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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Dear Mexican: I was reading an article about lowriders being modern pieces of art, displayed prominently in museums around the world. Having grown up in Española, N.M., I felt a sense of pride coming from the “Lowrider Capital of the World.”

My question is: Where did the lowrider phenomenon begin? Española may be the lowrider capital, but I have my doubts it began there. It’s a small town, and was even smaller in the 1950s. Do you have any interest in writing a little history piece? I think it would be an interesting piece, given the lowrider’s place in pop-culture and Mexican origins.

Low and Slow in Nuevo México

Dear Pocho: Española is a great little town that I visit every year on the way to the Santuario de Chimayó—but lowriders didn’t begin there. It’s only known as the Lowrider Capital of el mundo because NPR’s All Things Considered supposedly called it that, according to a 1994 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican. (I say “supposedly,” because an extensive archive search—OK, a quick Nexis® query—turned up no such citation.) And I hate to break it to Chicano academics, but lowriders didn’t even begin with Chicanos.

The term “lowrider,” besides being a sartorial adjective in use for more than a century, was first applied to hoodlums of any race, and then became lingo in Southern California kustom kulture—indeed, the earliest references the Mexican could find to cars as “lowriders” is in the classified section of newspapers in the late 1960s, under the heading “Hot Rods.” Telling is a Sept. 13, 1970, column in the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram that mourned the disappearance of greasers (in the rebel sense, NOT the Mexican sense) in the face of the counterculture movement. “He was and is, of course, a low-rider, a cruiser, a hot-rodder, a Levi guy and a hair boy,” the column stated, hinting that the original lowriders were more likely to look like James Dean than a homie from Eastlos.

That’s not to deny that the culture of fixing up boats and bombs, and driving them low and slow, is now dominated by Chicanos—if anything, we appropriated gabacho culture for once!

Dear Mexican: When I take my wife out to a Mexican restaurant, I try to order and communicate in Spanish. My wife laughs, because she says I even change my accent. Am I just a pendejo gringo who the waiters are laughing at behind my back while defacing my beans and rice, or are they on my side and appreciate a cracker trying to sound like he came from the barrio?

Muchos Grassy Ass

Dear Gabachos: Mexicans appreciate it if you try to talk in Spanish, or use correct Spanish terms (“aguacates” instead of “guac,” for instance). Mexicans do not appreciate it if you mimic a “Mexican” accent, mostly because there is no such thing as a universal one. Try that again, and don’t be surprised if your sour cream’s tang is due to the line cook’s crema.

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Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: The St. Louis area is less than 3 percent Latino, and less than 4 percent of St. Louisans are immigrants. This is very, very, low, and it actually makes St. Louis look pretty bad.

Why does everyone here feel like they have a say in the illegal-immigration discussion?

Gaga for Gibson

Dear Gabacho: It gets worse than what you wrote.

Out of the 25 biggest metropolitan areas in the United States, St. Louis is the only one with a Latino population less than 5 percent—and the latest info from the American Community Survey clocks in the Gateway City at a whopping 2.9 percent. I could fit more Mexicans in the cab of my ’79 Ford Ranger than there are in St. Louis.

The easy answer is to presume that the city is muy racist, but it’s also home to the largest Bosnian Serb population in the world outside of the Balkans—and most are Muslims. But it’s easier than that: St. Louis is just a bit more than four hours away from Chicago, the ciudad with the second-largest Mexican community in the United States, a community with roots that go back nearly 125 years. Nothing against the Lou, but why would Mexicans stay in the Jalostotitlán of the Midwest when they can move to the Jerez?

Dear Mexican: Why is it that people in this country seem to think that randomly sprinkling accent marks over something makes it Spanish, rather than realizing that an accent mark marks an accent? Right after reading your column, my eyes fell on an ad for a restaurant serving “authentic Mexican food” including “mole.” ¿Qué cosa? Sounds like a cross between comida poblana and a bull fight!

Diacritical Diana

Dear Gabacho: You know what’s the weirdest thing about this phenomenon? How gabachos will put a tilde over “habanero” to incorrectly turn it into “habañero,” yet always neglect the tilde in “jalapeño” and turn it into “jalapeno.” And then they pronounce their mistakes: “Habañero” in an American accento to the Mexican ear sounds like someone who likes restrooms, while “jalapeno” sounds like someone who likes to pull pitos.

But it’s not a surprise that gabachos do such butchering—according to English, only French is worthy of proper diacritics, while the rest of the world’s language can go jala pene.

