Ask a Mexican

Does Calling a Mexican "Hispanic" or "Latino" Say Something about Your Political Ideology?

Dear Mexican: Is it just me, or has what to call our friends from south of the border become a partisan issue? While taking in both political conventions, I noticed that Republicans invariably use the word "Hispanics" while Democrats are far more likely to say "Latino/a." Is there some nefarious semantic plot afoot, such as when right-wing commentators dropped the "ic" from "Democratic?" Ensuring My Future in Brown America

Dear Gabacho: While you over-generalized a bit — Latinos from the East Coast tend to call themselves "Hispanics" regardless of political affiliation, while Republican Latinos usually call themselves vendidos — you're on to something. It's not just a political ideology litmus test but also a gabacho one: Any gabacho who calls brownies "Hispanics" is usually clueless about them, while any gabacho who calls us "Latinos" is a fellow traveler of the Reconquista.

What is the relationship with the Chicano culture to the song "Crystal Blue Persuasion"? I've seen Tommy James and the Shondells perform it numerous times and never got goosebumps or teared up or anything. But Chicanos ALWAYS request that song.

MC Cuervo

Dear Readers: It's rare I break my pseudonym rule, but I'm doing it for MC Cuervo, whose real name is Danny Valenzuela and who co-hosts the "Latino Soul Party" every Friday night on KUVO-FM 89.3 in Denver and worldwide on I'm surprised that MC Cuervo doesn't know his Chicano-soul history: While it's true that hippy-dippy gabachos Tommy James and the Shondells recorded the first (and best) version of the best-seller in 1969, multiple soul groups with a Chicano fan base covered it, as did Latin soul pioneer Joe Bataan. From there, it lived on in muchos oldies-but-goodies compilations. It got a new lease on life in 1990, when A Lighter Shade of Brown incorporated it into their "On a Sunday Afternoon," and just got major play on Breaking Bad. But why do Chicanos love the song so much? It's basically a Mexican song; the bongos and the acoustic guitar arpeggios come from Latin America, while the dreamy electric guitar and dramatic organ riffs sound like "96 Tears" (another Chicano classic) after a couple of bong hits, and the horns and harmonies straight out of Eastlos. Perfect cruising music.