Dear Mexican: I have a Mexican friend at work, and we happened to get in a discussion that started off fine — but I believe that I offended her as the discussion progressed. We were talking about an upcoming celebration, and I asked if she knew the true meaning behind Cinco de Mayo. "Of course I do," she said. "It was a famous battle we won" — "we," meaning Mexico. "That's great," I replied, "because a lot of people have the wrong idea. They think it's when Mexico got its independence." She then said, "Yeah, only you gringos think that."
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She implied that she should know because she is Mexican-American. I said that she's really an American that happens to have Mexican heritage. Showing signs of being upset, she said we are really in Mexico. I was at first confused, then I realized that she was suggesting that Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico were originally Mexico's land. I said, "Actually, we're in Nevada, which I don't think was part of that region." I apologized for upsetting her. Those were not my intentions. What's your opinion? H.R. Harridan
Dear Gabacha: Nevada not a former part of Mexico? Where do you think the name came from? That said, you were in the right. She shouldn't have called you a gringo at work — she should know that we save that for when you're out of sight. She also shouldn't be telling you that this land is Mexico. That's a secret not ready for revelation until Nevada is majority-Mexican like Southern California.
Ask a Mexican
I'm a white man who lives in a small town about 13 miles from the Mexico border. In this town there is a coffee shop, and an attractive Mexican lady started working there. She does not speak English. I have a Spanish/English dictionary, and I have been writing her notes when I go into the coffee shop. She writes back in Spanish. She says hello to me every time I go in there; I have been practicing my Spanish "hello." Her children speak English, but she does not. I can't see spending my life talking to her through her children. Can you help me with the next step? Still On Spanish
Dear SOS: Wow, a Marty Robbins song come to life! While your average Chicana scholar would rightfully rip you apart for your paternalistic, colonialist, macho, heteronormative attitude, I'll be a bit more sympathetic: You're getting WAY ahead of yourself. Get to a situation where you can slip off her chonis first, son! And to get to that step, learn some habla first. Get thee to a Spanish-language class.