By Gustavo Arellano
Dear Readers: Although many of you have loved and/or loathed my columna for years, the Mexican still fi nds new readers every week in the unlikeliest of spots (hola, Chattanooga! See you in August, inshallah!). As a result, I sometimes receive questions about the methodology of the column, questions all of us know the respuestas to but that bear refrying from time to tiempo. Without further ado …
Dear Mexican: I've been watching you speak about your çAsk A Mexicanç column. Now, you keep reiterating that this is supposed to be a joke. I have a question for you: It would be OK for a Caucasian to speak in an insulting yet joking manner about Mexicans, right? When my daughter comes up to me and asks me why some of the girls at her school call her a white bitch, what am I to say when adults continue to press the issue that this is acceptable AND funny? She is the only one in her class who looks like her, but that's a non-issue because she's white. If it were the other way around it would be a big deal—I know this because it was when I was a child. I do not believe you understand the damage you are creating by making it socially acceptable to speak the way you do.
— Tiger Mom
Dear Gabacha: I've never said my column is a pure joke — it's a satirical response to the bigotry Mexicans must endure in this country. A joke's only intent is to elicit a laugh. For instance, did you hear the one about the guy who left a banjo in the back of his truck, only to return and fi nd the windows shattered — and two banjoes? OK, so bluegrass-music humor isn't exactly Jerry Seinfeld territory, but there are no other ulterior motives behind the chiste other than an intragroup ridiculing of banjo players — no social commentary, no statement of facts, nada. Satire is humor laced with stinging facts and points to make specifi c commentaries attacking the status quo — think Twain, Swift, Colbert, Chapelle, and the mess that I make trying to copy them. And when have I ever said it's OK to make fun of gabachos for their race? I advocate logical, lyrical smackdowns of Know Nothings, who come in all colors — and if you don't believe me, try to fi gure out what Michelle Malkin's maiden name is.
Dear Mexican: I read your column regularly, thank you. I do however have what I think should be a simple request of you. My Spanish skills are confi ned to the street slang that I learned growing up in Los Angeles County during the 1970s and ï80s — I'm not exactly what I would call profi cient in polite company. Not surprisingly, you often use Spanish words and phrases in your column that are more appropriate for usage in the forum of public debate. I would appreciate it if at the end of each of your columns, you allot space to defi ning the Spanish words and phrases which appear in your articles. For most of us, the alternative will be to look it up on the internet — a translation done outof-context. For instance, all this time I thought that I was a "gringo" but maybe I'm a "gabacho" instead — or too? Who knew? In any event, it would be nice to learn a little bit about the language at the same time, and in the same context, that we are learning about the Mexican culture through your column.
— Muchos Gracias (which means "Thank You")
Dear Gabacho: No, you're very much a gringo and a gabacho. I do love slipping in espaøol words whenever possible, but I also make it a point to make easy-to-decipher choices. For instance, look at the Spanish words I've used so far. Tiempo? Use your cabeza — it's "time," as in the idiom "from time to time." Cabeza? Head, as in "use your head." Pretty fàcil, right? In the rare cases I do use palabras that you can't easily understand, keep reading — I'll explain it sooner rather than màs tarde.
GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have done the Lord's work for the past decade organizing Mexican, Central American and Haitian tomato pickers in South Florida to ask fast-food giants to pay an iota more to double the salaries of its members. More information at www.ciw-online.org.