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Fri12132019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Dear Mexican: I recently saw a picture of you in a newspaper article. I was quite shocked: You appear to have more of a European skin tone. However, I guess since your relatives lived in Mexico in the past 200 years, you think of yourself as a Mexican. I guess I tend to think Mexican-looking people have more of that native flavor or color. And your last name is actually Basque, so this makes sense.

Have a good day, my European/Mexican dude.

Macho Man in New Mexico

Dear Surumato: The town of Arellano, Spain, might be in the autonomous Basque country region of Navarre, but “Arellano” comes from Latin and denotes “farm of Aurelius.” And while one part of my Mexican ancestry came from Europe (a mixture of Portuguese, French and Sephardic Jews, since “Arellano” is listed in the Inquisition rolls), the other part is Chichimeca ready to chingarte for your chisme.

Dear Mexican: My grandmother died like all people do, but there was something fascinating that I was able to discover after her time: She was born in Mexico, possibly Vera Cruz. From what I understand, and that may be very little when it comes to American history, it always seems to be a bit cloudy, and this cloudy tradition has been passed down from generation to generation of black Americans. During my lifetime, many questions of our past or ancestral history have been unclear, unlike the Mexican or Asian culture of this great country.

I’m American through and through, California-raised, so I can easily identify with the Latin culture; I also speak Spanish, which was a prerequisite for survival back in the ’70s. What light can you shed on the mystery of Vera Cruz and its relation to Americans or blacks, period?

Constancia—Not Your Tia Concha

Dear Negrita: The way you spelled Vera Cruz, methinks your abuelita was actually born in the towns by the same names in Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all named after the Gulf Coast city in Mexico. But let’s say she was actually born in Mexico—in that case, you’re connected to one of the proudest black traditions in the Western Hemisphere.

Veracruz, the state, is one of two regions in Mexico with a significant population of Afro-Mexicans. (The Costa Chica region spanning the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca is the other.) Near Veracruz, the city, was the first freeman town in the Americas: San Lorenzo de los Negros, created after a colony of ex-slaves led by Gaspar Yanga successfully fended off conquistadors. (A statue of Yanga still stands in Veracruz proper.) The famous singer Toña La Negra came from Veracruz, as did the rhythms of son jarocho.

Even if your grandmother was born in the U.S., it’s better to say that she’s from Mexico: After all, would you want your heritage to go back to some podunk Rust Belt town?

GRACIAS, READERS!

Thanks for another great year of letters, tweets, handshakes and the like. I wish I could tell ustedes I have a new project to shamelessly self-promote—but I don’t. Just the same DESMADRE we’ve had in this columna for 12 years, all thanks to ustedes.

The Mexican is going back to the rancho to spend Navidad, so I’ll be running a Best Of edición next week. Happy holidays—oh, and #fucktrump.

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 follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: Why do Mexicans applaud first-generation Mexicans who assimilate completely, but criticize (and apply the term vendidos) to first-generation Mexican Americans for doing it? (And why is it that there is no real name for U.S. citizens in English, forcing us to use the name of the continent? Someone should translate estadounidenses.)

Take my case, for example. Both of my parents are Basques—don’t get them wrong, they are grateful; they really love Mexico and will proudly tell you they are 100 percent Mexican, because Mexico adopted them, but they also love their original culture and speak Euskera fluently. (Well, one speaks Euskara, the other Euskera; one is from Donostia, the other from Bilbao, so they spell a few words differently.) They play Mus almost every day, prepare typical Basque dishes (txipirones, txangurros, pil-pin and the infamous kalimotxo, which is a drink that is obtained by mixing red wine and cola, almost always in a 1:1 ratio), and partake in all sorts of Basque cultural activities.

I feel proud of that heritage and speak some Euskera (badly, but I can communicate), but I don’t feel Basque, and don’t feel the need to participate in any kind of Basque cultural activity. (I love to play Mus, not because it’s Basque, but because it’s a great game.) I feel Mexican—hence, the only cultural activities I participate in are Mexican activities. (Whatever that means; Mexico has but a few real national cultural activities. The different regions have different cultural activities, making the country very interesting and diverse.) Most Mexicans applaud my behavior, and obviously applaud any similar behavior of other sons and daughters of immigrants. The funny part is that they despise the same behavior when sons and daughters of Mexican immigrants do it in the U.S., calling then by any number of names. (I would say most of them can’t be published, but I can see that you don’t have any trouble publishing “risky” words in Spanish.) In fact, many Mexicans feel betrayed by them. Why is it that the same exact behavior is applauded and vilified?

