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20 Sep 2017

Ask a Mexican: What Can I Do to Help My Adopted Mexican Son Appreciate His Heritage?

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Dear Mexican: I’m an Arizonan of the anti-SB 1070 ilk who has just adopted an Arizonan 5-year old boy who is obviously (visually anyway) of Mexican descent. I want to do right by my son where his heritage is concerned; I have my own ideas about what that means, but I value your opinion.

I’m enrolling him in a public elementary school that has a Spanish-language program (and hoping that the state Legislature doesn’t kill such things), and have a passing knowledge of some of the pertinent literature. (Among other things, I once produced a radio reading of Bless Me, Ultima for the local station for the blind.) I expect we are destined for difficulties from intrusive questions to downright racism in the future, so my immediate goal is to continue to grow my relationship with my son in such a way that he has no doubts that his family loves him unconditionally. Beyond that, though, I’d be interested in your ideas about what a gringo-raised Mexican child ought to be exposed to in order to have a healthy sense of self and a reasonably sophisticated acculturation.

Expatriate Ohioan

Dear Gabacho: This letter reminds me of Discovering Dominga, a wrenching 2003 documentary that appeared on PBS’s POV series and dealt with a Guatemalan girl named Dominga who was adopted by an Iowa family after she survived the massacre of her village (and family) by the Guatemalan military during the 1980s. Her adopted parents changed Dominga’s name to Denese and raised her to be a Midwestern girl; it worked mostly fine, until Denese became an adult and began researching her past, which tore her new life apart even as it healed her inside.

Discovering Dominga’s overarching question was whether full-scale assimilation was smart in the long run for everyone involved, and I agree. You’re at least off to a good start: You’re not negating your new hijo’s ethnicity, and you’re going to stand against the haters. But the best advice I can give you is to let your son grow into his ethnicity. If he wants to identify only with his gabacho parents, that’s OK; if he eventually wants to rename himself Xipe, that’s OK as well.

The important thing is to love him for who he is—and remind him to NEVER stay at a Motel 6.

Dear Mexican: At every family gathering, my Mexican family brings out a bottle of tequila to toast something. Indeed, my Mexican mother drank tequila until she was 77 years old.

My question is: What is it about tequila that brings families together?

Herradura Blanco for Me, Por Favor

Dear Gabacho: TEQUILA!

Dear Mexican: Why do Mexican men always tuck in their T-shirts? Do they believe this will clean up their dusty, sweaty, overworked appearance?

The Mick

Dear Mick: That, and any loose clothing at a blue-collar job is an accident waiting to happen. Any working man knows this; the fact that you don’t is just further proof of the decline of the gabacho male in los Estados, and why we need more Mexicans to Make American Men Great Again.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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