Suddenly, I'm Half-Mexican. Now What?
Dear Mexican: I'm 39. My stepdad — who raised me — just died. This freed my mother to tell me (Stepdad always forbade it) that the man I thought was my biological father all this time was not. The man who IS my biological father is Mexican. What does finding out that I am half-Mexican mean for me? Any suggestions? Brand-New Bewildered Beaner
Dear Half-Wab: The most important thing for you right now is to not blame the Mexican ethnicity of your dad for him having abandoned your mother and yourself — I hope and trust that you know pendejos exist in all cultures. I would also talk to your mother about why she held that information from you all your life, as I'm sure it's upsetting. Was she ashamed she once shacked up with a Mexican, or was it an abusive relationship? Once you're able to work out the personal part of your discovery, you can move on to the ethnic question.
The pregunta to then ponder is this: How does finding out you're part-Mexi feel? Are you ashamed? If so, make sure to tell others that your dad was "Spanish" and make sure to hide the truth from your children. Are you proud of your newfound nopal en la frente? Then ease into your mexicanidad. If you have an English-language name with a Mexican equivalent, Hispanicize it — become a Juan instead of John. Say "Latino" instead of "Hispanic." Finally, if you don't care either way that you're Mexican? Do what all other crypto-Mexicans do: Only become Mexican to get the secret house salsa at your local taquería, or when the United States faces off against Mexico in soccer.
Ask a Mexican
Why do Mexicans use the streets as a playground, their driveway as a futon and the ditch as a trashcan? Vecino de Mexicanos
Dear Neighbor of Mexicans: Crap labor and crappier living conditions for immigrants in America waltz together like Astaire and Rogers — remember slaves and their shacks, Okie farm workers in California's Central Valley during the Great Depression and the Jewish and Italian peons that stare balefully into Jacob Riis' camera in How the Other Half Lives. The immigrant high-density blues continues with Mexicans: According to The State of Housing for Hispanics in the United States, a 2005 study prepared by Dr. Carlos Vargas-Ramos of New York's Hunter College, 12 percent of Latinos live in overcrowded housing, compared with 2.4 percent of the general population.