Eugene Weekly : ¡Ask A Mexican! : 4.17.08


Dear Mexican: I work at a Seattle-based company, and our Customer Service Department uses a phone tree system that asks all callers to press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, and a few other numbers for commonly spoken languages in our area. I handle customer complaints as part of my job, and I get a surprising number of complaints from people who feel they shouldn’t have to press a number to be spoken to in the “normal” language of English. They are offended by our phone tree for some reason that is mysterious to me. You seem to have a fairly high readership of people who are generally offended by Spanish-speaking people — could you please deliver a message to them for me? The message is this: The phone tree is for your own good. If we didn’t ask non-English-speakers to identify themselves at the beginning of the call, English-speaking people would have to wait in line behind those who don’t speak English and would have to wait for those non-English-speakers to get on the line with a non-Spanish- (or other language) speaking representative. They’d then have to wait for the non-English-speaking customer to be transferred to a representative who speaks their language. All of this speaking of the wrong language and call transferring would make calling a Customer Service center take far longer and would irritate everyone. There is no law against not speaking English in this country — companies have English-speaking customers and non-English-speaking customers, and a company isn’t going to give up revenue by refusing to serve people who don’t speak English just to please you jingoists. People should just be grateful that they’re asked to press 1 for English, and not 8. — Press 2 For Tough Tamales


Dear Gabacha: I get this question asked mucho, and yours is as good a respuesta as I can ever scrawl. Can I pick you up at Home Depot if I ever need a cheap replacement?




If a Mexican were working at a coffee shop, would it be racist to call him a “beaner”? — Senior Rapido


Dear Gabacho: No, but no es funny — about as clever as Minutemen chanting, “No se Puede!” Try “burrito-ista.”




Being in law enforcement I’ve had to handle many radio runs. I think Mexicans are some of the hardest-working people in Mexi-America, but why is it when Mexicans drink, they often stab or hit a brother or cousin? Why not a stranger to shake off some of that tension? — Hateful Hermanos Harmful


Dear Triple H Gabacho: Mexican family and drinking is as volatile a mix as an Irishman and Jameson, but stats don’t support your anecdotal evidence. The 2005 study Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found, “Whites and blacks were more likely than Hispanics or persons of other races to be victimized by family violence” between 1998 and 2002, the most recent period investigated by the DOJ. As I’ve written before in this column, “alcohol” and “logic” repel each other like “border” and “enforcement” — apologies for the reiteration, gentle readers, but sometimes the most obvious answers are those that are pirated.



BOYCOTT ABSOLUT VODKA! For their cowardly capitulation to the Know Nothing nation over the company’s recent advertising campaign, which imagined that the Mexican-American War never occurred and that what’s now the Southwest United States always remained on the Mexican side of la frontera. Hey, Absolut: Here in Americaztlán, we value people who stand by their actions, who don’t back down in the face of petty protestations from whiners. May the Mohammedans who keep invading Sweden’s shores teach your countrymen the beauty of a vodka-free life.



The Mexican now offers ustedes an online-only question every week through the powers of a pirated Camcorder. Submit your video preguntas and responses at, and view the latest edition every week alongside my regular column at

Preference given to spicy señoritas! And, as always, continue sending your questions to

Gustavo Arellano is an investigative reporter on staff at the OC Weekly in Orange County, California. His “¡Ask a Mexican!” column began in 2004 and today is syndicated in 32 publications nationwide. He is also the author of a book by the same name. An extensive interview with Arellano can be found in the EW archives online for Nov. 29, 2007. Arellano can be contacted at


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