Ask a Mexican!

by Gustavo Arellano

DearMexican: I am the proud uncle of five Mexican-redneck kids who recentlymoved to Wausau with their mamá wisconsiana after living in laCapirucha all their lives. I’ve talked to them on the phone severaltimes a week since they left for la tierra de los sueñosmaterializados, and I’ve noticed slight changes in the way they talk.I’m worried they might lose their neat, melliflu ous middle-classcapitalino accent and replace it with some sort of RickyMartin/Univisión/migra spokesman one. Is it wrong from me to expectthem not to partake in the Spanish that is spoken in the country theynow live in? Even worse: Is it bad to think that American pan-Spanishis demeaning to the lengua itself? I’d rather be lis tening to themspeaking like tepiteños than this. — Mexicano Temeroso del Cambio

DearReaders: The above Mexican fearful of change is a denizen of MexicoCity, whom amongst its many ignominies (smog, crime, overcrowding) andbeauties (sprawl, a heritage going back millennia, is the world’s greatest Spanish: a baroque,mind-numbing string of bawdiness, twisting tones and words startingwith the letter ch- (listen to Café Tacuba’s remake of “Chilanga Banda”for this dia lect’s highest form) that makes custodians of Cervantescringe. That’s not the language of Temeroso’s nephews y sobrinas,however — it seems they’re fresas (literally “strawberries,” but aderisive nickname for hipsters) since he boasts of their middle-classupbringing and rags on residents of Tepito, DF’s version of Detroit.But I feel bad for the guy, ’cause he’s fucked. If there’s but onelesson you take from this column, America (besides the fact thatMexicans love midgets), it’s this: Language is the most malleable,fleeting cultural trait. Mexico City Spanish is different from theespañol of other Mexican states, and both differ from the Spanish of elNorte, which mixes the argots of other Latinos to create the versionyou so scorn, Temeroso. Your precious fresas will succumb to thisblight but also contribute to the growth of their new master Spanish.The only hope you can maintain to ensure some level of Mexican culturalpurity is to ensure the niños don’t become cheeseheads and teach themto root for the Oakland Raiders — or at least the Dallas Cowboys. Now,go enchufa una chava, chulo.

I’mgrateful to find your column. I’ve looked everywhere, including the PewHispanic Center, but I can’t find a concise summary of the number ofHispanics who have served, died and been wounded in the current war.From what I can de termine, Hispanics have been serving this country inwar since the Revolution. In Texas, where I’ve lived since 1970,Lorenzo DeZavala, whose great great grandson I know, helped to formthis state. — The Ghost of Guy Gabaldon

DearPatriot: This is ‘¡Ask a Mexican!, not ‘¡Ask a Latino!, but I’ll make anexception for your important query. The Pew Hispanic Center did releasea report on Latino attitudes toward the Iraq invasion (we generallyhate it), but there exists no comprehensive overview of Latinos in themilitary, just snippets. Some of them: More Latinos have died in Iraqthan any other ethnicity and represent about 11 percent of totalAmerican casu alties (I won’t bother with figures, since they’llundoubt edly be bigger by the time this column gets published). Twoof our present Vietnam’s first fallen soldiers, José Angel Garibay andJosé Gutierrez, were originally illegals from Mexico and Guatemala,respectively. The numbers of non-citizen Latinos serving number intothe tens of thousands, meaning while most Know Nothings rail aboutaliens from the comfort of a sidewalk, a lot of those evil anchorbabies are out fighting to preserve the freedom that allows pendejos toslur their families. And Latinos have proudly served this country forcenturies, from Garibay and Gutierrez to Jesús “Chewy” Baca in theGalactic Civil War.

Get all your Mexican fun at, can, or ask him a question at themexi! Get all your Mexican fun at,,or send your questionsto!Gustavo Arellano was born in Anaheim, California, to a tomato cannerand an illegal immigrant. His critically acclaimed column “’¡Ask aMexican!” has won the 2006 Association of Alternative Newsweekliesaward for the best column in a large circulation weekly. He’s also acontributing editor to the Los Angeles Times and has appeared on Today,Nightline, NPR’s On the Media, The Situation with Tucker Carlson, andThe Colbert Report. For more information visit