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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Ask a Mexican

14 May 2014
Dear Mexican: Our graphic artist walked out off the room pissed the other day, because the publisher asked my opinion about a Cinco de Mayo advertisement they were planning to publish (and did end up publishing). The graphic showed a row of chickens with sombreros. The publisher asked if I thought it was funny or racist. I said, “Racist.” Later, when they decided to publish it anyway, the proofreader (who is black) had the same reaction—it was funny, but it was racist because it played on stereotypes. The graphic artist, who is white, took offense over the observation that the advertisement was racist, asking me if I boycott Mexican restaurants that display sombreros. I don’t go to many Mexican restaurants—not because of the stereotypes, but because the food is usually watered down to fit the taste buds of gabachos. Anyhow, my question is: Is it me, or do people of…
07 May 2014
Dear Mexican: I’m a pocha, and my husband is a gabacho. (By the way, we loved your explanation in your book of why Mexicans and Irish get along so well—it really explained a lot about our marriage.) We had the rehearsal dinner for our wedding catered by one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. Two guests from Santa Fe thought our choice of the caterer was hysterical, because the restaurant is called Sancho’s. They explained to us that in Santa Fe, a sancho is a “back door man.” I had never heard this before. Is sancho a term just in Santa Fe, or among all Mexicans (except for, apparently, me)? Don’t Need No Sanchos Dear Pocha: Sancho as a euphemism for anal sex? That’s a new one for me—and I know all the pervert sexual euphemisms out there, from the infamous Dirty Sanchez to even the Angry Dragon. I’m more familiar…
30 Apr 2014
Dear Mexican: Is there a pecking order at the places where you see day-laborers waiting to be hired? What’s the hierarchy? Are all those dudes Mexican, or are some Central and South American, and if so, who has priority when the random contractor comes by to pick up a worker for the day? Also, after they make a bunch of loot, do they go back to Mexico and live in the lap of luxury, or what? Gracias! Dude Who Already Got a Job Dear Gabacho: The ethnic makeup of day laborers really depends on what part of los Estados Unidos you’re in. In Los Angeles: Research done by the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education and my old boss, Abel Valenzuela, has found that about 15 percent of day laborers in the region are not Mexican. In New York, on the other hand, you have big percentages of Eastern…
23 Apr 2014
Dear Mexican: Our grandparents came from Mexico. The entire next generation spoke Spanish. However, in my generation, almost none of us do. One cousin’s daughter does, because the cousin married a bilingual spouse. Most white people I know have long ago lost both an awareness of what their actual ethnic roots are, and the original language their people came to America with, when it wasn’t English. Heck, British English can be pretty confusing. My cousins and I, and most of our kids, only know of Spanish from Spanish classes. It’s clear we lost our language treasure. Fortunately, we love being Chicanos. What do you know of this loss on a local or national scale? Spangless Chicano Dear Pocho: The 2011 National Survey of Latinos by the Pew Research Center reported that while 91 percent of first-generation Latinos said they spoke Spanish “very well/pretty well,” and 82 percent of the segunda…
16 Apr 2014
Dear Mexican: I like reading your articles—they are funny, sad, insightful, crude, serious and even a little provocative and antagonizing at times. One thing I find a little antagonizing is the use of the term “Latino” as a synonym for “Hispanic”; certainly yours is not the only forum in which these two terms are used interchangeably. I’ve noticed that you tend to favor “Hispanic” quite a bit more than “Latino”; thank you for that. While I may sound racist by making that remark, I am actually trying to raise cultural awareness and combat racism. I see it everywhere, and its ubiquitous use is absurd. The Latins as a people, a culture, a language and a tribe came from ancient Italy. On employment applications or government forms, the race/ethnicity section doesn’t include anyone other than Hispanics as synonymous with Latin(o). Where is the room for us Latin Europeans? Us Italians, or…
