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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Dear Mexican: I work at a Mexican restaurant where the majority of the workers are, you guessed it, Mexican. I hear the word cabrón all the time, but each time I ask what it means, no one has a definitive answer. I’d like to think that they’re not bullshitting me, and that it doesn’t exactly translate well.

Is it really that hard to explain, or are they just making fun of my whiteness? Help a güero out.

Phatbudz

Dear Gabacho: There is a literal definition to cabrón—”male goat.” But even the Real Academia Española doesn’t care much for that that meaning, relegating the ruminant to the sixth slot in the word’s dictionary listing. Above that definition: “said of a person, of an animal, or of a thing: That does bad things or is annoying,” “said of a man: That he suffers from his wife’s infidelity, and especially if he consents,” and more. Mexicans get the fifth tense—”Said of a person: of bad character”—but, as usual, Castilians don’t know shit about Mexicans.

You don’t want to call a stranger in Mexico a cabrón, because it means “asshole” in that context. But among friends, cabrón is used as a form of respect (“Él es cabrónhe’s a badass) and as a meme (go find the one of an old paisa in a tejana smoking with the legend “No pos … ta cabrón,” which chipsters use when they’re wowed by something).

If your Mexican co-workers call you that, take it as a form of respect—at least they’re not calling you “Trump,” amiright?

Dear Mexican: I was wondering why no one really talks about Mater Dei High School fucking up Santa Ana for all the Mexicans. I mean, we can’t cruise anymore?

I went to high school there, and now I’m at Columbia University. While I was at Mater Dei, no one, including the lucky Chicano students from the neighborhood who went there, made a fuss about expansion and gentrification—not only around that nasty sore thumb of a campus, but around Santa Ana’s downtown, too. I mean, I guess I’m as guilty as the next mexicano. I lived most of my life a block from Memorial Park. Here at Columbia, Harlem residents are doing something, and some student “allies” are helping out.

Seriously, güey: Why don’t Mexicans make more noise about their dying, gentrifying community?

Fresita

Dear Pocha: For my non-Orange County readers: Mater Dei is the largest Catholic high school west of the Mississippi, an athletic powerhouse that also was one of the largest pedophile priest-and-coach factories in the nation, a fact alumni always try to forget. (I don’t, since its legendary boys basketball coach, Gary McKnight, once threatened to sue me because he didn’t like my coverage of his dealings with an assistant who molested students.) Mater Dei is in Santa Ana (pronounced and spelled “SanTana” by the natives), a muy-Mexican city that has seen mucho gentrification over the past decade. Chicano activists across the country are fighting gentrification in their barrios (shout-out to Defend Boyle Heights!), but let’s turn this on the gentrifiers.

Gentrifiers: where y’all at in the fight against deportations? You’ve only had, like, 25 years to join, but I guess ustedes would rather toast your good life with another Modern Times Oneida—CHAVALAS!!!

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: Help a pocha out—what can I do to reclaim my heritage?

I grew up in Orange County with my white mother and half-brothers and sisters who used to tease me that I needed a green card to get home after trips to Rosarito Beach.

I now live in my Mexican father’s home (he grew up in Rock Town, Duarte) since inheriting it after he passed in 2010. My father never taught me to speak español, which haunts me … help! For instance, I try to practice my Spanish when I order at the local taco truck. Sometimes, I feel like it’s not well-received, because I get answered back in English. I don’t want to come off as condescending. It’s not that I assume that they don’t know how to speak English—I’m just trying to see if someone other than my boyfriend can understand me. (He’s half-Dominican and shares some of my same cultural dilemmas.) I try to participate in my neighborhood’s various events, and I’m learning my aunt’s tamale recipes and such.

Any other things this half-xican should try?

Mexican in SGV

Dear Pocha: Primeramente, you need to get it out of your cabeza that you need to speak Spanish to be a proper Mexican. Cuauhtémoc didn’t, and they still built a statue of him in Tijuana. And take a chill pastilla: If your local taquero responds to you en inglés when you try out your Spanish, it’s probably because he has pity on you and is trying to make you feel comfortable, so don’t take it as an insult.

I’m glad you’re learning your tía’s tamale recipes, and I’d actually focus on that to reclaim your heritage—food is the great transmitter and keeper of culture, and symbolic ethnicity is how fifth-gen Irish Americans can still claim they’re from County Cork, despite having as much in common with a shantytown Irish as a Trump piñata does with the Santo Niño de Atocha.

The most important thing is that you’re proud of your mexicanidad, and you’re most likely better off than your asshole half-hermanos—stay classy, Orange County!

Dear Mexican: I’ve heard a style of Mexican music that intrigues me, yet I cannot find the name of it. It’s similar to mariachi, as it usually has a small group—upright bass, guitar, etc. The vocal harmonies are very, very good. It almost sounds like the Beatles with jazzy overtones. I’ve heard songs like “La Bamba.” I did an Internet search, and the closest thing I could find is son jarocho; however, pictures show bands from Veracruz using harps and other different instruments. The style I am trying to find has conventional instruments.

