy. The ones who don’t get it are the blind people who don’t like our drunk culos.
It seems that a lot of people e-mail you about “Mexicans coming over here ruining our system,” or, “They’re putting a burden on our healthcare,” and a whole host of other stuff are like that. Then they follow up with some (pardon my language) stupid, dumb shit like, “The wall will keep them out.” It seems to me that they really don’t understand the real problem (or solution) here.
Peeved in Plano
Dear Pocho: Ya think? As I’ve been saying in this columna for more than a decade, the only thing that will stop Mexican immigration to this country is a fundamental economic change for both sides of la frontera: the end of the free economy in el Norte, and the end of crony socialism in Mexico.
Trump and his Trumpbros know this but don’t dare attack either system, because they’re all in the same swamp—that’s why we’re now getting the wall, which will prove as effective in stopping Mexicans in coming over as a tissue paper is in stopping the flow of the Rio Grande.
But you know what? Let Trump build his wall. It’s going to fail and embarrass him. And even if it succeeds, it’ll create a revolution in Mexico, which means millions of refugees will easily tear down that wall and settle in Aztlán once and for all.
Be careful what you wish for, Trumpbros: It just might marry your daughter.
Dear Mexican: Quisiera saber si las Americas eran gluten free before 1492. No soy foodie; solo un campesino/cocinero curioso.
Viva El Corn
Dear Paisa: You want to know whether the Americas were gluten-free before 1492, and the answer is ahuevo.
Wheat came—along with beef, pork and pestilence—with the wasichus; before that, Mexicans mostly ate fruit, vegetables and whatever game meat they caught, something that most gabachos and even Mexicans don’t realize as they scarf down a carnitas burrito washed down with Bohemia. (What: You thought that lager was named after Cuauhtémoc’s son?) That’s why I’m all for gluten-free hipsters and Mexicans alike going beyond what they consider “Mexican” food and embracing an all-raza diet of nopales, frijoles, squash, corn, purslane and so much more.
And lest the primos think anyone who wants to forsake chicharrones and chorizo in favor of a vegetarian lifestyle is a Prius-driving chavala, get yourself a copy of Decolonize Your Diet: Mexican-American Plant-Based Recipes for Health and Healing. Written by professors Luz Calvo and Catrióna Rueda Esquibel after Profe Calvo was diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s part cookbook, part history, and a magnificent toma, güey to any gabacho who thinks Mexican food’s default setting is Montezuma’s Revenge.
Dear Mexican: Recently at the local Northgate market, I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that said “MEXICAN” followed by a clarification: “NOT Latino: Latinos are Anglo Europeans from Italy. NOT Hispanic: Hispanics are Anglo Europeans from Spain.”
I may be crazy, I’m pretty sure the words for those two descriptions are “Italian” and “Spanish.” Do I need to start telling my family members that we are actually of Latino descent? What’s the proper term so I don’t refer to all such people as “Mexicans” like an asshole?
Dear Gabacho: Don’t pay attention to that T-shirt; it’s the mindless droppings of a group of yaktivists who long ago declared your beloved Mexican the biggest vendido in Aztlán, beating even Carlos Menstealia and Paul Rodriguez.
Mexicans are Latinos in the way Americans are North American: an identity of convenience, not a matter of the corazón. The only time Mexicans use “Latino,” like Americans with “North Americans,” is when trying to group themselves with other people based on perceived shared traits: language for Mexicans, countries involved in the Monroe Doctrine for Americans. Other than that, “Latino” and “Hispanic” are labels with about as much use in the daily lives of Mexicans as condoms.
Dear Mexican: In the 1820s, the Anglos were coming to Texas (which at the time was under Mexico’s control) for the rich farmland. When doing so, they violated the empresario land system, and brought slaves despite Mexico’s outlawing of it.
So my question is: Do you think the current immigration issue is simply a matter of, “What goes around, comes around?”
A Curious Anglo History Teacher
Dear Gabacho: More like, “Agua que no has de beber, déjala corer,” which translates as, “Water that you shouldn’t drink, let it stream by.” In other words, gabachos should’ve never drunk from the fountain of Manifest Destiny or cheap Mexican labor, because now they’re faced with either total Reconquista, or a collapse in their standard of living once cheap Mexican labor and imports goes adios.
This brings to mind another aphorism: Be careful what you wish for, because it just might park its car on its front lawn …
Dear Mexican: My girlfriend and I have had a standing argument about what some of my relatives call me. My cousins’ children call me “tío,” and I say I’m their uncle. My girl argues that they are really my second cousins, and I’m really their cousin, too. I can see her point, but she’s a gabacha and doesn’t understand that they refer to me as their tío out of respect for being older. All our white friends agree with her, but all our Mexican friends agree with me.
