Dear Mexican: I’ve seen black homeless people and white people homeless. How come I’ve never seen a Mexican or a Chinese person being homeless?
Get a Pinche Job, Bum
Dear Pocho: I can’t answer for chinitos, because the most Chinese thing about me is my love for an orange chicken/chow mein/brown rice lunch combo. But you’re falling into the same trap that many Mexicans fall into on Facebook: Namely, saying that Mexicans never go homeless, because they’d rather sell oranges and flowers on street corners than hold up a sign begging for food like a lazy gabacho.
The answer is more complex than a pinche meme. Percentage-wise, Latinos are over-represented on a national level: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found about 20 percent of homeless people are Latino, just a tick above the 17 percent of Latinos who make up the American population. But the survey doesn’t break down the Latino homeless—whether the population is more immigrant or assimilated, Salvadoran or Mexican.
A better indicator of whether Mexican immigrants are less averse to homelessness is in a 2015 study by the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty at the Weingart Center, examining the homeless community in Los Angeles County. It found that Latinos (who make up 47 percent of L.A. County’s population) accounted for only 33 percent of homeless. More tellingly, “about 14 to 18 percent of homeless adults in Los Angeles County are not U.S. citizens, compared with 29 percent of adults overall,” suggesting undocumented Mexicans would rather hustle than live outside.
But there’s nothing to brag about here—don’t be a heartless pendejo, and help out the homeless, regardless of raza.
Dear Mexican: Why aren’t there more Mexicans in outdoor-type jobs? I’m referring to camp guides, naturalists, river rafting guides, etc. My theory is that the outdoors haven’t always been a safe space for us, and most times, that is where we were working, not relaxing.
Tomás but Not a Tío
Dear Tom but Not an Uncle: A 2009 survey by the University of Wyoming and the National Park Service (NPS) found that Latinos (read: Mexicans) actually made up the largest percentage of minorities who visited national parks—a whole 9 percent! And pochos like you are even rarer: only 5 percent of NPS workers were Latinos (read: Mexicans).
This aversion to the gran outdoors is logical, actually. Gabachos have the luxury of enjoying backpacking for weeks at a time and rafting down the Withlacoochee. (Quick aside: Since this Florida river sounds like huitlacoche, it is this further proof for armchair Aztecs that the Nahuatl empire went all the way to the Sunshine State the way it extended to Michigan, aka Michoacán.) Mexicans, meanwhile, view nature much the way Manifest Destiny did: something to tame, not to revel in.
The Mexican has many fond memories of spending days with his Papa Je in the beautiful cerros of Zacatecas—but that’s to find logs to chop down for his campesino life. Once he came to el Norte, there’s no way my grandpa—or I, or most non-assimilated Mexicans who knows rural life—would want to camp on purpose.
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