There was a band that played this style a few years back at Acapulco, the restaurant in Orange on Katella Avenue near a big theater. I also recall that my mom had a record back in the early ’60s called Los Pinguinos at El Shrimp Bucket. This is the recording I loved as a child. The vocal harmonies were extremely good. The music is obviously not mariachi, as there are no horns or violins.

I would appreciate you pointing me in the right direction!

Living in Seizure World

Dear Viejito Gabacho: Since when has a harp not been “conventional”?

I found your album on eBay, but no way am I spending $35 on it. I did look at the tracks, however, and the mix of Mexican classics and the songs you mentioned peg Los Pinguinos’ style as trio. Oh, and there’s the whole thing of YouTube having tracks of Los Pinguinos—you do know about YouTube, right?

The next time you have a question for the Mexican, make it a true head-scratcher, like what happened to los 43 de Ayotzinapa or why Mexicans root for Chivas when a fourth-division German team would send them to la chingada.

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

It’s no secret that the scorching-hot weather can extend well into September and October here in the Coachella Valley. However, locals don’t need to fret or sweat—because crafty beach cities with more moderate temperatures are less than a couple of hours away.

I recently spent some time in Orange County’s beach cities—looking for some of the best places to enjoy craft beer, of course. Here are some of my findings.

The Laguna Beach Brewery and Grille (pictured below) is under new ownership, and I’m loving the Taco Tuesday specials—two tacos for $5 or $6, depending on whether you get fish, carne asada, chicken or pork. The inside bar and floor have a sleek look thanks to concrete and marble, and a handsome copper tank from Czechoslovakia sits near the kitchen. While it’s not filled with local suds yet, it should be serving beer in about six months. In the meantime, you’ll find taps from Laguna Beach Beer Company and several other local breweries. Chef Guillermo Sandoval comes from the Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort; serving classic, contemporary and regional Mexican dishes comes naturally to him. Try pairing the delicious south-of-the-border fare with craft beers from Tijuana and Baja.

Newport Beach’s best-kept affordable dining secret is, of all things, a speakeasy-style tavern tucked away in the back corner of the city’s Whole Foods. Yes, really. If you’re not content with the 15-20 beers on tap at the Back Bay Tavern, grab a bottle from the Whole Foods store, and have them open it at the bar. Prices are indeed reasonable, and the place has a decent happy hour, with $2 off drinks and appetizers from 4-7 p.m. weekdays.

Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona Del Mar boasts a creative craft beer selection from breweries like Pumpkin, Russian River and Paradox Beer Company. The restaurant buys as much produce as possible from independent, local farms based on seasonal availability, giving this American gastropub a gourmet touch.

Also located in Corona del Mar, SideDoor puts the “gastro” in gastropub. The menu offers a little bit of everything. From the charcuterie station, the prime rib chili cheese fries and duck-liver pâté to the warm goose-confit salad and butternut squash with wild nettle pesto, the food at SideDoor will thrill casual foodies. The pub cycles through a draft beer selection often, with choices like Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and Ballast Point Watermelon Dorado. The seasonal small plates are portioned for sharing, and the menu changes daily.

For Great American Beer Festival Award-winning brews, head to Newport Beach Brewing Company. The second brewery to open its doors in Orange County—back in 1995, in case you were wondering—resides in the historic Cannery Village on the Balboa Peninsula. Fondly known as BrewCo, the brewery adheres to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law), using only water, hops and barley in the production process. Bonus: BrewCo is just two blocks from the beach.

If you find yourself in Huntington Beach, head to the Speakeasy. Check out “Tap Tuesdays,” with $4 select draught beers all night. Just a little more than two miles away, Johnny’s Saloon has one of the best beer selections in town. It’s been voted one of the top dive bars in Orange County for years. Like an aging punk rocker, the dark, unpretentious pub sings to a different tune, with 181 craft whiskeys and 100 craft beers. Also: Slater’s 50/50 isn’t to be missed, especially if you’re a meat-loving craft-beer drinker like me. The restaurant’s namesake is its 50/50 patty—made of 50 percent ground beef, and 50 percent ground bacon. Pair a burger with one of the 100 beers on tap; after all, it’s always a good day for a burger and a beer. Every year, Slater’s 50/50 taps more than 1,000 different craft beers, which is saying something.

If you feel like heading west of Los Angeles rather than south, mark your calendars for late September and consider the BAM Fest, Beer, Art and Music Festival, in Santa Monica on Saturday, Sept. 24. With 18 open studios, arts activities and exhibitions—and, of course, beer from 42 breweries—the event is fun, and it supports a great cause: Proceeds help the 18th Street Arts Center, one of the top artists’ residency programs in the country.

Of course, one of the best things about getting away is coming home—and Coachella Valley residents are blessed to live in a place with fabulous pool parties, chill bars and impeccably designed hotels—as well as a wider craft-beer selection than ever before.

We’re lucky. Southern California residents have an amazing amount of variety and choice when it comes to craft beers—and in a matter of just hours, you can enjoy a cold one by the pool with views of palm trees and mountains and on the sandy beaches of Orange County. Either way, there is good living where there is good beer.

Published in Beer