¡Ask A Mexican!
By Gustavo Arellano
Dear Male Giraffe Gabacho: Good for you for having Mexican friends AND learning Spanish to speak to them! And for having such cultured conversations instead of just whistling at hot chicas who pass by the workplace and talking trash on your kind! What’s now the Mexican tricolor is technically older than the Italian tricolore—although Italian kingdoms had used red-white-green color schemes in their flags since the late 18th century, modern-day Italy really didn’t form until the Kingdom of Italy in the 1860s, and it adopted the general design that still exists today in Italy’s flag. Mexico’s tricolor, on the other hand, dates back to shortly after the War of Independence for Spain and is based on the flag of the Army of the Three Guarantees, the unit led by Agustín de Iturbide, Mexico’s first emperor; that flag was also red, white and green, although the stripes were diagonal instead of vertical. Reason for those color choices? Maybe Iturbide was a fan of Risorgimento, the movement that eventually unified all of Italy; maybe he wanted to confuse gabachos y Mexicans alike for centuries. Whatever the reason is, it’s lost to history, like numerous Aztec codices and Salma Hayek’s talent.
I cycle-commute daily and follow the rules of the road, which include riding with traffic, not against it. (Riding against traffic is a good way to hurt another cyclist or get oneself killed at an intersection.) Several times per week, I encounter (I don’t want to say “run in to”) characters who do this exactly backwards, riding against traffic and even making their right turns across lanes of traffic like normal people make their lefts. Invariably, they’re either college students or Mexicans. Is this the normal way of riding a bike in Mexico? Do cyclists in Mexico more often find themselves becoming involuntary hood ornaments, or is this something that only happens on this side of the border?
—Thinking “Lucha Pollo” is not the Translation of “Chicken Fight”
Dear Gabacho: In 2004, the Center for Applied Research did a study for the Federal Highway Administration titled “The Pedestrian and Bicyclist Highway Safety Problem As It Relates to the Hispanic Population in the United States” that found a couple of interesting things. One stat was that Latinos were twice more likely to bike to work than gabachos; another was that “Hispanics and Blacks are over-represented in pedestrian crashes,” with Latino deaths in bike crashes were 2.88 per 100,000 population, while the rate for gabachos were 1.78 per 100,000, and that a disproportionate amount of said deaths and accidents in general happened late at night, when most Mexi riders are returning or going to work. The report recommended educational outreach to Mexicans to correct the errors that you pointed out, but to say it’s due to Mexican culture is false: negritos had a greater rate of death than Latinos, and while no hard stats exist for cycling deaths in Mexico, Mexico City is world-renowned for its great urban cycling environment. If you see Mexicans cycling wrong, it’s probably because the urban streets don’t allow for a proper environment (cycling with traffic is also dangerous). This is a teachable moment: get with them and advocate for designated lanes, bike-sharing programs and amnesty for illegal immigrants.