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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Dear Mexican: I was reading an article about lowriders being modern pieces of art, displayed prominently in museums around the world. Having grown up in Española, N.M., I felt a sense of pride coming from the “Lowrider Capital of the World.”

My question is: Where did the lowrider phenomenon begin? Española may be the lowrider capital, but I have my doubts it began there. It’s a small town, and was even smaller in the 1950s. Do you have any interest in writing a little history piece? I think it would be an interesting piece, given the lowrider’s place in pop-culture and Mexican origins.

Low and Slow in Nuevo México

Dear Pocho: Española is a great little town that I visit every year on the way to the Santuario de Chimayó—but lowriders didn’t begin there. It’s only known as the Lowrider Capital of el mundo because NPR’s All Things Considered supposedly called it that, according to a 1994 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican. (I say “supposedly,” because an extensive archive search—OK, a quick Nexis® query—turned up no such citation.) And I hate to break it to Chicano academics, but lowriders didn’t even begin with Chicanos.

The term “lowrider,” besides being a sartorial adjective in use for more than a century, was first applied to hoodlums of any race, and then became lingo in Southern California kustom kulture—indeed, the earliest references the Mexican could find to cars as “lowriders” is in the classified section of newspapers in the late 1960s, under the heading “Hot Rods.” Telling is a Sept. 13, 1970, column in the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram that mourned the disappearance of greasers (in the rebel sense, NOT the Mexican sense) in the face of the counterculture movement. “He was and is, of course, a low-rider, a cruiser, a hot-rodder, a Levi guy and a hair boy,” the column stated, hinting that the original lowriders were more likely to look like James Dean than a homie from Eastlos.

That’s not to deny that the culture of fixing up boats and bombs, and driving them low and slow, is now dominated by Chicanos—if anything, we appropriated gabacho culture for once!

Dear Mexican: When I take my wife out to a Mexican restaurant, I try to order and communicate in Spanish. My wife laughs, because she says I even change my accent. Am I just a pendejo gringo who the waiters are laughing at behind my back while defacing my beans and rice, or are they on my side and appreciate a cracker trying to sound like he came from the barrio?

Muchos Grassy Ass

Dear Gabachos: Mexicans appreciate it if you try to talk in Spanish, or use correct Spanish terms (“aguacates” instead of “guac,” for instance). Mexicans do not appreciate it if you mimic a “Mexican” accent, mostly because there is no such thing as a universal one. Try that again, and don’t be surprised if your sour cream’s tang is due to the line cook’s crema.

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: I enjoyed reading the letter about lip liner some years back from the lovely Mexican lesbian.

I have met several guys from Mexico who came to the U.S. so they could come out of the closet. Nothing warms my middle-age gay heart more than when a nice Mexican young man says, “Hola, papi!” However, when they go home to Mexico to visit their mamasitas, they go back into the closet.

I’ve read in the news that things are getting better for my fellow homos in Mexico. Are more macho muchachos “out” in Mexico these days?

Grateful White Queen

Dear Gabacha: Life for mariposas in Mexico has gotten much better since the days when the Aztecs would kill gay men by pulling their entrails through their culos. Just last month, the Mexican Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in Jalisco, stereotypically the most macho state in la república. (The rest of us mexicanos always knew those charros from Los Altos were on the down-low, anyway.)

On the other mano, the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City’s 2008 report on LGBT discrimination noted that a Mexican governmental survey found that 48.4 percent of households said they wouldn’t allow a gay person to live there, and that more than 90 percent of LGBT folks had experienced discrimination on account of their sexuality.

In other words, Mexico is about as tolerant of gay folks as Ted Cruz—but far better-looking.

Dear Mexican: How come Mexicans lower their pickup trucks and put those tiny wheels on that stick out beyond the fender? In doing so, they essentially ruin a perfectly good truck by turning it into nothing more than a low-riding car.

I can honestly say that I haven’t seen any other ethnic group do this to their trucks as regularly as Mexicans. What gives?

Juan Confused Coloradan

Dear Pocho: Mexicans lower their cars; gabacho bros raise their Dodge Rams and F250s as high as possible. Such suspension choices are metaphors for our respective razas—Mexicans are close to Mother Earth, while gabas will forever remain uppity pendejos.