Dear Mexican: I’m from Bent, New Mexico (no kidding, and no pun intended), and my dilemma lies in my own idea for a performance piece: To simultaneously transcend all cultural AND sexual borders, I will be in blackface, lip-synching (flawlessly) a rather vocally challenging Sarah Vaughan song, draped in my evening gown consisting of nothing more than the Mexican flag itself. (And plastic, gold high-heels, of course.) As political correctness goes, I understand that it’s OK for a black person to perform in blackface, but is it OK for this brown “mexicana hombre” to go so far? And garbed in the Mexican flag? Will I be offending or enlightening?

Pina (insert “tilde”) Culera

Dear Pochx: Do it in the American flag, and Hollywood will give you a deal—just ask Carlos Mencia.

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Dear Mexican: In my hometown of Playa Larga (Long Beach, Calif.), natives refer to a major avenida in our villa, Junipero Avenue (named for Father Junipero Serra, accused native genocider, a candidate for sainthood—but I digress), as Juan-a-pear-o. There is no “Juan” in Junipero, but that’s how everyone in this town pronounces it. People who reside on that street, real estate agents, residents, business owners—I even heard a former mayor pronounce it that way.

Why do white Americans (and even some Guatemalan Americans) bend over backward to pronounce Junipero as Juan-a-pear-o, to sound as though they know how to pronounce it as a Spanish speaker would, yet it is the most garbled malapropism of the word (which should be pronounced “hoo-NEE-pear-o”)?

Hombre Blanco de Playa Larga

Dear Gabacho From Long Beach: I’ve gotta say that in my lifetime of living in Southern California, I’ve never heard nadie pronounce Junipero as you say people mispronounce it—the malapropism I hear is “June-IH-pear-oh,” a fascinating medley of the proper accent placement on the third-to-last syllable in Junípero’s Spanish incarnation, and a rigid following of English grammatical structure.

This is the wonderful world of the grammatical gabacho colonizing of the American Southwest, where Yankees decided to keep many of the original Spanish names of territories, cities and geographical landmarks, and then Anglicize them—”Tex-as” instead of Teh-haas,” “Loss An-ju-less” instead of “Loce AHNG-heh-les,” or “A-ri-zone-ah” instead of “Hell-on-Earth.” (OK, in fairness to the Sonoran dog, I’m just talking about the parts of the state where Arpayaso and Ducey roam.)

Custodians of Cervantes, of course, cringe at gabachos’ mongrelization of Spanish-language place names, and that’s a beautiful thing: Remember that one of the few cardinal rules of this columna is that language is fluid, and anyone who tries to box it in or get their chonis in a bunch about it is as deluded as Rick Santorum.

Dear Mexican: Why is every overweight, tattooed, goateed, bead-wearing, late-model-Tahoe-driving, non-educated enchilada in Texas a University of Texas fan? Why not A&M or Tech? Or Baylor? (That’s obvious.)

And one more thing: Please stop becoming belligerently drunk and taking it personally when the team on your Walmart 3XL T-shirt loses. You have no personal ties to the team, so quit throwing up gang signs and using profanity in an atmosphere that’s meant to be fun. The drunk 19-year-old college kid means no harm when he screams, “Boomer!” so grow up and get a life.

Frustrated Educated Okie

Dear Gabacho: “Enchilada” as a slur against Mexicans? The 1950s called—they want their ethnic insult back.

As for the fan question: It’s the same reason no one outside of Oklahoma gives a shit about the Sooners. Subway alumni like winners in football, and the Longhorns are the epitome of a winning program in the Lone Star State, while the Aggies, Red Raiders, UTEP Miners, Texas Christian University, the University of Houston and Texas’ many other college football programs haven’t exhibited such gridiron dominance over the years. The Sooners haven’t dominated college football since the days of Barry Switzer—you really expect non-Okies to give a damn about a third-rate university that played in something called the Russell Athletic Bowl?

By the way, your Baylor dig is lost on me. Because Baylor is a private university? USC (the Trojans’ USC, not the Gamecocks one) is private and has more than a few wab alumni. Typical Sooner solipsism—but what else can we expect from a university that named itself after invading illegals? Go Cowboys (both the Dallas and Oklahoma State variants)!

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Published in Ask a Mexican

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.

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Dear Mexican: Why is it that so many gringos/gabachos constantly slaughter Spanish words? Spanish is easy to pronounce (and spell) compared to English. The vowels are always pronounced the same way. In English, vowels vary a lot—which is difficult for new learners. All of the other letters of the alphabet are pronounced the same way, except for a few, such as “J” (guttural-sounding) and “X” (like the aspired “J”). But “H” is always silent; “Y” is like “I”; and double “ll” is pronounced “yah.” And don’t get me started about how common expressions like “vamonos” became “mosey.” Or how “calabozo” became “calaboose,” and “vaquero” became “buckaroo,” etc.

