by Gustavo Arellano

Dear Mexican: I’ma Spanish teacher, and I’ve been hearing my students say a phrase thatI am unsure what it means (if it truly means anything, which they swearit does). They say it’s a Mexican saying: Tiki tu madre. I don’t knowwhat “tiki” means. So, I was wondering if you could shed some light onthe subject for me. Maestra de Español

DearTeacher: Chula, your students están chingando contigo — or, in theKing’s English, they’re fucking with you. The only “tiki” that evercrosses a Mexican’s mind is the former New York Giants running back or the Polynesian-themed decorative style. When your estudiantes say their phrase, they’re obviously meaning “Chinga tu madre,” which translates as “Go fuck your mother” and is Mexico’s greatest contribution to the world’s repository of curse words after pinche puto pendejo baboso. Butdon’t go off giving your lil’ scholars detention slips or bad grades —indeed, congratulate them on practicing grammatical sleight-of-mouth.They practiced a form of what linguists call a cryptolect, a secretlanguage used by a subgroup to communicate with each other whilekeeping outsiders clueless. Mexican society features many such cants,whether whistled languages, the caló argot used by pachucos during the 1940s, or whatever it is Carlos Mencia bellows on his slice of boobtube beams.

A lot of gabachos, including myself, are learning how to salsa dance and getting pretty good at it. What’s your take on gabachos going to Latin dance clubs and tearing up the dance floor? In general, are Mexicans okay with this? Or, should us gabachos just stick to line dancing, or not dancing at all? — The Barbarian of Rhythm

Dear Gabacho: We don’t care — salsa music ain’t Mexican, and nothing is sexier that stealing a gabachita froma lead-footed white boy with our moves. Actually, our feelings gethurt: Why do you give so much love to tropical music yet ignore ourpolkabased conjunto norteño (the type of music with accordions) and banda sinaloense (theone with tubas)? Do you dare rock waltz and polka steps like we do?They’re not that difficult — just ask your grandparents to tune in to“The Lawrence Welk Show” and tell them not to hate Mexicans, m’kay?

Iworked with and employed about a dozen Mexicans in my last job. We hadmany great discussions about Mexican culture and white culture. I wasalways puzzled by the relationship that these guys had with their“compadres.” They relied totally upon these guys for information onsubjects that they knew almost nothing about. I was always puzzled asto why they relied so heavily upon people that knew very little morethan they did. I never saw this in any other culture. Is this somethingthat is common in the Mexican culture or was it unique to these guys? — No Buddy System for Me

Dear Gabacho: Any amateur anthropologist worth their weight in The Children of Sanchez copies found at used bookstores know that the compadrazgo system in Mexican culture goes beyond serving as the godparent of a child for any number of Catholic sacraments. Traditionally, compadres took an active role in the upbringing of ahijados, and served as a support system for the parents of their godchildren. It’s a practice with roots in European Catholicism, but Mexico being Mexico,we expanded the term and concept to include any close friend in ourextended family. What’s so wrong with relying on others for help, NoBuddy System? Frankly, Mexicans are way ahead of gabachos in this Great Recession, because while gabachos wait on President-elect Obama to bail them out, Mexicans easily plug in to their compadre systemfor everything: fresh produce, money, shelter, a hollowed-out ChevySuburban to sneak in that last batch of cousins — everything.

What are the major characteristics of the Mexican sense of humor? — Yearning for Yucks

Dear Gabacho: Self-deprecation. Boobs. Puns. Double-entendres. And midgets — many, many midgets.

Ask the Mexican at themexican@,, or write to him via snail mail at: Gustavo Arellano, PO Box 1433, Anaheim, CA 92815-1433!

Get all your Mexican fun at,,or send your questionsto!Gustavo Arellano was born in Anaheim, Calif. to a tomato canner and anillegal immigrant. His critically acclaimed column “’¡Ask a Mexican!”has won the 2006 Associationof Alternative Newsweeklies award for the best column in a largecirculation weekly. He’s also a contributing editor to the Los AngelesTimes and has appeared on “Today,” “Nightline,” NPR’s “On the Media,”“The Situation with Tucker Carlson” and “The Colbert Report.” For more information visit