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Gustavo Arellano

Dear Mexican: Longtime reader, first-time writer. I need some advice. My wife (who’s a half-Mexican Los Angeles native, just so you don’t think we’re a couple of white hipster dickheads) and myself (who’s white, but an immigrant, so I hope that lowers my dickhead factor a little) have had it up to our orejas with our Hispanic neighbor’s music. He plays it so loud that being in our living room is like being in a bass bin filled with tubas. I have asked him directly (at 11 p.m. on a Sunday) to turn it down, which he did, but now every time he sees us come home, he either starts it up, or cranks it up if it’s already playing.

The thing is, he’s not having a fiesta. Ever. He’s a sad little man sitting all alone in his garage, getting drunk and scrolling through his iTunes. I don’t want to hate this sad, little man, but it’s getting out of hand.

Our Mexican friend informed us that the music he was playing was El Salvadorian and “really ghetto.” I’m not sure of the genre or origin myself, but it sounds like banda and cumbia made with a cheap Casio, packaged with low-res artwork and possibly sold at truck stops. See how depressing this is getting? If I were to blare the traditional music of my homeland at earsplitting volume every night, people would be burning effigies of Rush on my doorstep without blinking an eye.

I don’t want or need silence. I love music. I’m a musician myself. I just want to be able to have a drink and a smoke with my wife in our yard without having to yell over top of his music. Can you suggest a good approach to get him to turn it down? Call the cops? I’d rather not. Fight fire with fire? I have access to a PA system that could bury the whole block, but I’m not that guy. He’s that guy. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Not That Guy

Dear Hoser: You say you’re not a pendejo hipster, but then you prove yourself otherwise. Trotting out your half-Mexi wife as proof that you’re not racist is the first indicator (don’t you know that Mexicans are the biggest racists against Mexicans?), and then you say your tormenter listens to “El Salvadorian” music, a genre that must exist alongside “Britishtarian” at your local record store. Despite being a musician, you can’t distinguish between banda and cumbia, even though the former is a genre, while the latter is a rhythm, and then you speculate that the music is piratería—as if that’s somehow shameful. Then you top it off by name-dropping Rush—pinche pendejo gentrifying hipster!

Despite all these sins, I do feel for you. Your vecino is an asshole, especially after you’ve asked him politely before to turn the volume down, and he now cranks it up as a chinga tu madre to ustedes. Calling the cops is a waste of everyone’s tiempo, and I’m tempted to tell you to learn how to conduct conversations at ear-splitting volumes like any good Mexican. (Ask your wife.) But, still: You asked nicely, and the neighbor’s a dick. So do what any Mexican once spurned would do: Call la migra.

Dear Readers: As usual, gracias again for a wonderful 2012. Without your eternal love, hate and purchases of my books, I’d be just another Mexican working in an industry that’s going the way of the Olmecs. Feliz Año Year, and to a chignon 2013!

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!

Dear Mexican: Many of my friends think I'm loco for playing with my dad the way I do. See, mi padre is now retired and living in Mexico, and is very worried that I am now 30 and not married yet, so he wants me to go back to where he lives to try and take an india from there back here to los EEUU, if only to at least look after me. I retaliate by kindly "reminding" him as much as possible that we are leprecanos (yes, I read your previous articles), to which he gets very angry. Everyone says that he's going to beat me up one day, but it never happens. Last year, I gave him for Navidad a bowler hat, an Irish soccer shirt and matching knee high socks. Let me tell you, he was so red for a second I thought he was going to explotar, but we still love one another very mucho. Are family relationships between gabachos so much different?

Concerned Green Bean

Dear Leprecano: Just a quick reminder for the gabachos and wabs that might've forgotten your ethnicity: A leprecano is a half-Mexican, half-Irish person and therefore probably the most raza borracha of them all. As for your question: Why are you asking me about gabachos? They're a bigger mystery to me than Mayan Long Count calendar. The one spiel I can pull out of your hilarious pregunta, though, is the idea of Mexican families in the United States sending their pocho sons to the motherland to find himself a nice rancho girl.

The intermarriage rates among Latinos continue to rise—the Pew Hispanic Center reported this year that 26 percent of Latinos marry outside their ethnic group, second only to Asians among America's largest ethnic groups—the reality is that Mexican immigrants want their children to marry within their old social structures. That's why a Mexican-American teenager's life is a perpetual weekend of weddings, quinceañeras, birthdays, baptisms and boxing matches—they're all staging areas for courtship. Of course, the best-laid plans of Mexis and madres usually fail here in el Norte, what with all the girls from Jalisco, Zacatecas and Sinaloa flirting their way toward every Mexican man's heart. That's why the fail-safe measure for parents is the rancho option: There's always going to be a third cousin in the ancestral village who's still a virgin, waiting patiently for pocho peen salvation.

Why do Mexicans all flock back to the motherland at Christmas for weeks at a time? They buy a shitload of presents, new clothes and basically check out of the USA. They blow their all feria, and then come back broke and start all over again. My folks are from the beautiful state of Chihuahua, and I cannot remember ever leaving at Christmastime for an extended trip to Mexico. ... Come to think of it, I can't remember any presents either. Shit...sucks for me.