Llamame Frustrado

Dear Call Me Frustrated: Don’t be too hard on gabachos. You simplify Spanish a bit too much—don’t forget that “X” sounds like “ch” when placed at the beginning of words; that we love to elide (you try getting a gaba to translate “No, pos ’ta pa’lla”), and that trilling your “Rs” in rr ain’t exactly easy. In fairness, Americans do know Mexican Spanish, from borracho to chichis to chica caliente to guac, torts, chimis. And the recently concluded World Cup taught American sports fans the wonder that is “Eh … PU-TO!” (“Hey … FAG-GOT!” chanted at the opposing portero after every goal kick).

All other non-Mexicans in los Estados Unidos will slowly learn Spanish as their numbers decline and Mexicans increase—after all, they don’t want to be economically retarded like non-English-speaking Mexicans, do they? Besides, the only gabachos who should already know Spanish are those who live in the American Southwest—they’ve only had about 165 years to learn it, so give them a break.

As far as I can tell, Mexican food is all the same thing, based on one simple concept. Take a tortilla; lay it out; pile it up with meat, lettuce, tomato and maybe some cilantro; and it’s called a tostada. Fold it in half, and now it’s a taco. Roll it up, and it’s a burrito. Throw the burrito in the deep fryer, and now you have a chimichanga. The only REAL choice anybody has with Mexican food, besides the amount of hot sauce, is the tortilla (corn or flour) and the kind of meat.

Is that all that Mexico could come up with for the country’s cooking heritage?

Culinary Boredom in Salinas

Dear Gabacha: Wow, what did tortillas ever do to you? Not only are you pendeja, but you’re retrependeja. For chrissakes, you don’t even know the Mexican-food writings of your hometown hero, John Steinbeck. When he was going around the country while writing Travels With Charley, the Homer from Salinas wrote to his wife that he had prepared a bowl of pozole (he called it “pissoli”), which doesn’t involve tortillas (though it can) or meat (though it can). He also loved Bohemia beer, writing, “Ah, Bohemia beer and the Pyramid of the Sun; entire civilizations have created less.”

Finally, tamales make many appearances in his works, from Tortilla Flat to The Pastures of Heaven and more. Besides, what’s gabacho food if not bread, a choice of meat, and gallons of corn syrup?

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Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: One of my pet peeves: Latinos who pronounce their last names with Anglo accents—for example, Rod-driguez instead of Roh-driguez. I would love it if you’d address this. Personally, I believe we Latinos should educate Anglos on correct pronunciation.

Gomez the Groper

Dear Wab: Before you start correcting Anglos and pochos on how to properly pronounce Hispanic surnames, you might want to take a remedial course—it’s Roh-drEE-gehz (emphasis on the second syllable; hence the use of an accent over the i in Rodríguez). But your question reminds me of a Hollywood story that might just be apocryphal, but it's is a good one.

Seems there was a Mexican who wanted to make it into the film industry as a—take your pick—writer, producer or director. His last name was Torres, and he couldn’t find a gig. Desperate, the man changed his last name to Towers, and he cried all the way to the bank. Moral of the story? While custodians of Cervantes want everyone to pronounce all Spanish words in a way that satisfies the Real Academia Española, people are going to call themselves whatever they want, and change how they pronounce their own names if it makes them feel better. Of course, if a gabacho does it, then we cry racism all the way to the banco.

I dated an illegal Mexican from Oaxaca for almost a year and a half. We would sit in my car on his breaks from work, or go for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. He never wanted me calling him at his work and never wanted me to come to his apartment. He said he didn’t have a phone where he lived, and he was never willing to get to know my family or even meet them. Whenever I would question him and ask him when he was going to spend time with me and my family, he would always say, “next time” or “almost.”

Are all illegal Mexicans this vague? Was he afraid of being caught? He’s lived in the U.S. for almost 10 years. Would you please shed some light on the living arrangements and the lifestyles of the illegal Mexicans and their thought processes?

Gabacha no Comprendo

Dear Gabacha: It ain’t the undocumented part of your Oaxacan that caused him to keep you at arm’s length; it was the man part. Ever heard of Leykis 101? This hombre seems to have followed it to the teeth, so kudos to him—and sucks to be you. Hey, Tom: Blow me up ¡Ask a Mexican style!

I suggest you replace the ¡Ask a Mexican! column (They are a dime a dozen, and don’t we already know by now what they think?) with Ask an Anglo, Social Conservative Male, as we are the new minority, and we are ready to be embraced, welcomed, defended and promoted as a victimized demographic. I volunteer.

Iowan Idiot

Dear Gabacho: Sorry—Hugh Hewitt already took that pendejo gig.

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Published in Ask a Mexican