Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Note: The Mexican has been deported from his job at his home paper, the OC Weekly, because he didn’t want to lay off half his staff, so we’re re-running a column from a few years ago.

Like any good Mexican, he'll return next week with some news. In the meanwhile, enjoy a bacanora for him, porfas!

Dear Mexican: I'm 39. My stepdad—who raised me—just died. This freed my mother to tell me (my stepdad always forbade it) that the man I thought was my biological father all this time is not. The man who IS my biological father is Mexican … totally (e.g. both of his parents were Mexican). He was married twice, and had seven kids (five with the first wife, two with the second) other than me. It appears I was conceived during his first marriage, as he remained married until his death from leukemia in 2008. He was a Hispanic leader in my metro area and even ran once for mayor.

What does finding out that I am half-Mexican mean for me? I don't have a meaningful relationship with the man I thought was my biological father. In fact, this news is quite a blessing to me. But I'm kind of paralyzed by it all. Any suggestions?

Brand-New Bewildered Beaner

Dear Half-Wab: Man, where’s Cristina Saralegui when I need her? The most important thing for you right now is to not blame the Mexican ethnicity of your dad for him having abandoned your mother and yourself—I hope and trust that you know pendejos exist in all cultures. I would also talk to your mother about why she held that information from you all your life, as I’m sure it’s upsetting. Was she ashamed she once shacked up with a Mexican, or was it an abusive relationship? Once you’re able to work out the personal part of your discovery—seriously, get at peace with yourself and your mami—then you can move on to the ethnic question.

The pregunta to then ponder is this: How does finding out you are part-Mexi feel? Are you ashamed? If so, make sure to tell others that your dad was “Spanish” and make sure to hide the truth from your children, just like your parents did from you. Are you proud of your newfound nopal en la frente? Then ease into your mexicanidad. If you have an English-language name with a Mexican equivalent, Hispanicize it—become a Juan instead of John, or a Rogelio instead of Roger. Wear a cinto piteado, but cover it up by not tucking in your shirt. Say “Latino” instead of “Hispanic,” as you currently do.

Finally, if you don’t care either way that you’re Mexican? Do what all other crypto-Mexicans do: Only become Mexican to get the secret house salsa at your local taqueria, or when the United States faces off against Mexico in soccer.

Dear Mexican: Why do Mexicans use the streets as a playground, their driveway as a futon and the ditch as a trashcan? I live across the street from 100 percent pure Mexicans who do all their entertaining on the street, making the vehicles drive around them. Is this something taught to them at birth, or is there a class given to them at the prepa (what they call high school)? I just have the need to know.

Vecino de Mexicanos

Dear Neighbor of Mexicans: Crap labor and crappier living conditions for immigrants in America waltz together like Astaire and Rogers—remember slaves and their shacks, Okie farm workers in California's Central Valley during the Great Depression, and the Jewish and Italian peons that stare balefully into Jacob Riis' camera in his monumental 1890 exposé of New York's tenement slums, How the Other Half Lives.

The immigrant high-density blues continues with Mexicans: According to The State of Housing for Hispanics in the United States, a 2005 study prepared by Carlos Vargas-Ramos of New York's Hunter College, 12 percent of Latinos live in overcrowded housing (defined as more than one person living in a room), compared to 2.4 percent of the general population. Add to that the fact that Latinos usually live in neighborhoods bereft of parks, and be lucky your Mexican vecinos play in the street and not on your lawn.

Better yet, be a good neighbor, and join the pachanga!

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!

Published in Ask a Mexican

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!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: My wife and I chose to adopt children instead of having our own. We were living in Costa Mesa at the time, so we put down white or Latino as a preference, but were open to any ethnicity. We ended up adopting six—all Latino. It wasn’t until after we brought home a 7-year-old boy (now 15) that we were told that he was a Mexican citizen, abandoned here in the U.S. for years.

When we started the adoption process, the Mexican government fought hard to get him back. I did a little research and discovered that Mexico does not seem to want Americans to adopt Mexican children.

I can totally understand why a country would want to keep its children, but in that same year, Mexico allowed only 73 American adoptions, while tiny Guatemala allowed thousands. It pains us when we go with our church to help out at orphanages right across the border knowing that those children want families—and Americans just a few miles away are willing to adopt them.

Gringos Frustrados

Dear Gabacho: One of the reasons Guatemala had such high adoption figures in the last decade—numbering into the miles, as you put it, with more than 4,000 in 2007 alone—is that Guatemala is a poorer country than Mexico, and the government was more than willing to unload poor kids abroad; things got so crazy that the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is no longer allowing adoptions from the country, period.

Mexico, on the other hand, has always been more tight-fisted with its chamacos getting into gabacho hands—a 2011 El Paso Times investigation found “virtually no new adoption requests from Mexico to the U.S. were processed between 2008 and late 2009” due to American, Mexican and international bylaws.

I feel how frustrated ustedes are about the situation, but Mexico and other countries need to guard against child exploitation. On the other hand, them fighting ustedes over a kid already in los Estados Unidos reeks of jingoism—it's every Mexican's mandate to fuck with gabachos at all time, after all. Just pay off those officials with pesos or something, and tell them to vayanse a la chingada.

Dear Mexican: Why is rock en español so mellow? You'd think that with so much injustice, Mexican rock bands would sound angrier.

El Gigante de Anaheim

Dear Anaheim Giant: You’d think so, right? Back in the Mexican’s rockero days, groups like Maldita Vecindad, Café Tacuba, El Gran Silencio and so many more were laying down tracks as political as they were moshable—for crying out loud, death-metal icons Brujería once recorded a song imaging hateful California governor Pete “Pito” Wilson getting assassinated with an AK-47! And who can forget rock gods El Tri singing about wiping their shit-stained culos with the border wall in “El Muro de la Vergüenza” (“The Wall of Shame”)?

But those days are long gone; nowadays, you’re lucky if the latest pop chanteuse even gives a shout-out to the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa. Answer is simple: Maná. Oh, “matando güeros/estilo O.J. Simpson,” where art thou?

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!

Published in Ask a Mexican

I first met Shawn Kendrick back in 2008. We were both working at the Stagecoach Festival for Borders Books and Music; he was a general manager at the now-defunct company.

He showed me a photo of his family: Shawn is white; his husband, Gerald Raye, is black; and they’re the parents of six children.

Just another American family.

I recently caught up with Shawn, Gerald and their children at their home in Murrieta, about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Palm Springs.

I arrived shortly after 3 p.m. on a weekday; the kids had just come home from school and were each given the opportunity to pick something out of the “treasure chest,” a box containing various toys. Raye explained that he’s a seasoned bargain shopper at Walgreens, so he knows how to stock up on items to give them.

The kids are 15, 13, 9, 7 and 5. Their oldest son is 20 and now lives on his own.

Shawn Kendrick and Gerald Raye met two decades ago.

“We met through a personal ad in the Los Angeles Times,” Kendrick said. “The Internet wasn’t like it is now, and there weren’t really all these sites they have now. I had just moved here from Missouri. I was tired of hanging out in bars, and I wanted to settle down a bit, so I put an ad in the paper.”

Raye said he still has the ad that Kendrick placed.

“It was funny how I responded,” Raye said. “I was at work with my best friend, and we used to look in the paper at the ads, circle them, read them out loud to each other, and make fun of them. For that whole week, one ad kept appearing—so I took it and called it. We talked on the phone for two to three months before we actually met each other because of my job at the time.”

As they got to know each other, they learned they were both interested in having children.

“I’ve always wanted children, because I’m an only child,” Raye said. “Starting from the time I was 10 years old, I always said I was going to adopt children. The relationship I had prior to Shawn—we were always going to do it, but every time we went to start, he got cold feet. When I got together with Shawn, we talked about having kids, and he told me that he wanted to have kids, too. On our first-year anniversary, he gave me a card, and it had the foster-care application in it.”

They were living in Long Beach at the time, and they began the licensing process and the training classes, dealing with an agency that mostly worked with gay couples.

“We didn’t know how to start the adoption process, so I thought it’d be good to become foster parents and see how that works out,” Kendrick said. “We became foster parents a few months after that. A lot of people think you can’t do it if you’re gay, (and did) especially 20 years ago. California’s laws have always been very liberal, and they don’t look it as gay or lesbian. … California always let unmarried people do it, and there was never a question.

“It was way easier than we thought. In fact, it was harder when we first went to get our car loan.”

Kendrick and Raye are not wealthy by any means. Kendrick works for Fresh and Easy; Raye stays at home with the children—all of which have special needs.

“People think we’re different, and we’re not,” Kendrick said. “We struggle with our finances; when we sit together at the end of the month and try to figure stuff out, most of our disagreements are over money. With that being said, (the government) doesn’t want that to be the reason you don’t adopt children. When you adopt through the county in California, they’re going to do some things to help you. The children are eligible for Medi-Cal until they’re 21. … You’re also going to get a stipend. You can’t live on that, and you can’t get rich from it, but it sure helps to keep them clothed. They’re also eligible for a college grant.”

All of those factors make it much easier for them to be good parents.

“It allows us to have Gerald stay home,” Kendrick said. “When you have special-needs kids, you have to have someone stay at home. You can’t just parcel them out all over the place. They need the direction you get by having a parent at home. With special-needs kids, we determined we were going to have to make some sacrifices, and one of us would have to stay home. ”

Being an interracial gay couple with children of various races hasn’t always been easy. Raye remembered one frightening instance when he was shopping with his son Anthony, and the fact that their skin colors are different became an issue.

“I was in the dollar store, and he was in the cart with me. I’m shopping the whole store, and as we’re getting ready to leave, security grabs me at the register, and has me with my hands up and pinned against the wall, asking me, ‘What are you doing with this child?’ I’m screaming, ‘Why would I shop in a store this whole time and pay for stuff if I was stealing a child?’ They asked Anthony, ‘Who is this man?’ and he said, ‘That’s my dad.’”

Kendrick said there have been times when they’ve received dirty looks or looks of scorn from people while out in public. However, they’ve also earned a lot of people’s respect.

“People see that (as a gay couple), you’re not having big sex parties, and you’re not having a huge Sunday brunch in your backyard … (and) they see that your kids are the same as everyone else. They see that your kids get in trouble just like all the other kids, that you do homework with them every night, that you go to the school activities—and they see that you’re more normal than they think. We have straight families in our neighborhood who will drop their kids over here and ask Gerald to watch them. We know a husband and wife who are both Marines, and they went away for the weekend and left their daughter with us.”

The subject of race is discussed openly in the Kendrick-Raye household. They teach their children about it and expose them to different cultures.

“We teach that there is no better race than any other race—and that we are one race, all together, in this house,” Raye said. “During Black History Month, we’re all at the parade, and we’re front and center. If there’s a Latin parade, we’re front and center. Our children come from all different backgrounds, and we’re going to know all of them. If there’s a powwow at the Pechanga Casino, let’s all go, because there could be Native American in our bloodline somewhere.”

Published in Features

I was struck by the recent story of a 65-year-old woman who gave up a baby son when she was 19 and unmarried. The story ended tragically: She discovered he had been one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing when he was only 21.

Then I saw the movie Philomena, based on a terrific book by Martin Sixsmith. It’s the lovely story of a woman who sought to find her adopted son after more than 50 years of anguish

Those stories brought home for me how lucky I was to receive perhaps the greatest gift I’ve ever received, about nine years ago.

I, too, had given up a baby boy at birth, when I was barely 18 and unmarried. It was the “dark ages” of the 1950s, when young women had few choices. Most adoptions then were “closed,” meaning no information could be garnered by the birth parent after the legal adoption was completed.

Young women were often consigned to homes for unwed mothers to wait out a pregnancy with the understanding that they would not be able to keep the child. It was a secret we kept, even within our own families, as if it had never happened. But I never forgot, and I spent years agonizing about whether I had made the right decision for that child. Had he been raised in a good family? Did he feel abandoned? Was he loved?

Over the years, I made sure the agency that handled the adoption, Vista del Mar, knew where to locate me in case my son ever wanted to make contact, but I never wanted to push myself into his life. Maybe he didn’t know he was adopted. Maybe he didn’t want to know me.

I found a reunion website where I could register for free, the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISSR), and completed their application form. Their policy is that if they receive an inquiry from both sides, they will let each know of the other.

When my later-born twins, Michael and Susie, were about 16, I thought it was time for them to know they had a half-brother out there somewhere. Michael fantasized about his older brother, deciding his name should be Steven. When Michael’s son was born— my first grandson—he was named Stephen: same name, different spelling. My heart swelled.

After almost 45 years, I got a phone call. It was a Sunday night. My husband answered the phone.

“It’s for you,” he said. “It’s a woman who says she’s a social worker with Vista del Mar.” My heart literally skipped a beat. “Oh, my God,” I thought, “he’s dead.” I always figured that if my first-born died, someone would let me know.

I took the phone, and a lovely woman gave me the news that my son was seeking to find me. She cautioned that reunions go badly sometimes, and that I might want to seek some counseling before contact was made.

“Do you want us to give him your information?” she asked.

“Absolutely! And please tell him it’s enough for me just to know he’s alive, in case the only reason he wants to make contact is for medical information or something like that. But if he’s willing, I would love to talk with him.”

Early the next morning, I got a call from ISSR. They informed me that my son was seeking me through their registry as well.

“Do you want his contact information?” they asked.

I responded by telling them I wasn’t sure why he was seeking to make contact, and that I didn’t want to push myself into his life any further than he might want. “Please tell him that I would be very happy for him to call,” I said—and silently hoped he would.

Not an hour later, the phone rang, and there he was. He spoke in a rush of words, clearly a bit nervous, as was I. He told me about his family, and why he had decided to reach out to find me.

My son is an adult-school teacher who was conducting a creative-writing class. He had given his students the assignment to write about their greatest regret in life. One of his students, an older woman from England, wrote about how she had given up a child at birth and had spent the rest of her life worrying whether she had handed him over to a better life. After the discussion, my son decided to find his birth mother so he could let her know that she had, in fact, made the right decision for him.

Amid his rush of telling me about himself, he dropped into the middle that he was gay and had a longtime partner. I responded by saying, “You couldn’t have chosen a better birth mother!” We both laughed.

We talked some more and decided to meet the following week in Los Angeles, where he lived.

I knocked on his door, full of anticipation and very nervous. When he opened the door, my first thought was: “He looks like Michael’s brother!”

Michael loves to brag that he can eat the hottest peppers imaginable. My first-born grows such peppers in his garden. Other such similarities blew me away. When he proudly showed me his closet, full of animal prints, I knew he was my son!

I had brought pictures of his half-brother and half-sister, and other members of my family. He proudly showed me pictures of his family. His father had died a few years before. It was his mother who had given him the information that allowed him to find me.

After our first meeting, he scanned some of the family pictures I had brought and inserted himself into them. He found beautiful poems written by others who had been through similar situations and shared them with me.

A few months after our initial contact, he was able to meet Michael and Susie here in Palm Desert. We were having drinks in a restaurant when a couple sitting at the next table offered to take a picture of us all. The man asked, “Are the two boys twins?” We all laughed.