Mexicana Por Fortuna

Dear Wabette by Fortune: Most of the Mexicans who historically made the trip back home to Mexico (I say "historically" because fewer Mexis are making such trips at the moment due to the narcowars and pendejo border fences) loaded up on presents for relatives back home, relatives that were usually poorer than them. Also don't forget the conspicuous consumption angle (immigrants want to appear as if they've found success, especially when going back home) and the fact that Mexicans return to Mexico because they're Mexicans and have Mexican relatives who still live in Mexico and want to see their Mexican relatives in Mexico because Mexico Mexico VIVA MEXICO, CABRONES!!!

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!

Thursday, 13 December 2012 08:00

Ask a Mexican: Some Holiday Lit Suggestions!

Dear Readers: Behold your favorite Mexican's annual Christmas gift guide, where I give shout-outs to some of my favorite books that deserve your money this holiday season! And for once, I won't recommend my books—¡Ask a Mexican!, Orange County: A Personal History, and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America—as gifts ... oh wait, I just did! In all honesty, while I always appreciate ustedes buying my libros and handing them out as regalos, the following items are just as chingones, if not more so.

Juan in a Hundred: The Representation of Latinos on Network News: This book won't be published until early January, but preorder this masterful analysis of the paucity of Mexis on la tele, and the laughable representations that do make it through. Author Otto Santa Ana is a UCLA profe who boils down reams of data into a clear, well-written analysis that will have you rooting for the demise of the networks.

Anything by Cinco Puntos Press: You might've read a recent New York Times story decrying the lack of Latinos in children's books. And while you don't necessarily need Mexis in a book to get Mexi kids reading (although I must admit, I always thought Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing was set on a Zapatista community in Chiapas), the Times article was wrong: There are a chingo of children's and young-adult books featuring Mexis, and some of the best come from Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso. Run by my amigo Bobby Bird, one of the most Mexican gabachos you'll ever meet, Cinco Punto's books are wonderfully illustrated, hilarious—and they also sell great non-fiction for adults. Check them out at www.cincopuntos.com.

Anything by Lalo Alcaraz and Sam Quinones: I plug these guys ever year for a reason—not only are they amigos and mentors, but they're the titans of their respective fields. Alcaraz, of course, draws awesome cartoons, but this year also saw the advent of his pocho.com, what The Onion would be if it were Chicano and funny (recent story: "Realization: Man watches telenovelas for boobs, not to learn Spanish"). And Los Angeles Times reporter Quinones just happens to be one of the best narrative reporters in the country, with his books, True Tales From Another Mexico and Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, the best books on Mexico since Insurgent Mexico—and you should buy that one, también!

Tex(t)-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the Mexican in America: Another annual plug because it deserves it, this scabrous take on Mexicans in the American imagination is penned by the eternally brilliant, eternally cochino William Nericcio. Rumor has it his next desmadre appears next year—grab that one, too.

Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican-American Middle Class: Shout-out to las mujeres! USC professor Jody Agius Vallejo penned a brilliant look into the Mexicans Americans don't want to acknowledge: those who aren't poor or cholos. She makes her fluid arguments with stats, great citations and amazing anecdotes—the opening scene in her book sounds like a Horace Greeley fable come to life mixed in with a Lupe Ontiveros fantasy and is written sans academia's stultifying pedantry.

An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 1550-1941: This gorgeous coffee-table book published by the University of New Mexico Press presents pictures of all sorts of maps, along with brief histories of them and detailed close-ups. Perfect for the nerd in your family—and you know every Mexican family has at least two.

And remember folks: when you wrap up these books, make sure to stuff them in XBox 360 boxes to trick the recipient—it's the Mexican way!

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!

Dear Mexican: Why is it that many Mexican women hate on me for having an Asian (Korean, to be exact) novia? I notice this in a lot of places. We go to the store, and I get looks. We go to the movies, and people look or say things like, "Mira la chinita." I get looks from Asian people as well, but many Mexican women look at me with the evil eye. When I asked my co-worker who is Latina, she basically said it makes her and other Latinas feel unwanted.

I really do not see color lines. What does it matter? I don't judge others, so why do they judge me? My novia is a good person, and we are doing great. Her family and my family have accepted us with open arms—but, sometimes, we have to avoid certain places. The funny thing is she speaks Spanish fluently, and I am a novice with Korean. Many of the Latinas are hating, but they themselves can't speak the language of the culture they hold so dearly. I'm a shaved-head rocker, and I don't think people expect it when I say she is my novia. What's your take on this?

El Pocho Loco Del Burbank

Dear Pocho: "P.S.," you added at the end of your letter, "I love it when people talk smack about her, and she turns around and tells them, 'Entiendo todo lo que dicen, babosas.' It really freaks people out." HA! I'm glad she understands everything that the babosas say about her, too. And I'm glad that your chinita's parents accept you.