So who’s right?
El Tío Primo
Dear Cousin Uncle: Que chingada do gabachos know besides how to despoil the environment and kill indigenous folks?
But they’re technically correct on this: According to gabacho conventions, the children of your first cousins are called second cousins, while your children and them are first cousins once removed, whatever the hell that means.
I still say gabachos should be like Mexicans on this one: Even though the technical term for a first cousin is primo hermano, we usually use that to refer to any second cousin or third cousin thrice removed—basically anyone and everyone younger than us in our family.
Anyone older? tío. Anyone evil? Trump.
Dear Mexican: I was wondering if you could shed some light on the debate on whether 29 percent of Mexicans/Hispanic voters really voted for Trump, or whether it was much less, like other polls show.
The Poll y Voces
Dear Pocho: Exit polls are like the PRI: full of shit, full of money and incredibly pendejo yet dangerous. But I’ve been mucho amused by Latino organizations, political scientists and all Trump-haters attacking exit polls that showed nearly a third of Latinos going for Cheeto Dick. Instead, they’ve pushed their numbers, which unsurprisingly show raza voting for Hillary Clinton in overwhelming numbers against Donald Trump.
It really doesn’t matter: The point is that not enough of us went out to vote against Trump, and more than a few Mexicans voted for him for reasons I’ve stated in this columna: We like strongmen; the more macho the better.
Even more importantly, a lot of Mexicans didn’t vote for Hillary for reasons ranging from her being a mujer to her pathetic Hispandering to her being a Clinton to her uninspiring platform to her being the worst lesser-of-two-evils since the days music fans had to pick between Thalia and Paulina Rubio. Latino yacktivists need to acknowledge we’re not all knee-jerk libs, and that’s OK.
Oh, and #fucktrump.
Dear Mexican: I wrestled in high school (badly), and have always had a love-hate relationship with professional wrestling. On the one hand, I love the sport, but I hate what they have done to it with all the scripted outcomes and over-the-top clown-show antics. That said, the wrestlers do turn in some amazing performances, and make real sacrifices of their bodies (not to mention their personal lives, like any type of performing entertainer).
Luchadores, however, are sheer brilliance. While they have their share of hamming it up, their performances are like a testosterone-fueled ballet. Even if you don’t find the whole mascara culture fun (Hey, who doesn’t want to be a superhero?), it’s impossible to ignore the amazing, high-flying gymnastics these guys put on. While I am happy that Rey Mysterio found popularity in the U.S., I am concerned that the WWE may screw up a good thing with the popularity of the rudos.
Can you help?
Viva Lucha Libre!
Dear Gabacho: I gotta admit: I haven’t religiously followed pro wrestling since the time Stone Cold Steve Austin made Kurt Angle wear a tiny tejana. So I asked my cousin, who said that WWE SmackDown Live had a recent storyline in its women’s division with a masked wrestler going by La Luchadora sneaking into matches to raise desmadre. That’s not surprising, given lucha libre masks are now a given at nearly every sporting event in the United States thanks to Nacho Libre and Rey Mysterio, who is past my time but is apparently a chingón of some sorts.
Cultural appropriation? Nah, gabachos just trying to hide their feo faces.
Dear Mexican: Why is Mexican Spanish so maligned by the rest of the Hispanic world (even Dominicans!)? It doesn’t make any sense to me, but am I making a mistake in learning Mexican-accented Spanish?
No Puedo Usar Accentos
Dear I Can’t Use Accents: Have you ever talked to Colombians? At some point, they inevitably say that their Spanish is the best in the world, that someone from the Real Academia Española said it was so, and therefore, it’s true. While I like Colombians (they’re as happy and drunk and angry as us Mexicans, and they gave the world cumbia), that’s an urban legend as preposterous as the one that maintains the husband of a jealous lover murdered Javier Solís.
It’s true that the rest of Latin America trashes Mexican Spanish for supposedly being lower-class than other Spanish varieties, but EVERYONE trashes everyone’s Spanish. Argentine Spanish gets mocked for being wannabe Italian; Cuban and Puerto Rican Spanish gets grilled for being lightning-fast garble. Peruvian Spanish is supposedly too soft-spoken; Central American Spanish is considered backwater for their continued use of voseo (the second person singular pronoun vos).
