Dear Mexican: I’ve noticed that many Mexicans have pet birds, and most of the time, they’re obviously neglected. One time, I saw a live parrot in a cage next to a cage with a dead and decaying parrot! WTF?
Is this a Third World thing—an exercise in not feeling bad about another animal’s feelings in order to strengthen minds in some twisted way? Or is it because they have seen so many adults and babies dying of disease that they have no heart for animals? I’ve passed by a house where the family keeps a cockatiel on the front porch day and night. I have never seen these people, but I will bet you anything—anything—that they are freakin’ Mexicans. I mean, it’s still alive, so obviously they keep feeding it, but why own a bird if you are not going to make it part of the family? Don’t they know that birds get more intelligent with more interaction? This is something I feel strongly about, so if you know, please explain this to me.
Güero Para los Pajaros
Dear Gabacho for the Birds: You tilting, bruh? There’s a reason why the Spanish word for pet is mascota—that is, something to have around but not necessarily treat as a human. Gabachos see pets as fur- or feather-people; Mexicans see pets as animals.
But it’s not a Third World thing; it’s class, pendejo—don’t forget that Americans had the same perspective on animals they owned not so long ago. (Cockfighting was still legal in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana as recently as last decade.)
I’m not making excuses, or trying to play down the severity of our treatment of birds: A 2007 study compiled by Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation nonprofit, estimated that 65,000 to 78,500 parrots were captured each year, with about 60,000 of them dead before getting to a buyer, “making this trade terribly inhumane and wasteful.” I can’t blame the gabachos this time, either: The same report cited U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stats that showed about 86 to 96 percent of those captured pericos stayed in Mexico.
Dear Mexican: My mom is very expressive and can say some stupid things sometimes. One night, my family had a holiday get-together, and my brother invited his Chicana friend. My mom was talking, and the word “vato” rolled from her lips; the Chicana friend’s eyes opened wide, and her jaw just dropped.
Is that an offensive word to Mexicans? We’re black, so is it like the N-word to them? What I mean is that some people take offense to the N-word; some think it’s OK to say the word if you’re black; yet others may see it as a form of saying, “What’s up?”
Question From a Black Man
Dear Negrito: You mean is there’s a word that can mean both “nigger” and “nigga” in Mexican Spanish? No word in our idioma is as loaded as those. The closest would be paisa, short for paisano. The full word means “countryman,” but roughly translates as “bro”—but in its paisa form, it can be used as a slur that means “hillbilly.”
That said, some Mexicans proudly use paisa for themselves and reappropriate the term à la nigga.
Quickly: The Chicana got offended because vato (“dude” in Chicano Spanish) is usually associated with gangs. Here’s hoping she didn’t call your mom a mayate …
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