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Brayan Mendoza is only 24, but he has already experienced the American dream in some ways—through his immigrant parents and his own efforts to turn his love of movies into a career.

A resident of Desert Hot Springs for eight years, Mendoza was born in Palm Springs. He graduated from Desert Hot Springs High School and earned an associate’s degree from College of the Desert in English.

“I’d like to go back to school and study film,” he says. “Film did a lot for me. I was going through a rough patch and was close to the breaking point. I even thought about taking my own life. Then I found American Film Institute’s 100 Years …100 Movies and watched all 100 of them. I found so much happiness and joy in doing that. I credit film for saving my life and turning me on to that form of expression.”

Mendoza is currently hosting Flix and Picks on iHub Radio every Saturday afternoon from 1 to 2 p.m. (I also work at iHub Radio.) He not only discusses current films, including those on Netflix and Amazon Prime, but also comparisons to classic American and foreign films.

“It’s really important to me to know that people are listening,” he says, “but I don’t want compliments just for doing a show … or for being good looking! I’d rather get compliments for who I am and having something intelligent to say. I feel like I have something to contribute to the conversation, and I want to be able to move people. I want to be able to give meaning to various communities, not only as a movie critic, but as a social communicator as well.”

Mendoza’s dad is from Chapala, Mexico, and his mom is from Guadalajara. The family includes three siblings from his mom, and three from his dad. He is second-youngest in this blended family.

“I’d like to write a book about my parents’ story,” Mendoza says. “I want to be able to show what a positive difference immigrants make in the United States. My mom came to the United States to find her place in the world. She married and had kids, but had to go back to Mexico. My dad had to steal food and started working at age 11. My mom and dad had known each other as kids, and he was also out of his marriage. They came to America, and he’s now a citizen. My younger brother and I are the children of their marriage.”

Mendoza hopes to marry one day (“a man or a woman—I’m bisexual, and I’m happy to say my family is very supportive, very open-minded”) and have children.

“I want a stable career, maybe as a teacher, but I want to continue doing radio, even though I don’t have what I consider a ‘radio voice,’” he said with a laugh. “I try to make up for that through performance. I did once take a class in radio; I got a D. I just felt it was very limiting. I really only do voice work for my own projects.”

Does Mendoza want to be a filmmaker? In a way, he already is.

“I’ve worked as manager for my dad’s gardening company, and I’m a bookseller at Barnes and Noble, but I’ve also done intern work for a local LGBT comedian; edited and did a commercial for one of last year’s Oscar parties; and did a short film for the local Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast,” which supports gay-straight alliance clubs and LGBT youth programs in the Coachella Valley.

“My favorite genres are noir, fantasy, drama and horror movies, and I also like comedies. But film noir is my favorite—black and white, beautiful women, corrupt individuals, duplicitous motives, and villains not that different from the heroes. You watch a film from the ’40s with beautiful cinematography and a musical score—and there’s something really romantic about those movies. But, alas, I’m not sure they would work anymore.”

How does Mendoza prepare to see a film?

“I like to go into a movie blind, without reading other reviews or seeing film clips,” he says. “I like to have some knowledge of the film, just so I can anticipate more about what I’m going to see, but I don’t want to go in with expectations. You can see a great advertisement for a movie, and it turns out to be horrible—or it can be badly promoted but be a great movie. I want the audience to know that. Besides, most trailers for movies give away way too much.”

Mendoza’s influences include Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (“Great sense of humor!”), Richard Roper, and YouTube critics Lindsay Ellis and Grace Randolph.

“Some write or do really long pieces,” says Mendoza, “but I try to do it in shorter segments. I explore the writing and acting, and what it means for the audience. I think of myself like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, discovering new things, and I take a little bit of that world with me when I go to see a film.”

Any advice for other young people in the Coachella Valley who hope to live their American dream?

“I want to be a good influence for LGBTQ youth,” Mendoza says. “My advice is to do life like a resumé—always looking to learn a new skill to improve yourself. Take risks; at least it will give you experience to learn for next time. Stay faithful to your career choices, but keep an open mind to what might happen. And work hard and network; get out and meet people, because you never know who can give you an opportunity.”

Brayan Mendoza is from a family that found the American dream—and he is living it into a new generation.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Dear Mexican: What is it about Mexicans and collecting old cars? I have three Mexican neighbors with middle-class incomes, but in each case, when the old car or truck wouldn't run anymore, they would buy a nearly new replacement—and then let the old clunker sit in the driveway up close to the house or garage ... for MONTHS! Hood up, radiator out on the ground, flat tires ... etc.

Flying With My Ford

Dear Gabacho: When my brother became of age, I lectured him on the facts of life. No, not sex, as that's for him to discover with cousins his age watching Tube8 on a laptop (as opposed to my generation of cousins, who'd watch pornos on scratchy VHS tapes while all of our parents were gossiping during carne asada Sunday), but on what would make him a man: when he could afford a classic car.

Just like our fathers and abuelitos in la patria weren't real men until they had a beautiful horse to call their own, modern-day Mexican males in the United States aren't real hombres until they have enough disposable income to afford a classic car, be it a bomb or boat. It shows you have money; you have taste; you know your way around an engine; and you have an investment you can sell in a second if you ever need bail money for some primo or other. We don't drive these often—you always need a dependable daily vehicle to drive as well—but a classic ranfla is so much better than the latest Lexus or BMW that every gabacho douche buys for their bit of conspicuous consumption. A la chingada con stocks: Nothing valuates better than a '59 Chevy Impala convertible that stays in the garage 360 days of the year and is equipped with an air-raid siren, custom rims and an Aztec maiden mural on the trunk.

Dear Mexican: Here's my question. I hope you take me seriously ... what's so great about the U.S? War, bad politicians, Social Security gone, stereotypes, drunk driving, gang wars, scary public schools, no respect for anybody who doesn't want to live the way they live, etc. I know my family risked their lives so I could be born here, but I hate it. The jobs aren't that great. and there's crime everywhere. How is that any different from the Mexico they left? Is the American Dream over?

Pocho Ready to Go

Dear Pocho: As I've written before, the United States basically is Mexico without Aztec pyramids at this point, thanks to Republicans. Horrible violence (14,043 murders in the U.S. in 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal, compared to the much-ballyhood narco-murder rate of 15,273 in Mexico that same year), an ineffectual government, stuck-up fresas who insist there's such a thing as “authentic” Mexican food—we've become Mexico in its worst manifestations.

But is the American Dream done? Not even close, as long as we have Mexicans and other immigrants who flee bad lives and want to improve themselves in the country where it's historically been possible. That's becoming harder and harder, of course—net migration from Mexico to the United States has been nearly zero for the past couple of years because of the Great Recession—but the American Dream will live as long as we have someone crossing the desert in the middle of July, as long as we have fake passports, and as long as people willingly stuff themselves into cars for the opportunity to hear their gabacho bosses bitch about how horrible life is.

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 youtube.com/askamexicano!

Published in Ask a Mexican