09 Apr 2014
Dear Mexican: Even though I have seen it happening with less frequency since I came to the U.S. 20 years ago, the use by Mexicans of the expression ¿Mande? (“command me”) has always struck me. I personally see it as a symbolic legacy of submission, probably originating from the times of the Spanish conquistadores. Are you aware of any other meaning? What is interesting to me is that I’ve heard this expression coming more often from the so-called pochos than from Mexican immigrants. Che Argentina I’m a Mexican-American with a dilemma: Why do most Mexicans respond by saying “¿Mande?” while most other non-Mexican Hispanics respond with “¿Cómo?” I ask around, and nobody has a right answer. I’m sure you will know, ’cause you’re a smarter than the average Mexican. Cheldingo Dear Readers: Out of all the folk etymologies that plague Mexican Spanish—like people thinking gringo comes from Mexicans making fun…
02 Apr 2014
Dear Mexican: I’m a second-generation Orange County-raised pocho. Both sides of my family have been civil rights activists since the 1940s. My mother’s family took part in the landmark case Mendez et al. vs. Westminster et al. in 1946. My father was a Chicano activist in the 1960s and 1970s. From the time I was a child, I met various figures like Reies López Tijerina, César Chávez, Bert Corona and Emigdio Vasquez. In 1975, my dad took my older brother and me to a demonstration against la migra where we marched to the federal buildings in Santa Ana. As an adult, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, I improved my Spanish with classes, books, magazines, television, films and travel to countries de habla española. Despite my efforts to acculturate myself in Spanish, I am often met with the macho attitude of wabs and pochos, apparently because…
26 Mar 2014
Dear Mexican: Can you help me unravel a citrus dilemma? When I am in Mexico, or a Mexican restaurant or market, I am unable to find lemons (yellow, egg-sized, tart-tasting). Whenever I ask, I get green-colored fruits, which look and taste to me like limes (green, smaller than egg-sized, tart tasting). I understand that there are Persian limes and Key limes (smaller, sweeter-tasting). But what are limones, which they sell in the markets? I thought limón was a marketing creation by Sprite/7UP—a blend of lemon and lime juices. Have the genetically modifying corporate food scientists succeeded in creating a limón? If so, why is it only available in Hispanic markets? Please enlighten me, so my future father-in-law no longer refers to me as El Cabrón! Le Chupacabra Dear Gabacho: Why Mexicans call the limes used in our cooking limones when the Royal Spanish Academy calls that fruit limas is the…
19 Mar 2014
Dear Mexican: What’s the story with Mexican pastries? Like people in most cultures, Mexicans seem to be cribbing from the French, but pan dulce just winds up tasting like a dinner roll with a little icing on top. So many other parts of Mexican cuisine emphasize strong flavors. Why must the best part of the meal be so bland? Un Bolillo Dear French Roll Gabacho: You’re being a bit harsh. Mexican pan dulce (sweet breads, for those who don’t habla) is as varied as Mexican skin tones, from the conchas (the ones that look like sea shells—hence their name) to empanadas (turnovers stuffed with everything from apple to pumpkin to coconut cream and strawberries) to rosca de reyes (the pan dulce offered during the Feast of the Epiphany that’s essentially a ring of sugar upon sugar) to that pan dulce with a top layer consisting solely of candy sprinkles. You’re…
12 Mar 2014
Dear Mexican: The current clothing trend is for ladies to wear low-cut jeans and belly shirts that expose their midriffs. That looks great on a hard-bodied woman, but why do so many fat Mexican mujeres insist on dressing like this? It’s one of the grossest things imaginable. The gut hangs over the pants and pushes the shirt up. Many times, the women have stretch marks, which make it even worse. I can’t believe they look in the mirror and think they look attractive. What gives? Fat Is Malo Dear Gabacho: American men might prefer boinking skinny things, but the wisdom of the ancients still informs the male Mexican mind—and the ancients loved fatties. Many pre-Columbian codices and statues depict women as gorditas—plump chicas. Obesity meant wealth, fertility and what Groucho Marx called “an armful of fun on a cold night.” But it wasn’t just the Aztecs and Mayans who loved…