Even Mexicans make fun of each other’s Spanish. Guadalajara natives are notorious for saying “O, sea” (the fresa version of “I mean, like”); rural folks are ridiculed as sing-song chúntaros. Mexico City is so large that two Spanishes are ascribed to it: the matter-of-fact tone of capitalinos (the rich) and the hilariously vulgar babadas of the chilangos (the poor). And all Latin Americans trash indigenous folks for not even knowing Spanish, period.
So learn Mexican Spanish—that’s the one the majority of Latinos in the U.S. speak, anyway. And my vote for the best Español? Chilean Spanish, cachai?
Dear Mexican: A dear friend of ours has married a Mexican man, who is now our dear friend. They have invited us to his sister’s wedding in Mexico.
By North American standards, we barely know her. We would love to go, but we want to be sure that it is appropriate. What is expected of an acquaintance in this circumstance?
Vivacious for Vallarta
Dear Gabacho: You do realize Mexico is part of North America, right? Let’s start with knowing basic geographical facts about the host country before visiting it. It’s pendeja gabachas like you who make hotel workers continue to shove toothbrushes up their culos, then take pictures of that ass affront with the smartphone you left in your room while you’re getting drunk at the pool bar from your fifth Adios Mother Fucker.
Dear Mexican: I was wondering: What the origin is of so many Mexican-food restaurants having the word “Agave” in it?
#3 Combo, Extra Sour Cream
Dear Gabacho: “So many”? Betcha more Mexican restaurants get named for the owner’s hometown/home state, or tacos, or they use a -berto’s suffix than there are restaurants using “Agave.” But the word offers a fascinating insight into the history of Mexican-food restaurant aesthetics.
They started getting named after the mother plant of tequila back in the 1980s, during the Southwestern cuisine craze. Back then, chefs overloaded on Southwestern signifiers—agave paintings and silhouettes of howling coyotes and Kokopelli, mostly—to advertise their “authenticity,” much like modern-day taquerías bump Vicente Fernández on the jukebox, or mariscos spots employ waitress who follow the gospel of #chichischrist and #nalgamedios.
Dear Mexican: What your thoughts are on the use of Lotería cards as decorative elements, specifically when used by people without Mexican heritage?
Lotería cards are beautiful and interesting, but is using an image from the cards without a connection to any specific history, culture or meaning (like on a tote bag or the like) a disrespectful appropriation? Or is it just a fun game like checkers that happens to include some interesting artwork?
Not Columbusing, Just Asking
Dear Gabacha: While gabachos have appropriated Mexican everything ever since they took our cuitlaxochitl flowers and renamed them poinsettias after some pendejo ambassador or other, I’m a bit more lax with Lotería.
While this bingo-esque board game goes back to the 1700s, its most iconic pictograms—like the bare-chested mermaid “La Sirena” or the derelict borracho called, fittingly enough, “El Borracho”—aren’t cultural patrimony so much as the intellectual property of Don Clemente, Inc., a for-profit company. While it’s easy to get mad at gabachos doing their own take on Lotería cards, it’s akin to doing the same with Monopoly figurines. We’re talking about a private, capitalist enterprise here, not la pinche Virgin of Guadalupe.
Besides, Mexicans appropriate ourselves all the time—and if you don’t believe it, ask the tehuanas in Oaxaca how they feel when fresas from Guadalajara steal their steez.
Dear Mexican: If the United States and Mexico go to war, whose side will the Mexican people in the U.S.A. stand on?
Dear Gabacho: Ah, the ultimate Chicano parlor game, one brought closer to reality by our incoming president! It’s all about context. Mexicans here have fought the narcos south of the border for the past couple of years with arms shipments and even brigades, so you’d expect the same if Enrique Peña Nieto announced he’d use his cartel amigos to try to invade el Norte.
If Trump decided to move on Mexico for not trying to build a wall, you’d see a lot of hilarious memes but no uprising, as much as yaktivists would want you to believe. But if Trump starts mass roundups, let’s just say raza won’t take it quietly.
I’d say more, but then the FBI would show up at my doorstep and disappear me to some black site or other for further questioning with Señor Waterboard.
Dear Mexican: I love ¿Qué Pasa, USA? Lots of Spanish, English and Spanglish. Do you know of any other TV shows like it?
Netflix and Chillar
Dear Pocho: Nope. And this is how pathetic Hollywood is: 40 years ago, television was confident enough in a bilingual show about the Latino-immigrant experience that it made a sitcom about a Cuban family that aired nationwide on PBS. Today? They do entire films about Los Angeles, like La La Land, and show a total of one Latino character in the film. Chris Rock put it best: “You’re in L.A.; you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans.”
