¡Ask A Mexican!
By Gustavo Arellano
Dear Wab: “Anglos have long held power in making Spanish and Spanish-speaking culture invisible,” writes University of South Florida assistant professor of foreign language education Adam Schwartz in his excellent essay, “Mockery and Appropriation of Spanish in White Spaces: Perceptions of Latinos in the United States,” published in the 2011 publication The Handbook of Hispanic Sociolinguistics. “But Spanish can be made selectively visible for the purposes of Mock Spanish,” a term popularized by legendary University of Arizona anthropologist Jane H. Hill to refer to what gabachos have deemed acceptable Spanglish—think terms like “vaya con Dios,” “cojones,” “mañana, mañana,” and “chinga tu pinche madre, pinche puto pendejo baboso.” As Schartz points out in his work, the addition of the masculine –o suffix to Mexicanize English arose both from its widespread use in popular culture (think “No comprendo” or “Drinko de Mayo”) and by gabachos taking Spanish classes in high school and college and only remembering one part of the language’s grammatical structure to bend for their racist needs. “This reclamation by Anglo monolinguals of the Spanish language itself is indeed a fashionable act—there is something oddly chic and cool about embracing the stereotype of an ignorant gringo,” Schartz writes. And full disclosure—he was kind enough to cite this columna in the piece, which we find awesome-o!
Being one of two gabachos in my neighborhood on Federal in Denver, I’m wondering exactly how many Mexicans can fit in one car? This is a broad question, so assume that in a two-parent family there are six kids, three of which have three kids. The age range will be from around 50 to five months. We’ll also assume that it’s Sunday, and as many family members as possible need to get out on Federal. The car would most likely be a two-door Chevy truck, or a Saturn sedan on 20-inch rims.
—Craving Some Chubbys!
Dear Gabacho: Depends on the situation—a Mexican car expands and contracts according to need like the Mexican mail panza. Car goes to church? Only women can fit in—and since they’re prim and proper, the max is 10. Going to a party? 25. To school? Just one adult, and all the neighborhood chamacos that can fit themselves in the footrest part of the carro. And if a car is going to a Republican function? It magically doesn’t fit anyone other than the vendido cousin driving it.
Like my Mexican co-workers, I’m a migrant to the City of Angels. In my home state of Louisiana, there is an integral distinction to be made among folks whether one is Protestant or Catholic. But ask a Mexican what a non-Catholic Christian is and they will tell you “Christian.” But, a Catholic is a Christian. I’ve inquired, and Mexicans don’t seem to have a word for Protestant. In fact, there are many words that are basic to my vocabulary that don’t seem to translate into Spanish, i.e., “self-esteem” and “desk drawers.” Why is this?
Dear Gabacho: Of course a Catholic is a Christian—can you tell that to evangelicals? As for your translation queries: a Protestant is a protestante, desk drawers are cajones del escritorio and “self-esteem” is tequila.
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