Dear Mexican: Our graphic artist walked out off the room pissed the other day, because the publisher asked my opinion about a Cinco de Mayo advertisement they were planning to publish (and did end up publishing). The graphic showed a row of chickens with sombreros. The publisher asked if I thought it was funny or racist. I said, “Racist.” Later, when they decided to publish it anyway, the proofreader (who is black) had the same reaction—it was funny, but it was racist because it played on stereotypes.
The graphic artist, who is white, took offense over the observation that the advertisement was racist, asking me if I boycott Mexican restaurants that display sombreros. I don’t go to many Mexican restaurants—not because of the stereotypes, but because the food is usually watered down to fit the taste buds of gabachos.
Anyhow, my question is: Is it me, or do people of non-color just not get it?
Dear Pocho: The biggest problem here is that your graphic designer thought putting sombreros on chickens for a Cinco de Mayo celebration was clever. He’s not racist; he’s just a lazy pendejo who deserves to get fired for his incompetence.
But to your point: Of course gabachos will never think that their stereotypes of Mexicans are racist—but a lot of Mexicans also think stereotypes of Mexicans are hilarious. Hell, how else do you explain the popularity of this column, or of George Lopez—who just happens to own the TV rights to this column? Come on, George: Let’s get this fiesta started with tequila shots in a Canadian casino!
It occurred to me that one of the reasons we Mexicans are taking our time reaching our academic potential is an unspoken fear of feminization. There is a phobia that education and the mannerisms that come with it are emasculating. Would you agree?
Brown, Down and No Clown
Dear Pocho: “What a question!” responds the Mexican’s go-to Mexican for philosophical insights into mexicanidad, San Diego State professor William Nericcio, author of the scabrous Tex(t)-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the “Mexican” in America.
“My first reaction was that I was going to write, ‘I absolutely disagree.’ But then the waves of memory hit me, plunging me into a fetid pool of negative nostalgia—in Laredo, Texas, growing up, I can’t count the times I was called out as a joto, a maricón or a ‘fucking puto’ for doing well in school (and this was in a pretty well-respected Catholic high school). Now, Laredo in the 1960s and ’70s was not progressive when it came to gender politics, and you can guarantee that the homophobic labels tossed at me and other bookheads was a form of linguistic emasculations. The only thing that really saved me was that my love of rock, alternative media and comic books gave me some breathing room.
“I am really thrown by this question—I don’t think it is so much a “fear of feminization” as much as it is an embracing of a macho ideal that will have no truck with books (because women were not spending so much time with books and learning, either). Feo, fuerte, y formal was the mantra of Northern Mexico and South Texas—a world of ranchers, negocio and heat (always the heat). To be ugly (think Charles Bronson), strong and formal (which means you have your shit together, solid—not necessarily formal, in the English sense), was an ideal that left no room for bookish indulgence.
“This is a great, great question—as evidenced by my inability to answer it well!”
Hey, Nericcio: I don’t pay you the big shameless plugs for a half-assed answer! Shall I go find another scholar at Scholar Depot?
Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!