Dear Mexican: I work with Mexicans on a golf course. We eat lunch together, and I love tortillas. I even learned how to make a spoon out of a tortilla.

These guys know nothing about la cocina, so when I ask them how to make the red sauce in which the meat is cooked, they give me the furrowed-brow look. I cook a lot at my house; I’m sure some of them think this gringo is a homo. Where can I find a recipe for this red sauce?

My 18th Hole is You-Know-Where

Dear Gabacho: Not enough info here. What kind of salsa roja was it—from chile de arbol? Japones? Chipotle? Piquín? Chiltepín? Or was it a guisado? A mole? Maybe a thick consommé?

There are as many Mexican salsas as there are narcos in the Mexican government, so get back at me with the details. But don’t say that hombres can’t cook; just take it from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who said last year, “If (Donald) Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he’s talking about right now, every restaurant would shut down.” So can someone shove a cold burrito in Trump’s face already?

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 are lowrider artists obsessed with surly clowns? I went to an exhibition of the art of Mister Cartoon in Venice Beach years ago, and the clowns in his art were downright disturbing. I've seen these nasty clowns on T-shirts and a bunch of other places, too.

What's up with that? Did the whole culture have a nasty experience at the circus?

Cirque Du So Low

Dear Gabacho: I’m answering this pregunta not just because it’s a good one, but to teach the value of patience. Gentle readers: This question was sent on the first week of ¡Ask a Mexican!’s existence, which is now more than 10 years ago. I’m finalmente getting to it because it’s about pinche time, you know? So you, too, will get your question you sent hace seven years answered … eventually.

For this one, Cirque Du So Low, it’s muy simple: Mexicans like payasos, period. From Cepillín to Javier Solís’ legendary song “Payaso” to “The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles to the classic cholo tattoo and mantra, “Smile Now, Cry Later” (itself a callback to the legendary oldies-but-goodie song of the same tame by Sunny and the Sunliners) to that assassin dressed as a clown who strolled into a narco’s party last year in Baja California, shot him dead and escaped, Mexicans are clown-crazy.

Gabachos might find them creepy, but we love these eternal tricksters, because they’re representations of our id, and a reflection of the importance we place on humor, no matter how dour our reality. I can also cite Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz’s essay on masks, and how clowns are a metaphor for Mexicans, but Paz hated pochos, so fuck him.

I read just the other day that demographers are predicting there will be more Mexicans than anybody else in California in 20 years, just from birth rate alone. Un tipo como tu tiene que tener some brujo in him, so use your skills, ese, and tell us what you see in the future. Will California be like Whittier? Or will it resemble Rosarito, with all the gabachos crowded into condos near the beach?

El Mero Panzón del IE

Dear Badass Big-Bellied Man of the Inland Empire: 20 años? Try last year, when Latinos surpassed gabachos to become the most-populous group in the Golden State. Given a 2011 demographic profile by the Pew Research Center determined that Mexicans make up 83 percent of California's Latino community, paisas and pochos should outnumber everyone within the end of this decade.

So what does the future hold? You’re reading it: a child of Mexican immigrants who works a white-collar job and whose nieces and sobrinos will no doubt have names like Brittney and Brad. Sorry to break it to Know Nothings, but the Reconquista will be the most anticlimactic event since the release of Chinese Democracy.

In the newspaper today, there was a picture of a Mexican in Mexico grinning next to a sign that said, “Turista GO HOME!” Are Mexicans getting so rich off money siphoning through their illegal invaders that they no longer need the LEGAL stream of wealth from tourists? And if so, why can’t they spell-check their signs first? Would a sign campaign also help the illegals here get the message that THEY are unwelcome? Or should we just count ourselves lucky that the arrogant foreigners are using signs instead of rape or guns to make their point, in a nation with such a low literacy rate?

Walking Down the Beach the Other Day, I Started Wondering …

Dear Gabacho: The sign was spelled correctly; the tourist just happened to use Spanglish, a language created to piss off pendejos into flights of pendejismo. Gracias for dejando Spanglish do its trabajo!

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