Why Do Mexicans Work as Day Laborers?
Dear Mexican: I'm a young white dude who drives to work every day, and on my daily commute, I get off the freeway and drive through the streets. Every single day between the hours of 5 a.m. and 12 p.m., there are AT LEAST 100 Mexican men out there waiting to be picked up for work of any kind. My question: Is it really worth it to stand out there all day and pray to God that they will get picked up? And even if they do, why did they get picked up? Did he look stronger and more capable than the other Mexicans? Did the pickup-er look at him and say, "Hmm, that one looks like he can lay some tile and pour concrete?" I don't know how many get picked up every day, but I kind of think that unless you know the person who is looking to pick up some cheap labor, you are just a lucky pick. So is it worth it? Shouldn't a Mexican work harder to gain citizenship and actually pick up a real job? It makes me feel bad, too, that I absolutely hate my job, and really, I take it for granted that I even have one. Thanks for listening.
—Office Drone Dave
Dear Gabacho: Who says those jornaleros haven't already applied for citizenship, or have been on the waiting list for years? Who says being a day laborer isn't a real job? I agree the employment isn't an ideal one — "Even if day laborers have many more good months than bad months, it is unlikely that their annual earnings will exceed $15,000, keeping them at or below the federal poverty threshold," says a report co-authored by my old UCLA boss Dr. Abel Valenzuela Jr., the nation's premier expert on day laborers, in his 2006 paper, "On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States" — but it's better than sitting on your ass and seeing the umpteenth YouTube clip of cats.
My father is Mexican-American and my mother is white. Every time we go to visit older relatives on my dad's side, they always play the same music — Eydie Gormé and Vikki Carr. Why are they listening to this stuff by white people and not genuine, authentic Mexican music? Do they think they're above listening to real Mexican music? I've asked them but they just keep on playing the same damn records.
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—No Mas Vikki o Eydie
Dear Half-Wab: Who says Gormé and Carr are white people? Who says your older relatives aren't listening to Mexican music? Carr's real name is Florencia Vicenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona, and she's straight-up wab, son! She Anglicized her name back in the days when gabachos didn't accept brownies completely but never forgot her roots and has sung in Spanish since the 1970s, recording classic rancheras with Vicente Fernández and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Gormé is of Sephardic Jewish heritage, which definitely isn't gabacho, and recorded one of the most beloved albums of Mexican abuelitas everywhere: Amor, a collection of Latin American boleros with the Mexican group Trio Los Panchos that's all about Los Panchos' twinkling triumvirate of guitars and Gormé's sighing voice — just play "Sabor a Mi" to any chica, and watch her chonis melt away, the raison d'etre for hombres from sunrise to sunset.
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