Ask a Mexican on Wrought-Iron Fences and the Meaning of "Illegal"
Dear Readers: The Mexican doesn't want to take this week off but has to because it's his mother periódico's Best Of issue and the Mexican is tasked with eating a thousand tacos in the search for the best one in Orange. I'll return next week, more panzón than ever — in the meanwhile, enjoy these oldies-but-goodies. And remember: ¡A la chingada con Alabama!
What's up with all the elaborate wrought-iron fences in the Mexican parts of town? It almost seems like everyone is trying to outdo each other with these amazing displays of metallurgy. Is it just another way to try to protect the cars parked on the lawn and keep the livestock from wandering off, or is it a pathway to instant respect and envy among the neighbors?
WHrought Iron to Envy (WHITE) Guy
This is a question that fascinates even sociologists. At a 2005 seminar called "The Latinization of American Culture," UCLA professor David Hayes-Bautista showed pictures of wrought-iron fences to describe what gabachos can expect when Mexicans move into their neighborhoods. But you can find the answer on the United States-Mexico border: fences. Miles and miles of American-made fences. Triple-layered. Jagged. Deadly. That's our introduction to American society when we illegally enter los Estados Unidos. All Mexicans want to assimilate, so fences are usually the first thing we erect once we buy a casa: pointy, menacing bars wrapped with organic barbed wire like bougainvilleas or roses to keep the damn Mexicans at bay. And still — as evidenced by the lemons stolen from my front lawn every night — Mexicans jump them.
What is it about the word "illegal" that Mexicans don't understand?
Take your pick. Mexicans don't understand the word "illegal" because: (A) When paying their gardeners, nannies, busboys, and factory workers in cash (and forgetting to withhold payroll taxes), U.S. employers don't seem to understand the word "illegal," so why should Mexicans? (B) The Anglo-American trappers and traders whom you and I were taught to admire as tough, self-sufficient frontiersmen and pioneers were among the American Southwest's first illegals. Who are you calling illegal, gabacho? (C) Presidente Bush's proposal to offer amnesty and a guest-worker program during his administration to all illegal immigrants — a move designed to appease his supporters in the business community — means even Republicans don't understand the word. (D) Whether they buy a fake passport or take a citizenship oath, Mexicans will never be more than wetbacks in the eyes of many Americans, so why bother applying for residency? (E) The Society of Professional Journalists just passed a resolution asking newspapers to require its reporters to describe as "undocumented workers" the men and women you call "illegal." (F) Little-known fact: The fragment of poetry on the Statue of Liberty ("Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," etc.) does not, because of a French engraver's error, include Emma Lazarus' rarely cited footnote: "No Mexicans, please." Fucking French. But the real answer is the word itself. "Illegal" is an English word; Mexicans speak Spanish — yet you never hear Mexicans whine that their bosses don't understand such easy Spanish phrases as "pinche puto pendejo baboso," do you?
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