Eugene Weekly : ¡Ask A Mexican! : 10.15.09



Dear Mexican: An uninsured wetback just hit my car and totaled his. He had no insurance and no license, but did have a nice cell phone. I asked him if he was OK in my limited Spanish, but he did not ask about me or my children. He was handcuffed and taken away to be booked for one hour to get his real ID. This incident will cost me hundreds of dollars even with my insurance. My insurance company tells me 60 percent of accidents in California are with uninsured Mexican drivers. Why don’t they just take buses like I did when I couldn’t afford a car?

— Stranded with no Rental Insurance

Dear Gabacho: Yeah, you really care if the man that rammed into you was OK when you smirk at his cell phone and call him a wetback (and real pronto, readers: please eliminate that word from your Rolodex of Racism. Like “beaner,” it’s so 1950s. Use “wab” or the cooler-sounding Spanish translation, mojado). Cry me a pinche río. Also, your insurance agent no sabe what they’re talking about sobre the figures you provided. The Insurance Research Council’s Uninsured Motorists, 2008 Edition estimated only 18 percent of Californians drive uninsured; the 1998 study, California’s Uninsured, by the Policy Research Bureau of the California Department of Insurance did determine 35 percent of Latinos had no insurance but didn’t bother to figure out whether they caused the majority of accidents. Both studies showed that the rate of insured drivers in California and the United States had actually increased over the years, so that figure your agent gave you was just to soothe your frayed gabacho ego — it simply has no basis in fact or statistical projections. Finally, with regards to your actual question: uninsured Mexicans drive cars the same reason uninsured non-Mexicans do — the buses are too overcrowded with Mexicans.

I live outside of Tucson, Arizona, a big city only about 50 miles north of the la frontera. Every year, we celebrate the birthday of the town, and always a major enter of attraction is our dear and famous Spanish mission built by the Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit extraordinaire of German extraction, along with uncounted native Tohono O’Odam. This mission is named Mission San Xavier. It is always, and I do mean ALWAYS pronounced: San Ha-Veer, very heavy with the H. So, why do teachers who have students with the name Xavier always pronounce it Zay ­ Vee ­ Irr?  (Or does my question go the other way around)?  

— Old Native Just Asking

Dear Gabacho: For being a self-proclaimed native of the Old Pueblo, you sure are a pendejo. Father Kino was of Italian extraction (though born in the Austrian Empire), and the full name of the mission is San Xavier del Bac, named after Society of Jesus (better known as the Jesuits) founder St. Francis Xavier (so named because he was from the town of Javier in the Basque country). As to your pregunta: you’re just hearing the Spanish and English pronunciations. The English version of the letter x almost always sounds like the letter z at the beginning of words; la letra x at the beginning of Spanish words is almost always aspirated like the letter j. Of course American teachers will pronounce Xavier as Zay-vee-Irr, the same way they turn Guillermo into Billy, but I think the question you have is why the velar fricative took hold for x en Español and not in English. La respuesta: while the English were going through their Great Vowel Shift toward the end of the Middle Ages, los Españoles decided to follow their own route to ensure confusions among future generations of gabachos — just another grievance alongside the Reconquista and uninsured Mexicans, you know?


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