I’d end on a funnier note, but trying to follow Chris Rock is like drinking Cazadores, then following up with Sauza—and I’m not even as good as Sauza.
Dear Mexican: How come you call yourself a Mexican? By definition, you’re a Chicano, not a Mexican.
A Mexican is a person who was born and raised in Mexico, not beautiful Orange County. A Mexican is a person who is proud of his country and appreciates and respects the Mexican flag, even though he left the country years ago. A Mexican read the free textbooks provided by the Secretaria de Educación Pública during his school years and studied Mexican history. A Mexican is a person who sang the Mexican national anthem every Monday morning while watching six kids carry the flag around. Mexicans know the difference between the more than 150 chiles that exist in our country. Mexicans grew up eating candies with different chiles. Mexicans watch Televisa and Televisión Azteca, not Telemundo or Univisión. Mexicans speak fluent Spanish, not Spanglish. Mexicans came to this country to work hard and have a decent life, not to destroy this place like you and your people believe. Mexicans believe that family and religion are the most important values. Mexicans are not planning to take over California—we are too lazy to even think about it, and we do not believe in wars.
I can go on and on describing the differences between you and me, but let’s just leave it like that. How can you even describe our culture, values or behavior if you don’t have a clue about it? Eating burritos at Taco Bell, going to Mexican parties in SanTana and having Grandma cooking some Mexican dishes doesn’t make you a Mexican.
Dear Wab: Let’s run down your list: check (most of my parents’ rancho had relocated to Anaheim by the time I was born), check, check (my dad’s cousin was a history teacher in Mexico), check, check, check, check (where do you think Univisión gets most of its programming … Lifetime?), por supuesto, check and too late. Add to this my mestizo heritage, the facts that mi papi was an illegal immigrant and I didn’t speak fluent English until I was 6 or 7, and that I grew a mustache in the time it took you to read this sentence, and I’m more Mexican than Pedro Infante.
Besides, who made you arbiter of mexicanidad, Real Mexican? National character is never static, and anyone who claims otherwise is as deluded as a Trumpbro.
Dear Mexican: Why do we always think Mexican men drink tequila and sing mariachi tunes, while the women are pretty señoritas?
Dear Gabacho: Mexicans frequently blame ustedes for perpetuating various stereotypes about nosotros over the centuries, but a big part of the blame also falls on us: During World War II, a time when Mexico’s film industry experienced a renaissance that scholars refer to as La Época de Oro (The Golden Age), Mexican movie studios produced great social tales, comedies and horror films—but the ones that received the most acclaim were the comedias rancheras. They starred matinee idols such as Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete, who meted out frontier justice and wooed the chicas guapas from underneath sombreros—always while guzzling tequila and riding on horseback. The image came from the state of Jalisco, birthplace of mariachi and tequila. “Needing a people who could personify hispanismo,” wrote Joanne Hershfield …
(A note from the Mexican: The answer continues, but thanks to shrinking newspaper sizes in the decade that I’ve wrote this, I can’t fit the whole respuesta in anymore. Support your local alt-newspaper, gentle cabrones.)
Dear Mexican: I recently saw a picture of you in a newspaper article. I was quite shocked: You appear to have more of a European skin tone. However, I guess since your relatives lived in Mexico in the past 200 years, you think of yourself as a Mexican. I guess I tend to think Mexican-looking people have more of that native flavor or color. And your last name is actually Basque, so this makes sense.
Have a good day, my European/Mexican dude.
Macho Man in New Mexico
Dear Surumato: The town of Arellano, Spain, might be in the autonomous Basque country region of Navarre, but “Arellano” comes from Latin and denotes “farm of Aurelius.” And while one part of my Mexican ancestry came from Europe (a mixture of Portuguese, French and Sephardic Jews, since “Arellano” is listed in the Inquisition rolls), the other part is Chichimeca ready to chingarte for your chisme.
Dear Mexican: My grandmother died like all people do, but there was something fascinating that I was able to discover after her time: She was born in Mexico, possibly Vera Cruz. From what I understand, and that may be very little when it comes to American history, it always seems to be a bit cloudy, and this cloudy tradition has been passed down from generation to generation of black Americans. During my lifetime, many questions of our past or ancestral history have been unclear, unlike the Mexican or Asian culture of this great country.
I’m American through and through, California-raised, so I can easily identify with the Latin culture; I also speak Spanish, which was a prerequisite for survival back in the ’70s. What light can you shed on the mystery of Vera Cruz and its relation to Americans or blacks, period?
