Ask a Mexican on Being a Gabacho and Switzerland

My gabacho friends look at me askance for being a gabacho who enjoys mariachi music. They, and even some of my Mexican friends, run and hide when I go a step further and start listening to the mournful ballads of Vicente Fernandez, backed up by — you guessed it — a mariachi band. Not that the music of my Highlands ancestors is any more special: Those folks got their jollies blowing into a bag with many pipes sticking out that made the sound of multiple cats in heat. I've noticed that the number and type of instruments used in mariachi bands and the costuming of the players is quite exact each and every time, showing little variation. This leads me to ask, and hopefully you can inform me and your other readers: What are the origins of mariachi music and why does it enjoy such popularity?
Bonnie Prince Gabacho

Simple, really — the roots are from the Mexican state of Jalisco, which, I've noted before in this column, plays the role of Texas in the Mexican cultural imagination. It's an overstatement to say mariachi shows little variation, though. The instruments usually stick to various arrangements of trumpets, violins, a guitar, a guitarrón (that fat guitar that players pluck at with the ferocity of an upright bass and that American culture has relegated to a fat man), and a vihuela, and can come in arrangements as small as four men or as large as an orchestra. The costumes, while always drawing from Jalisco's charro tradition, also wildly vary, while the music mariachis interpret spans Mexico's regions — they can play cumbias, rancheras, polkas, mambos, even "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Historians date the beginnings of mariachi to the era of Emperor Maximilian, but its international popularity only to the 1940s, when Mexico's leaders decided to . . . (answer continued on page 73 of my ¡Ask a Mexican! book, paperback edición).

In Switzerland, they have (or maybe had — I haven't checked recently) a law stating that foreign workers could legally come, have families, pay taxes, but could never acquire citizenship. That strikes me as cruel and unpleasant, but at least honest. But is that better or worse than the U.S. position of allowing workers in the country illegally to support the economy (and do the jobs that the great unwashed would touch never in a million years), holding out the hope of citizenship, until it becomes politically expedient to round a few up and expel them?
On the Fence

No, you're right on the Swiss law, along with the laws of many other European nations that denied birthright citizenship to the children of its immigrants for decades. Such jus sanguinis laws might be ruthlessly honest, but they also created a permanent underclass maduro for the picking by terrorists, and dual societies that make our current American-Mexican problems seem downright melting-pot by comparison. And that's what Know-Nothing politicians who helped defeat the DREAM Act and now want to amend the U.S. Constitution to ensure children born in this country to illegal immigrants do not automatically become American citizens don't understand. Guest-worker programs don't work — you aren't contracting robots, but rather humans who put down roots, remember the opportunities of this land, and will make it their life's goal to be part of the country. And the children, whether born here or smuggled in at a young age, will forever consider themselves American because that's the only country they know. Yet you have so-called Americans dismiss the kiddies as anchor babies, and the immigrants as invaders! This country's assimilationist fires are too strong to create a true dual society like that which exists in Europe, but with the current Know-Nothing rhetoric and politics dominating Washington, don't be surprised next time there's an immigrant-rights march and everyone waves Mexican flags — I don't agree with the tactic, but that logic is as understandable as Mexican men whistling at women.

Good Mexican of the week: Is actually a Filipino, but we all know that those chinitos are the Mexicans of Asia (consult page 248 of my libro for further details). Ask a Filipino answers questions about his raza, from why the armpits of those little island people are so dark to why Filipinas are beautiful but Filipinos ugly, in an informative, hilarious, scandalous manner. Good read, and Mexican-approved! Read more Pinoy pendejadas at askthepinoy.blogspot.com

 
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22 comments
Amdmamd
Amdmamd

love the story!!! well said

KARENYVA
KARENYVA

OK , a friend of ours asked this question and we told him we were stumped too , why is it that most mexican women pencil their eyebrows all crazy and put dark lip liner on with no lipstick ??? Told him we didnt know but it was mosty a cholla thing ,

Yamao
Yamao

Keep your Mexican carnival music in Mexico, along with all the Mexicans..

Nestorb98
Nestorb98

Mexican music is a derivation of German Uhmm Pa Pa music. Back in the day when Germans were building stuff in Mexico like railroads and river steamers, they brought over their music and eventually the sound became popular. Some other types I am sure, evolved from Spanish Sarzuela. I don't think the Aztecs had much in the way of symphony sounds.

bass hater
bass hater

mariachi music is ok but not when i have too enjoiy it in my living room frome 1 mile away.Turn the dame bass down

Enviroherp
Enviroherp

¡Oye, chicano! Why did I buy your hardcover book while all you do is quote from the softcover edition. Not fair!!

pablo
pablo

"...and dual societies that make our current American-Mexican problems seem downright melting-pot by comparison..."

As a Public Service I suggest the name of this piece should be re-named Ask A Homo Mexican.

Mexicans don't have limp wrists, speak with lisps and write things like the above quoted.

Viva Cristo Rey!

(and all Mexicans are Catholic)

I worked in the fields
I worked in the fields

Hey Racist pig! Gabacho is a pejorative name for foriegners. Why don't you write about how mexico treats illegals aliens in their country? Don't want to admit that the mexican police kill them or at the least rob and beat them before throwing them out. I guess the New Times will give any assclown a forum.

OMALLEY_69
OMALLEY_69

YOU DUMB FUCKING IDIOT!! SUCK A DICK AND DIE!!!