Back when I was dating a chinita (a Vietnamese girl, but who's keeping score?), her parents thought I was little better than a cholo-gardener-illegal-bandito, even though I dressed like a Chicano nerd (guayaberas, Chucks, slacks) and was a graduate student. (The cholo-gardener-bandito bit was only on weekends.) My parents, on the other hand, welcomed the chinita into our household. Then again, I've heard of situations like that flipped, so I wouldn't attribute Know Nothing relationship attitudes to any particular raza.

Stats on intermarriage rates between chinitos and wabs are hard to come by, which I guess prove your point—even demographers don't believe in the possibility of chinito-Mexi love—but I do know that Latinos and Asians are the two ethnic groups with the highest rates of marrying outside of their group, so your beautiful relationship is the shape of cosas to come, not some crime against nature à la a Mexican Republican.

Mexican women don't like your chinita? They're just upset no man is giving them the chile, period.

Why do some Chicano activists hate the European Columbus, but get mad because this Mexican (me) is not fluent in Spanish? Isn't Spanish a European language that half of our ancestors forced on the other half of our ancestors?

Apparently Slightly Pocho In San Anto

Dear Pocho: Shh! Don't introduce logic to a yaktivist! They might soil their maxtlatl!

Why do Mexicans here in Chiapas think that, because I'm a gringo, I will or am able to pay more for stuff? Nothing works, including, "No soy turista" or "¿Cuanto cuesta por los Mexicanos?" Now my pocho friend has to tell me to hide my skinny white ass around the corner while he negotiates the price for everything. ¿Qué paso? Do I have "tonto" stamped on my forehead, or what? Soy pobre maestro de inglés. No gano mucho.

Chiapasgringo

Dear Gabacho: You think that slumming it in southernmost Mexico teaching English to chiapanecos entitles you to everything Mexican, including easier haggling at the tianguis? Cry me a pinche river, Great White Padre. An American haggling Mexican vendors in Mexico is like a city bureaucrat demanding taxes from a kid's lemonade stand.

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!

(Editor's Note: This week, we welcome Gustavo Arellano's Ask a Mexican to the Independent. If you want a primer on the column, find a citizen-encyclopedia-writeup here.)

Dear Mexican: In President Bush's State of the Union address, he reiterated a need for a guest-worker program. What is your opinion of such a program? The program seems like mierda that screws people over in the long run to me, but what do I know?

Una Guerita Por Un Mundo Sin Muros :-)

Dear Gabachita for a World Without Border Walls: Sorry I'm answering your question—what, five years later? ¿Siete?

The sad part about my laziness is that the question remains relevant, and what Republicans once dismissed as Aztlanista claptrap from the mouth of Dubya (who will remain the best GOP friend to Mexis we'll ever have—mark my palabras) is now the gospel they're preaching after the disaster that was their outreach efforts to Latinos during the 2012 presidential election. It's been absolutamente HILARIOUS to see Republicans wake up and smell the tacos more than a decade after Latinos became a political force, to see them lamely prop up Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as a presidential candidate (the only position he's worthy of is being Secretary of Coños), to see gabacho pundits ask themselves what Latino voters want without having a Latino on their panels or asking said voters, and—most laughably—to watch them introduce the idea of resurrecting the guest-worker program.

Conservatives love the idea of having Mexicans work cheaply but not being able to become citizens, but it's an idea that'll fail as badly as it did the first time around, from the 1940s until the 1960s. For the last time, America: Mexicans are not just workers; they're humans who'll notice living conditions are better here and will want to stay here—how ya gonna keep 'em down on the rancho after they've seen Paree? A border fence? P-shaw.

While it's true some Mexicans might want to only work here and go back to Mexico, demographics and history show otherwise. "Immigration reform" without some sort of amnesty is like a burrito without the tortilla—and who the fuck besides calorie-conscious hipsters wants that?

I was with some cousins for a week in Lindsay, a major orange-picking city in Central California. They own a mini-market, and I'd go help them every day, and got to know some customers. Many of the Mexican customers would come in and yell "Agooshtoo" or "wey" to me and my cousins, and we'd yell it back, and they would smile and get their beer. When they would leave, they would say "a rato," and we'd yell it back. I asked my cousins, but they didn't really know much except that the first two were probably curse words. Any help?

Gabacho From Gilroy

Dear Gabacho "Wey" is easy—they're saying güey, which, as I wrote so long ago in one of the first ¡Ask a Mexican! columns, is the "ass" of Mexican Spanish, even though it derives from the word for "ox." But it's not a fighting word, and you and your primos should be honored—Mexi men use güey as a form of endearment among each other, à la the American English "fucker" and "man." If they really wanted to insult you, they'd call you puto, pendejo, baboso or—better yet—pinche puto pendejo baboso.

"Agooshtoo" sounds like a gusto (to be at ease), but it very well could be from an indigenous language like Mixtec or Triqui, since the Central Valley is home to tens of thousands of folks from Oaxaca. "A rato" is the elided form of al rato, which means "later"—in this case, they're telling ustedes güeyes that they'll be back in a bit for more beer.

Now that I answered your pregunta, do me a favor, and leave some cerveza on credit for my güeyes so they can be agusto, por favor!

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!

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