BY GUSTAVO ARELLANO
Dear Readers: The paperback version of my book is out in stores now, cheap enough so that even a Guatemalan can afford it. Buy, por favor! Now, on to the preguntas …
Dear Mexican: Consider the similarities between my people, the Celtic Scots, and yours, the Hispanic Mexicans. Both our people trace roots back to Spain. We sailed north to the British Isles and mixed with the aboriginals to become the Scots; you sailed west to mix with the aboriginal Americans. The Roman Empire invaded, pushing us back into the marginal lands in the northern mountains. Then they built a wall to keep us barbarians out. The American Empire conquered your lands, pushed you into the deserts and built a wall to keep you out. My people were organized into large gangs called clans distinguished by our colors (plaids), like the Mexican gangs today. We would cross over the border into Anglo-Saxon England to commit various crimes — cattle rustling, theft, rape, murder — and then run back across the border to get away scot-free, just like you Mexicans.
For centuries, we too tried to hold out against our larger and more powerful neighbor. We had our moments: William Wallace sacked York; your Pancho Villa shot up Columbus. We still boo English soccer teams, and you boo Miss America. The big difference is that eventually we realized that being uneducated barbarians was no way to beat the English, so we decided to become the most educated people on Earth, rivaling even the Jews (whom we were the first to emancipate). In 1707, we effected a merger with England to form the United Kingdom, placing our King James on their throne. This year, another Scotsman became Britain’s Prime Minister.
And there is the history lesson for you Mexicans. When you decide to culturally value your own minds rather than your ignorance and victimization, you will be able to effect the eventual political merger of North Americans as equals. And maybe then we will elect a Mexican-born presidente of the 82 Estados Unitos. — Great Scot
Dear Thrifty Gabacho: You forgot to mention our cultures’ shared affinity for offal and patronymic surnames; otherwise, your fascinating analysis is dead wrong. Everyone knows our Celtic brothers are really the Catholic Irish, and they were the ones who persevered and gained true freedom, unlike you kilt-wearing, golf-inventing Presbyterians. And about that Acts of Union that merged England and Scotland: It’s fraying. The Scots Parliament readjourned in 1997 after more than two centuries of silence, and a secession movement endorsed by no less an authority than Sean Connery is gaining steam. We Mexicans, meanwhile, have enjoyed our sovereignty; the only tyranny we need independence from is diabetes.
Are there specific things that “white” Americans are doing in everyday interactions with Mexicans and other Hispanics in the United States that really irritate you? I’m talking about the little, misguided actions of otherwise well-meaning people, not the name-calling, sneering vocalizations and behaviors of racists. — Curious in Cudahy
Dear Gabacho: Not really. If a gabacho mispronounces Spanish words, I understand it’s not his native tongue. If he gets drunk this Cinco de Mayo on Jose Cuervo and Corona and not Herradura and Bohemia, I figure it’s because a Mexican hasn’t taught him the bueno booze. Mexicans and gabachos are two different cultures, and no one can honestly expect each side to seamlessly understand the other in this country, nor should they want to—the bumps and bruises caused by the conflict is what creates these United States. The key difference is that Mexicans understand this point and eventually assimilate gabacho culture into theirs, while gabachos steadfastly refuse to incorporate some wabiness into their lives outside of superficial traits like food and women and get mad when we don’t absorb their cultural markers fast enough. For the millionth time, gabachos. Mexicans. Assimilation. Believe it. And happy Cinco de Mayo!
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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 TheMexican@AskAMexican.net