Desufnoc
Desufnoc

Gustavo........Please amend your "stance" and"knowledge" of thebelifs of us "know-nothing" Americans.I see some of your points;howevere,your "anchor-baby stance is WAY wrong.The way I,and MANY other Arizonans and American citizens see it is as follows.....What I have a problem with, and the politicians pushing for the change,is the children of the Illegal Aliens,not citizens being granted citizenship just for being born on US soil.I have absolutely no problem with LEGAL immigration.The admendment in question was added for the children of the slaves brought here by the traders.Just like crossing the borders of many nations around the world,even Mexico,where they can and have jailed people for crossing their borders.Some are just shot.Anyway,the babies born to "Illegals"are the ones in question,not the babies of Legal,Naturalized citizens.That is the whole of it.Children of Americans born in another country are not automatically citizens of that country.Why should there be "special rules" for any "Illegals"?

Dave
Dave

If you bother to read the discussions of the people that wrote and debate the 14th amendment you will see that they talked about how this will make the children of the Chinese and Gypsy citizens as well as the Freed Slaves.

At that time both of those peoples were NOT allowed to immigrate permanently into the US but could be here as workers. (you may remember the trans-continental railroad from your school books)

So you see that YES the 14th IS MEANT TO BE FOR ALL CHILDREN BORN ON US SOIL whose parents are not members of a recognized diplomatic mission from a different country.

People really need to find out things for themselves instead of just repeating the things talking heads spew forth.

Jess23
Jess23

YOU ARE A RACIST RAT BASTARD!!

JoeFab
JoeFab

I'm a Gringo that is married to a Mexicana. She and her family always joke that I'm the only Gringo in the world that knows the words and sings along to all the famous Mariachis and songs of the Frontera.

I always loved it; from Vicente Fernandez to Antonio Aguilar to Lola Beltran to Maria De Lourdes to even Linda Ronstadt.

Majkumajku
Majkumajku

on the origins of Marichi....from what I have studied,and been taught,was that during the time of Jaurez,in the war against France,there were Germans who,like many Irish during the Mexican-American war,fought along side the Mexicans.the Germans brought with them their version of polka,and soon it mixed with the traditional music of Mexico.the French called it a "marriage" of music,which sprung the term "mariachi".VIVAN LOS SAN PATRICIOS!

roadscholar
roadscholar

I am so tired of hearing the same creed - that Americans aren't willing to do certain kinds of work. So let's look at that. Last summer, in 110 degree weather, I successfully tiled my patio (700 sq ft), constructed a re-inforced breeze block wall for a tiered garden, installed a solid-pipe irrigation system for my house, replaced two car engines/gearboxes, painted the outside of my house, remodeled a bathroom and increased the insulation on my house. All done without any help.

When I was younger I picked fresh vegetables from the adjacent farm where I grew up for summer money. I know how to prune orange and apple trees and I can install energy-efficient windows, plumb a house and do the electrics. The last time I employed mexicans I was so disgusted by the quality of the work I had to take two weeks of work to supervise them and teach them how to do quality work.

And my day job? I design silicon circuits for a company here in the valley.

What mexicans do is work for peanuts, do the bad quality work because that's mostly what their bosses care about - speed over quality - and none of the savings are passed to the consumer. Want an example? I calculated that even allowing for overheads the tile company we employed made $27 per hour per employee. I'm not including the time I had to take of work in those calculations. However the mexicans were earning less than minimum wage (the employer regularly lie to the government on this point). This means the difference was pocketed by the people exploiting the mexicans.

So I am all in favor of a program that allows mexicans to work here legally, drive with insurance and a license, pay taxes and earn a decent wage for their work. But on the flip side of that, don't start telling me that mexicans are doing us a huge favor - in many ways they are perpetuating exploitation that effectively shuts americans out of the labor market.

Mistalee
Mistalee

Cultures cross-pollinate each other. My wife is pura polacka; when her relatives came to Phoenix, I put radio campesino on the car stereo. They were GROOVIN' to it, until the singing started en español, then they didn't know WTF was going on.

My point is that bigotry is the province of the ignorant and unaware; know your own culture, and you are more likely to appreciate the cultures of others.

Silent man
Silent man

You are wrong Mistalee, I know my culture and my wife's culture. She is Native American, (you know, before the Mexicans), We are not crazy at all about Mexican music because all they can do is play it so loud that it drowns out everything else. We don't do that with the music we like. Why do they think everyone wants to hear what they like? If they want to play it loud, perhaps they should go back to their own country, the one4 they were born in.

PAleskin
PAleskin

HAHAHA!! CRAZY HORSE IS MAD....

roadscholar
roadscholar

I beg to differ.

Having an interest in other cultures is a fundamental differentiator between types of humans. We are all somewhat tribal and are sensitive to people who do not conform to our standards of normality. What defines us, however, is how we respond to that discomfort. Some of us find it exciting and look for kindred spirits in other cultures so we can understand and explore. Some of us are conservative, shunning close contact with foreign cultures, seeking to differentiate ourselves further by denegrating foreign culture.

I know many people well versed in American culture who are rampant xenophobes. Conversely I know of naive Americans who embrace foreign culture as their own. It is the personality of the individual that determines how they respond to contact with foreign cultures. Understanding in depth your own culture MAY improve your ability to appreciate the nuiances of a foreign culture - but unless you have the right personality trait it is just as likely to accentuate racist leanings.

Sure you can condition people by training and education, but that is a veneer over our own personalities.

Loosecannonsbluesband
Loosecannonsbluesband

Is the only thing that unites hispanics (aka Latinos) the european language Spanish? I thought the english only folks here were queer.

 
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