Ask a Mexican

Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican,

My gabacha friends and I marched in the May pro-amnesty rallies and wanted to show our support on our chests as well as our feet. We wore T-shirts that read, "I only (picture of big, juicy lips) mojados" on the front and "Yo solo (lips) mojados" on the back. Some Mexican guys complimented the shirts, but my Chicano studies-type friends got angry. They said I was colonially objectifying Mexican men as sex objects and that gabachos can't ever use the word "mojado" because it's like the N-word in English. They were pissed, and they dissed. I feel bad. Should I?

--Chica Against Making Immigrants Scapegoats, Enemies, Targets and Animals

Dear T-Shirt,

Your unfortunate experience reminds me of an apocryphal quote attributed to Emma Goldman; after a comrade told the anarchist icon that her gaiety wasn't helping the cause, Goldman replied, "If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution." Similarly, the PC pendejos who trashed your smart, sexy mojado ("wetback" in Spanish) T-shirts show why most Mexicans and children of Mexican immigrants wish Chicanismo would go the way of the Frito Bandito. Protest with playfulness is a tradition in Mexican culture; witness Super Barrio, a corpulent masked wrestler who emerged to fight for victims of the 1986 Mexico City earthquake and went on to serve in Mexico's Congress. The culture of Chicano activism, while fighting the good fight, also creates insufferable, self-righteous bores whose idea of political humor is screaming "GO BACK TO EUROPE, PILGRIM!" at geriatric gabachos. I blame Chicano studies, which corrupts the brains of young Mexicans with antiquated concepts such as victimization, objectification and grade inflation, all anathema to the libertarian Mexican soul. Besides, what male, straight or joto, doesn't want to be sexually objectified?

Dear Mexican,

I'm interested in hiring day laborers. I plan on feeding them, hydrating them and so forth. Problem is, I couldn't find them in Lawrence, Kansas, where I have a project. Where do I find day laborers in Lawrence? Should I feel good about providing them work or shitty about denying an American the job? And how do I ask, "Do you know how to use a chainsaw?"

--Five Dollars, Five Hours

Dear Gabacho,

Forget Lawrence--the Mexican's Kansan cousins tell me that the best Sunflower State jornaleros hang out at Kansas City's Westside CAN Center. (Don't feel left out, Dallas Observer readers; find your own hard-working brownies at Garland Day Labor Center, 2007 Saturn Road, Garland, 972-864-1729.) Pick your tool-wielding Mexican with pride, Five Dollars; men like you--entrepreneurs who undercut the American worker by replacing him with cheap immigrant labor--pushed our country to glory. But do me a favor: Press Lawrence's city fathers to open a day labor center. Many municipalities across los Estados Unidos have solved their day laborer problem by funding such locales; at the centers, the mad capitalist ballet of curbside jornaleros gets tamed into an orderly, litter-free exchange of labor. According to "Comparing Solutions: An Overview of Day Labor Programs," a 2004 research paper prepared by the Idaho-based Day Labor Research Institute, many cities with day labor centers found that taking jornaleros away from street corners put less of a burden on taxpayers than allowing them to roam. "Not only was money saved," adds institute director Lynn Svensson, "but also police were freed up to deal with crime rather than what they consider nuisance calls." So fight crime, gabachos: Build a day labor center in your neighborhood. As for the chainsaw translation question, it's "¿Sabes cómo usar un motosierra?" But just say, "Trabaja hard, or I'll call la migra," and your Mexican will comprende whatever mangled Spanish you may sputter.

Dear Mexican,

When I was in the Marines, Mexicans comprised most of the non-gabacho jarheads. I served with Gunny Ramírez, Sergeant Major Sánchez, Captain Guzmán and so forth. In the midst of anti-immigration sentiments, why does the armed forces run Spanish-language recruiting ads?

--Ignorant Immigrant Marine

Dear Pocho,

Uncle Sam loves poor boys or girls, especially if they're immigrants--and no inglés is necessary! "Immigrant soldiers have always been an important sector of the U.S. military, going all the way back to the U.S.-Mexico War, when Irish immigrants made up a large part of the American army," says Jorge Mariscal. He's a Vietnam War vet, literature professor at the University of California San Diego and editor of the 1999 collection Aztlan and Viet Nam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. "Today is no different. Immigrants have limited economic and educational opportunities, and many have a desire to 'prove themselves' as patriotic citizens." Mariscal told the Mexican that the Department of Defense devotes about $27 million of its $180 million recruitment budget to Spanish-language ads and bilingual personnel; these ads use the double-edged sword of familia and machismo to convince Latino recruits that a life of death is for them. The strategy is working: According to a February 9 New York Times article, the number of Army Latino recruits rose 26 percent in the past four years, while the number of Latinos in all military branches rose 18 percent. And it doesn't matter whether the immigrants are legal--21-year-old Iraq War martyr José Angel Garibay was a former illegal immigrant who received American citizenship only after his April 2003 burial.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano