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Sun09242017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

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.

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Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I have a Chicana friend who comes from an upper-middle-class family, goes to a prestigious Ph.D. program, and has never had to take out student loans or work a real job—but she is constantly complaining about how “oppressed” she is.

Examples she gives are seemingly trivial things, such as not being called on in class, a professor being mean to her one time, and not feeling “emotionally safe.” She even said my questioning of her micro-aggression stories was itself a micro-aggression! I don’t know what to make of it—hanging out with her is hard, because I have to walk on eggshells constantly.

I know Chicanos and Chicanas who come from objectively worse circumstances and have had way harder lives than she has, yet they don’t act like the world is against them. Does she have a victim mentality?

Gringo Blanco

Dear Gabacho: We’ve got a name for people like that in Mexican Spanish—fresas. Strawberries, because they bruise easily. OK, so the Mexican doesn’t know the actual etymology of the snobbish meaning of fresa, but makes sense, ¿qué no?

Racism against Mexicans does indeed exist in doctoral programs nationwide, and we shouldn’t assume that raza in rarified worlds don’t feel discrimination’s sting. (Just ask George P. Bush.) But it seems like your pal, to use the old baseball phrase, was born on third base and goes through life thinking she hit un triple.

Tell her to work a day as a strawberry-picker to know what the hard life really is. That said, Mexicans who suffer real shit and don’t complain aren’t somehow better than llorones—we’re Mexicans in a racist society, after all, not Jesus pinche Christ. And even He cried on the cross.

Dear Mexican: I am currently incarcerated, and have a one-year subscription to a newspaper that carries your column. I am Chicano, and I’m a fan of your column. I just want to ask you a couple of serious questions, and I hope you can personally respond back.

I’ve been reading up on Mexican history, and I’m a little confused. Why did the Texas Revolution start in 1836 between Mexicans and Anglos? Secondly, how did the Battle of Texas lead to the Mexican-American War?

Pinto en La Pinta

Dear Homie in Prison: I usually don’t answer two preguntas in one shot, but I’ll make an exception for the homies in Chino. Besides, the answer is muy easy.

The Texas Revolution started because Americans hate Mexicans. And the Mexican-American War happened because Americans hate Mexicans. And now you know why Donald Trump rescinded DACA. Oh, and #fucktrump.

BUY THESE BOWTIES!

Enough negativity—let’s do an experiment! Now, more than ever, good Mexicans deserve our support.

An ¡Ask a Mexican! fan runs La Moustache, a Los Angeles company that does chingón bowties, but is agüitado that more raza aren’t buying his handcrafted, classy creations. So show him what’s up! Visit lamoustachebt.com, and place an order or 30. And this ain’t no payola—whenever the Mexican needs to wrap something around his neck for fresa parties, it’s always a cinto piteado tied in a Windsor knot.

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Dear Mexican: How can I get my new Mexican girlfriend to calm down about Trump and being deported?

We safely live in a sanctuary city. I have no intention of just marrying her unless something horrible happens, but I want to help her out. She is a kind, rational human being who simply has bought into the fear-mongering that Trump is instilling in her. While a triple-orgasm might make her feel temporary relief, how can I get her to realize that we are not in a place where she is going to get deported unless she blatantly breaks a serious law?

Good Gabacho Who Gives It Good

Dear Gabacho: Wow, you’re a special kind of pendejo.

Sanctuary-city status doesn’t mean shit to Trump or U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is threatening to cut federal funding to such cities. Sanctuary cities can’t stop la migra from picking up people for no other reason than they’re undocumented. And the Mexican knows of cases where people were deported for riding a bike on the sidewalk.

You aren’t Mexican or undocumented, and you’re obviously some deluded wimp whose gabachos privilege blinds him to his supposed love’s serious concerns. Are you sure you didn’t vote for Trump?

I seriously hope your novia breaks up with you and finds a real hombre who doesn’t have his head up his culo.

Finally, triple orgasm? The only girl you get off happens whenever you download a clip from Pornhub.

Dear Mexican: Over the years, I have worked with, and gone to college with, Mexicans who were usually Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Latter-day Saints or other Christian religions. However, about 10 years ago, I was blessed to work with two Jewish Mexicans.

What is the history of Jewish Mexican culture?

Goyim but Great

Dear Gabacho: A very long story short: Jews accompanied Hernán Cortés in his conquest of Mexico—indeed, the man who built his ships was the judio Hernando Alonso. Alonso was also burned at the stake in 1528 for practicing Judaism, because Spanish Catholics were the ISIS of this day. Due to such terroristic ways, many Jews either hid their religion or moved to New Mexico, as far away from the Inquisition as possible.

Flash-forward 500 years, and Mexico City now has a significant Jewish community, and Mexican Jews have long been accepted in the country’s upper circles, with one of the coolest ones being celebrity chef Pati Jinich.

But not all is kosher: As I wrote in one of my first columnas back in 2004, “For instance, when a Mexican thinks someone is a slob, we call the person a cochino marrano—a dirty Jew. And don’t believe your Spanish teacher when she pulls out the Webster’s and reads that marrano means ‘pig’—Webster’s doesn’t know mierda about Spanish etymology. ‘Marrano’ does mean pig but was also the term used to ridicule Jews who hid their beliefs in order to survive the Spanish Inquisition.” ¡Puro pinche parr!

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Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: Why do so many Mexican women feel so jealous when other Mexican women achieve success? I have to deal with this all the time. Please explain.

A Successful Mexican Woman

Dear Pocha: Because cishet patriarchy—DUH.

Dear Mexican: How do I get over my consciousness about being seen as a “sell-out” for dating a white guy?

I think if I were a receptionist, I’d feel less troubled, but I’m a professional and hate fitting into the stereotype of the successful Latina with the hyphenated last name. Is there any way that a chola from East L.A. and a surfer from Malibu would not be seen as an odd couple?

Loca Pero No Naca

Dear Crazy but Not Trashy: You’re not a sell-out for dating gabachos; you’re a vendida for thinking you’re better than others because you’re a “professional.” A secretary isn’t a professional? Maybe the Malibu crowd thinks you’re a maid, and perhaps the Eastlos crowd thinks your surfer is some hipster douchebag.

Dear Mexican: Why have you all kept Astrid Hadad such a secret? I just saw a show about her, and for God’s sakes! A woman who has a skirt that looks like a huge set of tits? THIS woman really, really needs a bigger audience for her act. Does she ever come to El Norte? Could you ask? Please? She has a wit like a razor for EVERYONE. Pretty cool—if nothing else, get her name out, as she is very cool.

Galloping Gorda the Pavement Crusher

Dear Gabacha: Haddad is a chingona, but there are a bunch of similarly subversive mujeres in Mexican music and performance art, from the days of Lola Beltrán and Gloria Trevi through the late, great Jenni Rivera and Rita Guerrero of Santa Sabina. There’s more to Mexican female art than Frida Kahlo, gentle cabrones.

Dear Mexican: My “Mexican” workmates get very excited to see go see Latin bands. (I say “Mexican,” because some have been here so long, they don’t speak Spanish well.) These people put salsa on the jukebox whenever they get a chance. They clamor for Mexi music at holiday parties. They seem to wrap themselves in the Mexican flag. I’ve seen their record collections, and there is a bunch of classic rock and reggae—but if it has Latin flavor, they’re all over it. They even start speaking with accents. We’re talking post-grad degrees, third- or fourth-generation.

Question: Why can’t they be motivated to see rock or reggae at free shows around town, but get so easily excited about Latin bands?

Bruja in HB

Dear Huntington Beach Witch: Because free rock or reggae shows tend to vale madre.

But I really don’t get your question. So you’re mad that assimilated Mexican Americans like Mexican music? Why aren’t you mad at Italian Americans for worshiping at the altar of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra? Or Southerners for wishing to see bluegrass remain as pure as a mountain spring in the Bluegrass? That’s right: Because they’re not Mexican. To paraphrase the old Annie Get Your Gun song, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”—anything Americans can do, Mexicans can’t, because we’re just illegal alien savages to them. And they wonder why we planned the Reconquista …

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Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I recently relocated from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and am longing for my Mexicans.

As you know, in Los Angeles, it is easy to find amazing Chicanas—whenever I wanted to meet beautiful, intelligent Mexican ladies, I would head to Main Street in Alhambra on any Thursday night and be in utter heaven. But I have not been able to get my bearings in Vegas. Do you have any insight into the Mexican social scene here, or can you offer some advice on where I should look? I would also be interested in learning some history about Mexicans in Las Vegas generally, and their current status out here.

Buscando a Mis Chicanas Desiertos

Dear Pocho: My cousin Raymond moved out to Vegas from La Puente about 20 years ago to find the good life, so you’re not looking hard enough. And once the Raiders relocate there, you’ll have your share of Silver and heinas forever more.

But the Mexican only goes to Vegas to speak every summer at the Latino Youth Leadership Conference (which takes young raza and forges them into future leaders), so I’m not the right hombre to answer your pregunta. So I forwarded it to the homie who first invited me: Edgar Flores, who has been the state assemblymember for Nevada’s 28th District since 2014—BOOM. Take it away, Assembly-chingón!

“More than 30 percent of the Vegas population is Latino/a—I’m guessing you’re spending too much time in Summerlin or Anthem and not enough in North and East Vegas if you don’t see beauties wrapped in bronze skin,” Flores writes. “The Clark County School District is nearly 50 percent Latino. … Seriously, vato, where you been looking? Whole Foods?

“Also, LV residents are so tired of the LA takeover so they keep all their spots hidden, but I got the info on their ‘hideouts.’ If you’re looking for a quickie hit up, Blue Martini on Thursdays, Firefly on Fridays, or Señor Frogs on Saturdays: At all three spots, locals get down to spiced-up music. If you’re trying to keep it straight paisa, then weekends at the Broadacres Marketplace is your spot: Listen to live banda and norteño music; buy some tools; eat mariscos; or open a small business—it’s all there. Seriously, it’s all there!

“Intellectual Chicanas are either kicking ass in their professions or at UNLV. UNLV in 2012 was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution—so you’ll see so many mujeres with a book; you’ll think you are at your abuelita’s house on a Sunday morning during her comadre Bible readings. Good luck, perdido!”

Gracias, Assemblychingón Flores! And raza: He’s one of the good ones. Let’s help get him to higher office, ¿qué no?

Dear Mexican: Why is it that Mexicans pile into the front seat of a truck, even when there is a back seat? I have seen this many times, and I don’t understand why they can’t open the back door and sit back there. Do they enjoy sitting so close together? Is that why they also stand so close to you in lines at the grocery store?

Backseat I Take Cuz He Echoed “Shotgun”

Dear BITCHES: The familia that smushes into the front seat of a 1979 Ford F150 Supercab together, reconquistas the United States together.

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Dear Mexican: I’m a 23-year-old Latina attending a Texas university, and I’m taking a class that is centered on Latino culture and history. I’m a first-generation Tex-Mex kid, and lately, all of the documentaries and other coursework have been making me feel some type of way—angry, sad and overall confused, for lack of better phrasing. I don’t know how to handle these feelings, and it is making me more introspective about the Latino/Mexican part of my identity—as if I didn’t already have enough issues there. I don’t want to overthink it, and I don’t want to always wonder how people perceive me because of my background. But I don’t know how to feel about what I am learning, and whether what I am feeling is OK.

Did you ever go through something like this type of identity crisis? Any advice on how to feel/handle it?

Down in Denton

Dear mujer: Was I ever confused about my ethnic identity? Absolutely—tell your Chicano Studies professor to assign Orange County: A Personal History to ustedes, and you’ll get the carne asada of the matter. But your situation deserves a more insightful perspective than mine, so I turn the columna over to one of my bosses: Alexandro José Gradilla, chairman of the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at Cal State Fullerton, where I used to be an adjunct-at-large.

“Dear Iztaccíhuat: You are experiencing ‘Chicano Studies Rage 101,’” Gradilla writes. “Here is a synopsis of why you are feeling the way you do. After more than a decade in a K-12 school system that never really broached or addressed issues of institutional racism, most students of color coming out of high school would probably answer ‘no’ if asked whether they ever experienced racism. Here is the double problem: Most students have not learned anything about ‘their’ group. More important, they have not been taught about institutional racism. So when taking a college-level history or sociology course or, as you experienced, an ethnic-studies class in which systemic or structural racism analyses is par for the course, they get what happened to you. A sudden flood of cold, hard facts connected with theories of racism—then BAM! You are forever aware of the nature of social inequality in the United States.

“You ‘see’ how unfair and obscene racism is. Racism—and not individual prejudice or bigotry, but an embedded system of exclusion and denigration—is a profoundly ridiculous and irrational system. Whether you are learning about the Mendez, et al. v. Westminster case or the Felix Longoria affair and all within the short confines of a quarter or semester—even the most complacent coconuts are overwhelmed and bothered! The rage is famously captured by the quintessential Chicano movement poem ‘I Am / Yo Soy Joaquin’ written by Rodolfo ‘Corky’ Gonzales.

“So, my little brown Aztec volcano, your pending explosion within the classroom is nothing new. Just remember: Use your new knowledge to heal, not to hate.”

Awesome job, profe jefe! I’ll add just one thing: While it’s OK to feel angry, never let the other side get the better of your anger, as I’ll show with the next question.

Dear Mexican: Does your cesspool homeland of Mexico allow illegals to break the law and sneak in? Hell, no—but I guess it’s OK for the USA to allow it for you and your deadbeat wetback cousins.

Go fuck yourself—and I am sure this is not the first time you’ve heard that from a fed-up USA taxpayer who is sick of you parasite moochers from down south. Clean up your land if you want a good life. Don’t ride our coattails, you damn losers.

Klein in Van Nuys

Dear Gabacho: Parasitic moochers riding coattails? Olla, meet hervidor. Or, in English: I can’t wait for your beautiful brown grandchildren to take Chicano Studies 101!

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Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I’m half-Mexican and—on my conservative Christian, Republican father’s side—half-white. Growing up, I was discouraged from learning Spanish by my father and his family (while mi abuela tried to teach me anyway), so never learned; I’m currently having to learn as an adult.

My father’s family always tried to impress upon me their specific beliefs on all topics—my grandfather and I have gotten into arguments since I was 8 about his racist attitude toward those with a brown background, and I’m constantly having to remind him that myself and mi prima are both half-Mexican (her on her father’s side), even going to the extent of adding Perez to my last name (it’s my mom’s maiden name) for the last few years.

I know what I had to deal with growing up, and now with the whole immigration fiasco, my grandfather continues on and on. My little 8-year-old prima is stuck in the middle and is really starting to feel bad about herself because of this—she is torn between loving her grandpa and loving her personal background.

How can I help her?

Confused Half Breed

Dear Pocho: If having you and your little cousin as grandkids hasn’t convinced your abuelito that Mexicans are good people, then que se vaya a la chingada. Blood is thicker than water, they say—but it’s not thicker than horchata, so Mexicans ain’t obliged to genuflect before their elders.

There are entire swaths of cousins who didn’t talk to their grandmas for decades because of some perceived slight the abuelas paid on their mom or dad back in the rancho. And, sometimes, the grandma or grandpa in the family was an unrepentant asshole. Respect and honor is very important for Mexicans, but so is common sense, so I’d tell your primita to tell your grandpa to fuck off, and be proud of her Mexican part—that’s the best thing you can do to shape her young mind.

Dear Mexican: I’ve read many of the letters people have sent you, and I must say that they seem a little one-sided. I’m a Welshman, trying to get my green card. I spent nine months in La Habra, and in my experience, the friendliest people were those in the Mexican community. I received better service at Gonzalez Northgate Markets than I did in Walmart. The other customers were friendlier, too.

So, my question is: Why do you get so many letters from people who appear to dislike or even hate Mexicans?

Soon-to-Be Immigrant

Dear Taffy: I’m found your letter behind a nopal in my archives, so I’m not sure what year in which you sent this letter. What you describe was once true, but ain’t the case anymore. Time was when the Mexican would get cartloads of nasty letters from losers—but since I always get the last word, they got a can of chile powder thrown on their pride again and again, and word got around.

Nowadays, straight-out hate letters are as rare in my mailbox as a Mexican FIFA World Cup championship, because the haters know better than to write in, even though we live in a historically bad time for Mexicans in el Norte.

I think all good people can take a lesson from my experience: When the haters go for you, don’t ignore them—fight back with humor, stats and DESMADRE, and they’ll scatter away like the cucarachas they are.

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Dear Mexican: I’m listening to a podcast called Gravy. The segment is bluegrass tacos. You were interviewed, and a few statements bothered me: “The U.S. can take half of Mexico. They can make us peons, force us to move up north.”

Is this a common shared view of America(ns) in your community? If so, it is very disappointing that in 2017, you would express this bias/prejudice against this amazing country.

How were you forced to move north? Do you recognize/appreciate all the opportunities that this country has given you and other Mexicans who have came here? I would like to know your views. My initial opinion of you is that you are holding onto the view: “We are an oppressed people and can’t believe what America has done to us.”

There is always a “great” country to the south that offers so much more, without the oppression, that has openings for residency. Let me know what you think.

Ticked Off in Tulsa

Dear Gabacho: You know what I think? You’re a pendejo.

The podcast Gravy is an extension of the James Beard-winning food journal, for which I write a column called “Good Ol’ Chico,” where I write about the Latino South. And what you call “bias/prejudice” are straight-up facts.

The United States did steal half of Mexico, but you don’t have to take my word—just ask Ulysses S. Grant, who said that the Mexican-American War was “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” I don’t have to “hold on” to the idea that Mexicans are oppressed—we know it’s true every time whiny gabachos like yourself insist that we love this country just like you. The cool thing, though, is that we don’t let pendejos like you get in the way of creating a better America.

Finally, have you ever heard of a little chingadera called NAFTA—you know, the one thing Donald Trump gets right? It not only stole jobs from American workers; it upended Mexico’s economy, forcing millions of people to el Norte. And, yes, they were forced—just like the Irish were forced to leave Eire due to the brutal British, and the Jews who fled pogroms, and the Okies who got out of the Dust Bowl for a better chance at life.

My, how quickly Oklahomans forget their own history—it’s sad that a Mexican has to teach you about your own people, but that happens only in America.

Dear Mexican: I’ve always noticed that some second-generation and even third-generation Mexican Americans speak English with an accent. I understand that English might not be their first language, but why do some Americans like Cheech Marin or Danny Trejo, who've been here for generations, still have an accent, while a first-generation wab like me has been told I speak English like a white person, whatever that means?

Pocho Pero Paisa

Dear Pocho: Trejo and Cheech have an accent the same way a mick in Southie has an accent, or the way characters on Fargo speak in their own unique way. It’s regional American English—in their case, Chicano English, coming from generations of assimilation in the Southwest.

We children of modern-day Mexicans sometimes get that accent, and sometimes don’t, because we learn English as a second language, not as our primary one. The most prominent practitioner of Chicano English is George Lopez, who once tried to make this column into a television show, then let the option lapse. Hey, George: Let’s take more meetings, you know?

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Dear Mexican: I’m not a huge soccer fan, but I always get excited about the World Cup. In preparation for the event next year, I wanted your opinion on the team my wife and I should root for if the U.S. were to play Mexico.

I’m a fourth-generation Mexican American. Spanish was never spoken at home, but thanks to our amazing public school system, I rarely need a translator when I speak to Spanish-speaking parents. (I’m an administrator at an amazing public school.) My wife grew up speaking Spanish and was raised in a home that was culturally Mexican. We both feel comfortable participating in events that are very Mexican, and events that are very American. Last night, I asked my wife who she should root for if the U.S. played Mexico. She wasn’t sure. I told her I wasn’t sure, either, and that we should ask for your advice.

What do you think? Who should we root for? Who would you root for? Who do you think your grandkids will root for?

Sueño Humido del Hombre Hispánico-Americano

Dear Wet Dream of the Pocho Man: I always root for the United States when it plays in Mexico, and Mexico when it faces off against the U.S. in el Norte, but only because I want to see the home fans in agony, because I’m a cabrón like that.

You can root for either side, though, because they’re both going to flame out in the quarterfinals of el Mundial next year, anyway. About the only thing fans can look forward to on either side is seeing which player has enough huevos to kick Putin where Trump’s lips left a giant chupón.

Dear Mexican: I’m not searching for relationship advice, Mexican; I’m just wondering why there is no love between Honduras and Mexico.

