Dear Mexican: I’m a U.S.-born Mexican who spent some of my years growing up in Tijuana.
Why do Mexican Americans from Santa Ana (Orange County) and South Gate (near Los Angeles) always think they’re harder than the rest of us Mexicans, even though their neighborhoods are like 100 times better than the colonia in which I grew up? I mean, they have the Santa Ana Zoo and South Coast Plaza; we’ve got Plaza del Rio, which is right next to a mainline sewer. Please explain the misplaced pride these folks have in their hometowns.
Like George Carlin said, “No one should be proud of where or how they were born,” or something like that.
Confused Border Brother
Dear Wab: Two things here. What George Carlin said was, “I could never understand ethnic or national pride. Because to me, pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own, not something that happens by accident of birth. Being Irish isn’t a skill; it’s a fucking genetic accident.” And while he’s technically correct, ethnic and regional pride is as old and enduring as the paintings at Lascaux—there’s no use in arguing its rationality.
What IS funny, however, is your point about Mexicans who grew up in the United States saying they’ve had a tough life. Unless you’re three days removed from the border and working at one of those tomato-growing slave camps in Florida, you ain’t got it hard. Tough is, as you pointed out, growing up in a Mexican urban colonia à la Plaza del Rio in Tijuana, or Tepito in Mexico City. Tough is growing up like my parents in the ranchos of Zacatecas, picking through cow shit as kids to find corn kernels to cook for dinner. Poverty does exist in the United States, but it pales compared to what people in other countries must endure—and it sure as hell doesn’t compare to the tenement slums of Hell’s Kitchen at the turn of the 20th century and before.
Despite this nation’s current economic malaise, we live in the good times, so if you ever hear some Chicano yaktivist bitch about their rough-scrabble life in some American suburb, make sure to record it: That’s further proof that Mexicans assimilate, because they’ve turned into whiny, entitled gabachos.
After living in London for many years and marrying an inmigrante of South Asian Muslim origin, this Midwestern gabacha involuntarily relocated to Southern Arizona recently with a mixta baby. Despite a few instances of being swarmed by the Border Patrol while out on walks and being detained at border checkpoints, my prieto husband has found America more welcoming than the Paki-bashing culture of his childhood in the United Kingdom.
However, the dulce de leche-tinted baby is often mistaken for Mexican here. People have tried to speak Spanish to her, but sólo habla Ingles, except for Google Translate. How do we handle raising an ethnically ambiguous child in a Latino-heavy culture? I have been told that there is no foreign-language requirement in public schools here, and I don’t think keeping the TV perpetually tuned to Telefutura is a good idea, but we are all strangers in this very strange land.
Tamarindo and Tortillas
Dear Gabacha: First off, for a Midwestern gabacha, you do VERY well with your español—good for you to go with the Reconquista flow!
As for your child: If you’re going to continue to live among Mexicans, you’re going to have to accept that she’s going to turn part-Mexican. Definitely teach her to be proud of her Paki side, and make sure to be a good school mom and teach all those Mexican kids about your daughter’s culture. But the preponderance of Mexis means your daughter will grow up immersed in the culture, learning the words and customs. And that will further confuse people, gabachos and wabs alike, as she gets older: You mean to tell me that someone who looks like a Mexi and talks like a Mexi isn’t one? And that’s a great thing—be proud of the fact your child is one glorious monkey wrench in the pendejada that is ethnic identity, an ossified relic as relevant to today as courting your bride by kidnapping her.