Dear Mexican: Some time back, you discussed the Chivas soccer team. This reminded me of my time in San Francisco’s Mission District, when the traficantes would whisper, “Chiva … chiva,” (pronounced “chee-ba”), as I walked down 16th Street. At least that’s what it sounded like. When I asked someone what it meant, they said, “stuff,” which seemed plausible enough. Now it’s baby goats?
I know slang etymology is often hard to pin down, but why is heroin referred to as chiva, if that’s the right word?
My Only Animal is a Chihuahua
Dear Gabacho: Don’t ask me; ask my pal Sam Quinones, the greatest-ever reporter on Mexican immigration to the U.S. and its effects on both countries, and author of the magnificent new book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.
His response: “Oooh estimado, that’s no goat they’re offering for sale. That’s black-tar heroin. Chivas are indeed a soccer team, and chiva means goat—the meat that goes into that delicious birria and barbacoa that the folks from Jalisco and Michoacán make so well. But on the street, it’s slang for that sticky, semi-processed kind of heroin that looks like rat crap, and tends to block up all your arteries and then pretty soon, you get infections and gangrene, then flies start buzzing the infected area, and trust me, no one wants to talk to you after that. So you want to stay away from the chiva those heavy breathers are offering on the street. They’re supplied by our traficante friends from northwest Mexico, whom we have to thank for the decapitations and wanton massacres of late. Stick with the barbacoa. It’ll just get your fingers messy.”
Perhaps immigrants need a bit of a public-relations boost. Instead of being portrayed as parasitic foreigners who siphon off taxpayer money, shouldn’t someone point out that they believe in America, and want to be part of a free nation built on American principles? This may go a long way toward integrating the immigrant population and reducing resentment, sí?
Dear Gabacho: While I’m sure you’re asking this from a good place in your corazón, this is the exact sentiment expressed by Know Nothings like Donald Trump—you know, his bullshit: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Fuck it: Let’s celebrate all the “bad” Mexicans who come into this country without papers. Let’s celebrate people like my dad, who came to this country with a fourth-grade education and is the proud papi of four college graduates—three of them with master’s degrees. Let us now praise the people savvy enough to not only escape la migra, but then make a life of themselves in los Estados Unidos outside of immigration law. The supposed losers of society are the people who made this nation, from former slaves to Jewish refugees to the Yellow Menace, homesteaders and yes, Mexicans.
Besides, when we do highlight the absolute best that Mexican immigrants we offer—undocumented college students—those same Know Nothings like Trump just dismiss them as illegals.
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!