Not everyone who reaches out has a positive experience. In my case, I’m grateful to no longer live with the doubt about whether I did the right thing. He had a much better life than I could have given him.

In my letter of thanks to ISSR, I wrote: “My other children are thrilled that they have the chance to know their half-brother after so many years of fantasizing about him. If you don’t already know the story, my other son had made up a name for his ‘brother’—calling him Steven. To then find out, so many years later, that my adopted son’s name IS Steven was almost more than we could comprehend!”

My holiday wish for others who have gone through a similar experience is this: Never lose hope. Share your stories—miracles can happen!

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Dear Mexican: About six years ago, my wife and I adopted a little baby boy. He is “pure” mestizo, and we are complete wabs. I’m a little dark because of my mixed Arab heritage, but my wife is a major league blanca.

He is a sweet little gabacho growing up in the wab world. I don’t mind getting the looks when we go to the taqueria in the barrio or even major league stares when we take him on our trips to Mexico. And I can handle the questions from dumbass wabsters. But I worry about the little guy growing up confused, angry and lost because he is the odd boy out. I tell him that the blood of the Aztec warriors and the conquistadors runs through his veins, and, of course, he kicks whitey’s ass on the soccer field. But all that seems rather inadequate.

How can I help him keep in touch with his gabacho roots while living the relatively privileged wab life? Help me, Mexican: This little guy is the light of my life, and I want to do right by him.

Wabdaddy in Texas

Dear Wabpapi: You sound like a wonderful man, but tienes your ethnic terms wrong.

A wab is a nickname Mexican Americans in Orange County use to deride unassimilated Mexicans—think “hillbilly” in the gabacho context. A gabacho is a gabacho—in other words, someone of the gabacho race, the race that wants to deport wabs, not love them. I use wab and gabacho in my column for satirical purposes, and to teach gabachos new words, so you must’ve misread their meaning.

You want to teach your niño to keep in touch with his wab roots, and live the privileged gabacho life (at least the nice parts, not all the nasty racist crap). Etymological concerns aside, I’m sure there are a lot of Tejanos who are more than happy to direct you to art, music, books (buy libros from Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, porfas), and cultural programs that’ll teach your son about his proud heritage. Just don’t get them talking about the Alamo, and all will be fine!

I’m a judeo (notice I don’t call myself a gabacho) en Norte California, and after driving 1,800 miles to visit mi padre en Texas, I was surprised at the outrage over Mexican drivers in los estados unidos who don’t have a Texas (or wherever else north of the border) driver’s license. Does the USA not recognize foreign driver’s licenses? If they do, isn’t it simply an insurance issue, and, if so, couldn’t this whole silly problem be fixed by having car-insurance companies offer cross-border policies? I know that the idea of getting into an accident with an uninsured driver is frightening, but couldn’t this be fixed if Geico (or whomever) sold norteamericano policies? Is there a law preventing this that I’m unaware of?

Confuzzled Judeo en San Francisco

Dear Judeo: That’s a novel concept—distinguish yourself from gabachos because your tribe definitely ain’t them! Even more novel is your idea of having American authorities recognize foreign driver’s licenses in lieu of American ones. While wonderful and common-sense, the only problem is a matter of bureaucracy and jurisdiction.

The United States doesn’t recognize foreign driver’s licenses per se, but rather something called an International Driving Permit, which must be acquired in a person’s home country before coming to the United States. Since figuring out how to drive legally is usually the last thing on an illegal immigrant’s mind, most Mexicans are caca out of luck on that one.

Furthermore, you have to apply for a driver’s license in American states once you establish residency there, even if you were previously registered somewhere else, whether in el Norte or abroad. In the case of Mexicans, their Mexican driver’s license would only work for so long—and even if they’re here illegally, la licencia de manejar from Mexico won’t stop la migra from deporting your ass.

Best bet? The burro.

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 ask him a video question at!

Published in Ask a Mexican