Dear Mexican: Isn’t the acceptance of illegal immigration by Latino politicians insulting to generations of Mexican Americans who paid taxes, built communities and worked hard for their families and their country (military service, public service, etc.)?
Dear Gabacho: Nope, mainly because people sin papeles also pay taxes, build communities and serve. (Google “Jose Angel Garibay OC Weekly.”) But nice try in attempting to pull a Donald Trump by trying to divide and conquer between undocumented Mexicans and “legal” Mexican-Americans. Sure, you’ll always have the stray vendidos insisting what you just babbled—but the stats don’t back up your premise.
A 2014 Pew Research Center survey showed that while the immigration views of native-born, English-dominant Latinos aren’t as Aztlanista as, say, a Mechista, they’re pretty close. On the question of whether they prefer a pathway to citizenship, better border security and enforcement, or a combination of both, 48 percent of U.S.-born Latinos favored the former, while 34 percent liked the latter. That’s probably because 23 percent of them personally knew someone who had been deported in the past year.
Unlike gabachos, whose ancestors got onto Ellis Island then promptly pulled the plank so that the Greeks couldn’t come over, Mexicans don’t forget our roots—and we ain’t hypocrites, save for Eva Longoria.
I want to review a hole-in-the-wall spot that apparently makes the best tacos. Yelp reviewers keep commenting on how run-down the space is, but somehow equate “doesn’t look like much” with the authentic Mexican food experience.
Is this all just pendejadas (my gut says “Hell yes!”), or is there something to it?
Dear Pocha: First off, why are you bothering with Yelp when it comes to Mexican food? Yelp is many things, but a guide to great comida mexicana, it ain’t. This is the site, for instance, where a gabacha once left a one-star review to a Tierra Caliente-style spot in SanTana that offered amazing huchepos (sweet corn tamales), aporreado (awesome Michoacán breakfast dish) and spectacular pozole verde. The restaurant’s sin, according to the pendeja? It didn’t offer burritos—never mind that burritos are as much a part of michoacano cuisine as a Rick Bayless airport torta.
It’s the same prejudice that you describe, although yours is of a different sentido—that “true” Mexican food can’t possibly be high-class, and can only be properly prepared by women named María who slave over a comal grinding out the nixtamal themselves with their pigtails. That’s an extension of the classic American expectation that Mexicans are perpetually in poverty, and it’s bullshit. From Enrique Olvera in Mexico City to Javier Plascencia in Tijuana to Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria in Costa Mesa (named as one of Food and Wine’s 10 Best New Chefs for 2015), Mexican cooks are showing the world that alta cocina is as legit as two-tacos-for-a-buck-with-free-pineapple-juice specials.
What’s the true litmus test of a great Mexican restaurant? Great food—oh, and a calendar from the local tortillería or grocery store with an illustration of an Aztec maiden, of course.
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