By the way: My wife says that the irony of all is that I will probably have a son or a daughter who, when talking about his father and mother, will explain how he or she is very proud of his/her heritage of his/her Mexican parents, but he/she doesn’t feel Mexican and can’t understand why his/her father feels it is so important to speak fluent Spanish. I know my father will look me directly in my eyes and exclaim poetic justice.

The “Mus”-Loving Mexican With Basque Parents Who, According to His Wife, Will Probably Have an American Kid With Bad Spanish Abilities

Dear Pocho: The only reason I let you run on and on here is because of your Basque heritage, which I’ve always respected. And your question is so pinche confusing, it might as well be in Euskara, one of the few languages in the world with no relatives.

But this is what you’re saying: Mexicans in Mexico love it when the Mexican-born children of immigrants identify with their culture (like Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o), applauding it as natural, but get mad when the same happens to the children of Mexican immigrants in the U.S.

Easy answer: Mexicans want everyone to be Mexican—except Cuban-American presidential candidates, of course.

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 follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: Grammar question/rant: If Spanglish is a legitimate dialect/language, why do you feel the need to italicize every instance of code-switching? I seriously doubt that when you speak, you emphasize every puta palabra (emphasis intended here), but that's what your articles read like.

We all know that you are speaking Spanglish—not a foreign language—so tell the gabacho (no emphasis intended here) editors to back off and let you use italics for what they are intended for: emphasis.

Strunk and Brown

Dear Wab: Gracias for thinking that Spanglish is a legitimate form of communication—you just made the custodians of Cervantes and shepherds of Shakespeare get angrier than Joe Arpayaso surrounded by a group of Mexicans!

But we’re talking two separate cosas here. My linguistic goal with this columna isn’t for America to accept Spanglish, but for American English and its speakers to pick up more Spanish words so that one day, I won’t have to use italics on said words to differentiate their otherness. It’s happened over the decades: At one point, editors italicized Spanish words like amigo, tequila, fiesta and siesta, because they were foreign concepts to gabacho audiences, but the words were used enough so that we no longer italicize them.

Think of it as a linguistic Reconquista, of Latin slowly beating down English’s Germanic influences! The only way to teach an audience a new palabra, then, is to signify a code switch via the italics, but I make sure to use simple Spanish words that can possibly gain wider currency—gabacho, pendejo, desmadre—and eventually assimilate into the American lingua franca and cultura.

And I don’t have to worry about any gabacho editors telling me when to use italics and when I can’t—I’m the pinche Mexican, for crying out loud. But even this cabrón cannot persuade the unforgiving pen of his copy editor, who can make the most grizzled reporter tremble with just a flash of the red pluma.

Do you have any idea why Univisión and Telemundo look so much sharper and better than any other high-definition programming on any other channel? They looked better even before HD was en vogue. My guess is that they don't use filters that everyone else uses.

Techie Gabacho

Dear Gabacho: The same reason porn is always at the forefront of technology: Gotta make those chichis shine!

I just learned that Nueva Vizcaya was “settled” by Basques, and it got me to thinking: Are there any noticeable regional differences in Mexico based on the regions in Spain where the original Spaniards came from? If so, where can I read more about it?

Euskadi Enthusiast

Dear Gabacho: Nueva Vizcaya, of course, refers to the province of New Spain that nowadays roughly encompasses Chihuahua and Durango, and parts of Sonora, Sinaloa and other northern Mexico states, and was named by the Basque explorer Francisco de Ibarra after Biscay. Other Spanish explorers also named provinces in New Spain after their home regions—Nuevo Galicia, Nuevo León (which the modern-day Mexican state is named after) and the awesomely titled Nuevo Santander, after the city in the kingdom of Cantabria.

But in terms of large-scale regional Spanish migration to particular areas of Mexico during the era of the Conquistadors, the Mexican is going to have to plead partial mestizaje on this one. The most famous mass settling of particular groups happened in what’s now the United States—Canary Islanders in San Antonio, and marranos (crytpo-Jews) in New Mexico—while outside of northern Mexico and its concentration of Garzas, most of the other Spaniards just melted into the pozole. All the early Spanish immigrants ultimately left as a legacy in Mexico was Spanish, surnames and a taste for ultra-violence.

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