Is there a question you're just burning to ask a Mexican? Come on, don't be shy. Well, how about you just ask Gustavo Arellano instead? He won't be offended. In fact, he just might end up offending you. And it's all in the name of cultural awareness and fun.
Arellano, a California native born to an illegal immigrant and a tomato canner, has seen the best and worst the Mexican and American cultures have to offer, and he's not afraid to tell it like it is.
The idea for Ask a Mexican! began with Arellano's editor at the OC Weekly newspaper, Will Swaim. Swaim asked him to explain the humor behind a Spanish-language billboard that showed a cross-eyed Mexican DJ wearing a Viking helmet. Swain noted that the Mexican looked like someone who would answer any questions about Mexicans without being offended. They decided to create a column that would field questions from the inquiring masses that Arellano would answer candidly and, at times, scorchingly.
Some sample Q&A's from the Ask a Mexican! column:
Q: Why do Mexicans park their cars on the front lawn?
A: Where do you want us to park them? The garage we rent out to a family of five? The backyard where we put up our recently immigrated cousins in tool-shack-cum-homes? The street with the red curbs recently approved by city planners? The driveway covered with construction materials for the latest expansion of la casa? The nearby school parking lot frequented by cholos on the prowl for a new radio? The lawn is the only spot Mexicans can park their cars without fear of break-ins, drunken crashes, or an unfortunate keying. Besides, what do you think protects us from drive-bys? The cops?
Q: Are Mexicans really baptized in bean dip?
A: Yes, but only because Jesus once said, “Blessed are the refried, for they shall inherit the southwest United States.”
Q: Why do Mexicans swim in the ocean with their clothes on? I mean, denim?!
A: This is by far the most-asked question in ¡Ask a Mexican! history. So, to todos ustedes, I have my own question: Are you all brown chubby chasers? Like gabachos, an alarming number of Mexicans are out of shape. According to a 2003 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 24 percent of Mexico’s population is overweight. That’s the second-highest obesity rate in the world following — wait for it — ¡los Estados Unidos! Unlike gabachos, Mexicans respect the public when it comes to flashing our flabby chichis, pompis and cerveza guts — so when we’re out near the pool or by the beach, we cover up. It ain’t Catholicism, machismo or an homage to our swim across the Rio Grande. It’s good manners.
The column has been criticized for its offensive subject matter and stereotyping of Mexicans, but Arellano explains it this way: "Of course it's offensive. That's the Mexican that's been in the minds of Americans for many years. By running it week after week, it loses it's power."
I hope my fellow gabachos will enjoy Ask a Mexican! as much as I have.
Search the Biography Resource Center for more information on Gustavo Arellano (library card is required)
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