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Sat12142019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Dear Mexican: I’m an instructor at a community college. I wanted to work within the community college to help the marginalized and disenfranchised have greater access to education. Additionally, as a Latina, I have witnessed too many of my own people drop out of college, and I wanted to do something about it.

At the beginning of every semester, instructors attend personal development training, and I attended one on white privilege. The discussion included reviewing an article written some years ago about what constitutes “white privilege,” and whether that definition is still applicable today. The facilitator and some of the participants asked for my perspective on it, and whether I agreed. Finally, I understood that they thought I was white because of my lighter skin. I tactfully corrected them, telling them, “I am MexiCAN.” However, the facilitator went on to say that having the surface appearance of “white” is an advantage.

While I understand that having lighter skin poses an advantage, I don’t think that alone offsets the type of systematic racism my family has experienced. Would you agree? Also, I am frustrated with having to explain that Latinos come in all shades, and people being surprised that I don’t speak with an accent. Am I being overly sensitive, or what?

Wondering Güera

Dear Pocha: You’re not being sensitive enough—white-privilege workshops are snorefests whose takeaway should be reduced to two words: Fuck gabachos. I’m not opposed to that sentiment at all, but obsessing over color also masks the far more pernicious issue of class, especially as it applies to raza in the States.

, white historically made right in Mexico, but it never translates so easily. Take the Mexican’s ancestral ranchos in Zacatecas, El Cargadero and Jomulquillo. Residents in the former are super-white (my maternal abuelita had green eyes); gente in my dad’s rancho are más prietos. Skin color gave cargaderenses the feeling of being superior to los de Jomulquillo—never mind that both ranchos were poor AF, and both essentially emptied to el Norte due to lack of opportunities in Mexico.

White privilege for Mexicans in the U.S.? My mami’s alabaster skin didn’t keep her from working in the fields starting when she was 9, and it didn’t spare my Tío Ezequiel ruthless beatings at the hand of teenage gabachos in the 1960s while attending Fremont Junior High in Anaheim. (He got his revenge, gracias a Dios, by kicking the ass of his tormentors so bad that all the gabachos finally let him be.) So tell those white-privilege workshop trainers to stop with the race obsession, and focus on class, cabrones.

I’m curious about the etymology of the term padrastro. As the stepfather of two youngsters, I’ve wondered about the connection to the term for a hangnail. Is it a coincidence? I’ve also seen the translation mal padre, and I won’t lie: I was a bit hurt. Any info is greatly appreciated.

Super Stepfather

Dear Gabacho: Speaking of sensitive … you’re tilting, broder. Padrastro is a direct translation of the Latin patraster, which means “stepfather,” but is derived from pater (father) and –aster (a pejorative suffix roughly meaning “imposter”), so it was never meant as a nice word to begin with. Padrastro as hangnail is a purely Castilian creation—the Latin for hangnail is redivia.

So why the Mex hate on stepfathers? As with nearly all Mexican pathologies, blame the Catholic Church—you can look it up!

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 work with mostly young, progressive, educated white folks at an institution of higher education in Southern California. The other day, I mentioned buying a shirt that reads, “Illegal immigration started in 1492.” We had a good laugh, and my co-worker, whom I like a lot, said that it actually began in the Ice Age, suggesting that no one kind of human has a claim over “land” or geography.

While I get her argument, I was stunned. A flippant response like that diminishes the struggles of people trying to make a life here, under adverse conditions and having fled other adverse conditions, as well as the systematic historical exceptionalism mythology, jingoism, xenophobia and racism that has created the current state of affairs.

Can you give me a good comeback for when an otherwise cool gabacho says similar bullshit?

A Chicana in the Hallowed Halls of Learning

Dear Pocha: You can point out the fact that attachment to a vanquished homeland is a fundamental part of the human experience—witness the Garden of Eden, Israel, Palestine, Aztlán, Camelot and even The Sandlot—but did you try, “Check your privilege?” How about: “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us?” Maybe, “Who’s the illegal alien, pilgrim?” Perhaps: “Vete a la chingada, pinche sucia pendeja babosa”? Or the classic: “Chinga tu madre”?

I know you’re looking for an intellectual retort, but even Kant knew that a well-thrown verbal chingazo every once in a while makes the best possible point.

I enjoy your column, and I need advice on how to handle a difficult situation with a very special Mexican in my life.

I am in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and my little sister is a smart, kind, beautiful 12-year-old Mexican girl. Since we became sisters three years ago, she has been telling me all about what she wants for her quince (a beautiful blue dress, a stretch Hummer, a mariachi band, etc.). Although her parents don’t have much money, they try very hard to do special things for their kids and make their lives really happy. Today, her mother told me that they are not going to have the money to throw my little sister a quinceañera party. Instead, they want to take an inexpensive trip to the beach (she LOVES the beach), and save the rest of the money for her education. Her mother wants me to help her discuss the situation. Her parents have decided to tell her now so that she doesn’t spend three years planning a party that isn’t going to happen.

I would like to do something special for my sister which captures the spirit of a quinceañera celebration, but without the traditional party. However, being a white lady, I have no idea what that might be. Can you help me to figure out what a girl needs on her quince to feel special and celebrated? I love her so much, and I want to make her feel happy.

Happy to Be a Güera Hermana

Dear Gabacha: Primeramente, can you throw the chingones parents a party for breaking the chains of quinceañera nonsense? Not spending tens of thousands of dollars on one day of a teenager’s life in order to save for their daughter’s educational future? What a novelty!

That said, a beach party quinceañera is not only feasible, but would be more memorable than any rented VFW hall or community center. Check into reserving a big section of sand; tell the parents to invite her friends and family; and watch how happy your hermanita will be. Just don’t be surprised when all the Mexicans go into the ocean with their clothes on …

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