BY GUSTAVO ARELLANO
Dear Mexican: I was riding the local light rail when two female Mexicans sat down and start talking rapid-fire Spanish nonstop for 45 minutes! It seemed as if neither one stopped to take a breath of air. They were loud and could be heard the length of the train. Question: Is this why Mexican men are notorious for beating their women? If not, where did this notoriety originate?
Dear Gabacho: And are you still beating your wife? Loaded question aside, Mexican men have an infamous tendency for spousal abuse in the gabacho mind partly out of stereotype (the machismo cult, the most misunderstood cultural tendency since the American love of empire-building) but also partly out of truth. Sure, Mexican men beat wives, just like gabacho, negrito and chinito maridos. But the prevalence may surprise people. The Department of Justice, in its latest National Crime Victimization Survey, found that spousal abuse suffered by “Hispanic” (read: mostly Mexican) women fell between two-thirds between 1993 and 2005, and that “on average from 2001 to 2005, rates of intimate partner violence were similar for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic females and males.” In other words, gabachos and wabs beat their mates at similar rates. Of course, the feds only track reported cases, and the 2003 book Family Violence in a Cultural Perspective: Defining, Understanding, and Combating Abuse has a fascinating essay about the disparities among different Latino groups in reporting the crime. We can pin this pathology on mexicanidad, but that facile tactic absolves other groups of the similar sin and disregards legitimate factors (e.g., poverty, following parental examples, alcoholism) as the root of spousal abuse. Besides, I don’t understand the glee people take in attributing societal ills to an ethnic or religious group’s essence; that reasoning is as weak as Chicanos blaming all of Mexico’s missteps on the U.S. theft of the American Southwest so long ago.
You have to stop calling gabachos gabachos, my man. That’s our word for when we’re talking about the whites when one’s within earshot. Whitey is far more familiar with us calling them gringos. If they become too familiar with gabacho we’ll have to move to the standby güero, ¿qué no?
Dear Chubby Wab: While I like your thinking, I must respectfully disagree. This column provides a public service by explaining and debunking Mexican culture to all interested parties, and what’s more important for gabachos to know than if we’re saying bad things about them in Spanish? Don’t believe the hype, gabachos: We don’t care caca about y’all, and the proof is in our respective slurs for each other. We call you gringo (white foreigner), gabacho (French idiot), güero (light-skinned), bolillo (French roll we love) and yanqui (imperialist), and my friend Cheeser from El Modena came up with anglosangrones (Anglo-assholes); ustedes deride us as beaners, greasers, pepper bellies (insults toward our diet), wetbacks (a ridicule of the arduous journey many of us took to invade this country), aliens, wife beaters and so many more. We can’t hold a vela to your linguistic disgust and invective obsession for us! I get a few letters each week from Know Nothings whining I’m a nasty racist for calling them gabachos, but you know what? Ustedes should be grateful I don’t run a contest to create a new insult for Mexicans to deride white Americans. In the grand Rolodex of Racism, gabacho is as soft a jab as calling someone a scoundrel.