Constancia—Not Your Tia Concha
Dear Negrita: The way you spelled Vera Cruz, methinks your abuelita was actually born in the towns by the same names in Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all named after the Gulf Coast city in Mexico. But let’s say she was actually born in Mexico—in that case, you’re connected to one of the proudest black traditions in the Western Hemisphere.
Veracruz, the state, is one of two regions in Mexico with a significant population of Afro-Mexicans. (The Costa Chica region spanning the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca is the other.) Near Veracruz, the city, was the first freeman town in the Americas: San Lorenzo de los Negros, created after a colony of ex-slaves led by Gaspar Yanga successfully fended off conquistadors. (A statue of Yanga still stands in Veracruz proper.) The famous singer Toña La Negra came from Veracruz, as did the rhythms of son jarocho.
Even if your grandmother was born in the U.S., it’s better to say that she’s from Mexico: After all, would you want your heritage to go back to some podunk Rust Belt town?
Thanks for another great year of letters, tweets, handshakes and the like. I wish I could tell ustedes I have a new project to shamelessly self-promote—but I don’t. Just the same DESMADRE we’ve had in this columna for 12 years, all thanks to ustedes.
The Mexican is going back to the rancho to spend Navidad, so I’ll be running a Best Of edición next week. Happy holidays—oh, and #fucktrump.
Dear Readers: I turn over a December edición of my column each year to new Chicano-Mexican books you should stuff into a tamale leaf and give to folks so they have something to unwrap.
While 2016 was a horrible year politically, the Santo Niño de Atocha saved it with a lot of amazing titles. Here we go!
Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands, Melissa Mora Hidalgo: I wrote the foreword to this academic-yet-street take on the eternal question: Why do Mexicans like Morrissey so much? Rather than offer tired ivory tower takes, Profe Melissa interviews fans, goes to Mancheste, and talks about her own worship of Steven Patrick. Fun, instructive, SAVAGE.
Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, Sarah Portnoy: Another academic who isn’t afraid of leaving her laptop to do actual research, the University of Southern California professor does everything from talk to celebrity chefs to eaters, farmers to tianguis folks to give insight into the breathtaking scene that is Latino L.A. food.
Give Me Life: Iconography and Identity in East LA Murals, Holly Barnet-Sanchez and Tim Drescher: The University of New Mexico Press consistently puts out chingón titles about the Mexican experience in the American Southwest, but this late release was 2016’s best: a hefty coffee table book documenting the beauty (see the pictures) and tragedy (many of the highlighted murals no longer exist) of public art in East Los Angeles.
The Mexican Flyboy, Alfredo Vea: I usually don’t care for fiction, but I couldn’t put down this fantastical University of Oklahoma Press release. Think Gabriel Garcia Márquez meets Octavia Butler meets Oscar Zeta Acosta.
Uprooting Community: Japanese Mexicans, World War II and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Selfa A. Chew: I always love books that offer a chinga tu madre to gabacho perceptions of what a “Mexican” is, and this smart University of Arizona Press study does just that, examining the rich culture that emerged between Japanese and Mexicans in Southern California. True story: The man behind canned menudo was a Japanese-Mexican from Wilmington, Calif.! Wilmas, presente!
The Tacos of Texas: Homie Mando Rayo and his writing partner Jarod Neece devote more than 400 pages and 300 photos to Texan taco culture, and I’m giving it the highest compliment one can give food writing: After reading just two pages, I was pinche hungry.
Corridors of Migration: The Odyssey of Mexican Laborers, 1600-1933, Rodolfo F. Acuña: For my oldie-but-goodie pick, try this masterpiece by the godfather of Chicano studies. If you want to know why Mexicans ended up where they did in los Estados Unidos, Profe Acuña goes from the era of the conquistadors up to the times of The Grapes of Wrath to unspool a sobering, yet inspiring tale.
California Mission Landscapes: Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid: Here in California, we’re taught in elementary school that missions set up by Catholic missionaries during the Spanish era were necessary to save the Indians; in college, we’re rightfully taught they were basically concentration camps. This University of Minnesota Press libro is of the latter school, but takes on the fascinating prism of gardens to tell its enrapturing narrative.
Barrio Writers, Sarah Rafael Garcia, editor: This annual anthology of pieces by high schoolers enrolled in a nonprofit writing workshop that spans from SanTana to Nacogdoches, Texas, is never a dull read, as authors contribute everything from poetry to first-person testimonials to essays on subjects ranging being undocumented to la vida loca to nerd shit. Buy for the palabras; contribute to el movimiento.