La Gordita

Dear Chubby Catracha: Mexicans might despise Salvadorans and have no use for Guatemalans, but Hondurans? We play “Sopa de Caracol” at all our parties, don’t we?

Dear Mexican: My understanding, lo these many years, is that Mexicans cannot give up their Mexican citizenship. I understand that under Mexican law, a natural-born Mexican is never legally allowed to claim exclusive citizenship elsewhere, and that Mexico will not recognize U.S. embassy legal processes in Mexico on behalf of a Mexican naturalized as a U.S. citizen who is present in Mexico. Is that correct?

August in Austin

Dear Gabacho: You’re listening to too much Alex Jones. The Mexican Constitution says native-born Mexicans can never lose their nationality, which is just a fancy way for Mexico to claim more people subject to its authority—an important point we’ll use before the New World Order tribunal in a couple of years to re-establish Aztlán.

Dear Mexican: In 1990, some of my Mexican friends told me it cost $500 to come from Mexico with a coyote. Recently, a friend from Tamazunchale told me it now costs $2,500. How much of this money, paid to the coyotes, goes to Border Patrol employees?

El Pollo Loco

Dear Gabacho: It costs $2,500? Try $5,000 to start, all thanks to Trump’s immigration policies. And Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly had the gall to take credit for the jacked-up prices. That’s like a big-game hunter saying that the antelope over his fireplace worked extra-hard to get there.

SPECIAL THANKS TO

Maricela and Daniel, two helpful Mexicans at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange who helped this Mexican find another Mexican’s grave. May the Santo Niño de Atocha bless ustedes for your good work, and may you bury this Mexican with a bottle of mezcal when it’s time for me to go to the great DESMADRE in the sky …

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Dear Mexican: I was reading an article about lowriders being modern pieces of art, displayed prominently in museums around the world. Having grown up in Española, N.M., I felt a sense of pride coming from the “Lowrider Capital of the World.”

My question is: Where did the lowrider phenomenon begin? Española may be the lowrider capital, but I have my doubts it began there. It’s a small town, and was even smaller in the 1950s. Do you have any interest in writing a little history piece? I think it would be an interesting piece, given the lowrider’s place in pop-culture and Mexican origins.

Low and Slow in Nuevo México

Dear Pocho: Española is a great little town that I visit every year on the way to the Santuario de Chimayó—but lowriders didn’t begin there. It’s only known as the Lowrider Capital of el mundo because NPR’s All Things Considered supposedly called it that, according to a 1994 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican. (I say “supposedly,” because an extensive archive search—OK, a quick Nexis® query—turned up no such citation.) And I hate to break it to Chicano academics, but lowriders didn’t even begin with Chicanos.

The term “lowrider,” besides being a sartorial adjective in use for more than a century, was first applied to hoodlums of any race, and then became lingo in Southern California kustom kulture—indeed, the earliest references the Mexican could find to cars as “lowriders” is in the classified section of newspapers in the late 1960s, under the heading “Hot Rods.” Telling is a Sept. 13, 1970, column in the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram that mourned the disappearance of greasers (in the rebel sense, NOT the Mexican sense) in the face of the counterculture movement. “He was and is, of course, a low-rider, a cruiser, a hot-rodder, a Levi guy and a hair boy,” the column stated, hinting that the original lowriders were more likely to look like James Dean than a homie from Eastlos.

That’s not to deny that the culture of fixing up boats and bombs, and driving them low and slow, is now dominated by Chicanos—if anything, we appropriated gabacho culture for once!

Dear Mexican: When I take my wife out to a Mexican restaurant, I try to order and communicate in Spanish. My wife laughs, because she says I even change my accent. Am I just a pendejo gringo who the waiters are laughing at behind my back while defacing my beans and rice, or are they on my side and appreciate a cracker trying to sound like he came from the barrio?

Muchos Grassy Ass

Dear Gabachos: Mexicans appreciate it if you try to talk in Spanish, or use correct Spanish terms (“aguacates” instead of “guac,” for instance). Mexicans do not appreciate it if you mimic a “Mexican” accent, mostly because there is no such thing as a universal one. Try that again, and don’t be surprised if your sour cream’s tang is due to the line cook’s crema.

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Published in Ask a Mexican

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