Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 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?


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!

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Dear Mexican: Why is it that when you invite a Mexican to a party, they feel compelled to bring along 30 of their relatives? I mean, bringing along two or three people would be no problem, but we don’t expect the number of people in our party to double by inviting an extra person!

Not Enough Food for Everyone

Dear Gabacho: Mexicans and parties—was there ever a coupling more spectacularly grotesque? We drink mucho; we eat mucho; we fight mucho; we love mucho; we mucho mucho.

Examining the Mexican propensity to party, Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz wrote, “The explosive, dramatic, sometimes even suicidal manner in which we strip ourselves, surrender ourselves is evidence that something inhibits and suffocates us. Something impedes us from being. And since we cannot or dare not confront our own selves, we resort to the fiesta.”

But one thing we don’t do anymore is swarm parties with our extended family, Not Enough Food. Time was when Mexican immigrants would rent out labor halls to throw massive weddings, quinceañeras and baptisms, and invite the entire rancho to invite everyone—more than 1,000 people attended my baby brother’s christening reception in 1992, including norteño star Juan Zaizar! But the Mexicans of my generation prefer subdued celebrations—invite-only, no kids, with lame, sobbing testimonials by the best men and bridesmaids, and no banda sinaloense to deafen guests with its brass-band roar. For instance, my cousin is holding his wedding reception next November at the Yorba Linda Community Center with an emcee and a guest limit of 250. (Considering that’s about the size of the Miranda clan, there are going to be some angry primos next fall.)

Mexican parties are turning into prim-and-proper, gabacho-fied affairs, Not Enough Food—so we’re taking over American society how?

Dear Mexican: How come all the Mexicans who came here two or three generations ago look like “almost-white” people, while the ones coming now look like those little guys who live naked in the Amazon and kill things with blowguns?

No Indios Need Apply (NINA)

Dear Pocho: Chalk the phenomenon up to the natural unfolding that is the American immigrant experience.

Countries tend to dump their upwardly mobile, lighter-skinned natives on the United States before the shoddier, darker folks show up in the steerage of rusting freighters—remember that northern Italians arrived at Ellis Island before their swarthy Sicilian paisanes. That’s what’s happening with Mexico, NINA.

In his 1983 study East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio, historian Ricardo Romo cites a 1922 demographic survey that showed almost two-thirds of the Mexican community of Los Angeles at the time originated from just four states: Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco and Zacatecas. These states are in north-central Mexico, where the conquistadors spread their seed farthest and most vigorously.

As the 20th century progressed, however, Mexico’s poorer, more-indigenous states in the south tumbled like dominoes as they sent their populations to el Norte, subsequently ratcheting up the brownie mixture in the Mexican-American pot. Michoacán and Puebla (next to Mexico City) didn’t start sending their residents en masse to the U.S. until around the mid-20th century; Guerrero and Oaxaca followed around the 1970s; our Central American colony, Guatemala, now follows.

The push continues even in Mexico—in a 2004 Orange County Register piece, staffer Valeria Godines described the tensions between the güeros of Arandas, Jalisco and Chiapan immigrants, showing Mexicans can be as race-obsessed as their gabacho oppressors.

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