On Mexican Students Who Choose to Fail and Mariachi Shenanigans
As a teacher, we've been exhorted to expand our efforts in closing the achievement gap between majority and minority students (read: Anglos and Mexicans). I teach all my students in the best ways that I can for each individual student, within the constraints of a classroom of 20 or more. In my 18 years on the job, I have observed, on many occasions, Mexican girls choosing to fail their freshman year, in spite of obvious intelligence and interest in the subject. Several times, I have overheard Mexican boys seeming to tell the girls not to do well. I do not speak Spanish, but I am a very good observer. Upon further investigation into some of these instances, my observations were proved correct. You are obviously an erudite philosopher and student of Mexican society. Tell me why this happens, and what I can do to close the gap.
Are you sure it wasn't the other way around? While Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation, co-released this summer by the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Women's Law Center, found that the high school dropout rate for Latinas is 41 percent, it's a staggering 50 percent for boys (neither set, by the way, is the largest set of ethnic kiddies that drop out of high school, although it's damn close). But you asked about the chicas, and the study has recommendations: empanada-in-the-sky requests for more government spending, but also more concrete, doable steps like connecting girls with role models, eliminating discrimination in schools, and involving parents in every step of the educational process. And while the dos groups do point the finger of failure toward the usual cultural cucuys such as immigration, uneducated parents, and poverty, they also cite the more crucial factor of gender expectations from gabachos — in other palabras, teachers like yourselves, mere observers instead of interveners, deserve blame, también. But at least you want to help. The Mexican's advice: Get them to a nunnery, away from the corruptive leers of teenage boys, and emphasize the Reconquista isn't possible with a bola of uneducated pendejas.
As a transplant from New York, I've spent the past three years in Houston. I've lived most of my life around different cultures, especially Mexicans. We get along great! I happen to be a mix of Puerto Rican and Colombian. There is one thing I've never really understood about Mexicans, though. As recently as Labor Day weekend, my wife (a Mexican) and I were experiencing San Antonio. While having dinner in a Market Square restaurant, a mariachi band was playing at random tables. They began playing for a table of young Mexican men and women. Now, here is where the confusion kicks in: I don't understand why these young men felt the need to scream and cackle while the mariachi band played. I happen to love the music but find it so annoying when you people ruin the song with your cries. Why do they do this? This continued for about 10 minutes in the middle of dinner, which was definitely ruined by their shenanigans.
Considering mariachi is our music, we can do whatever chingado we want while a group plays, and part of the music genre's rich tradition is the ronca, the piercing yelps most gabachos know as "ay yai yai" from the refrain of the standard "Cielito Lindo." Women can join in ronqueando, but it's mostly a macho thing, partly because a ronca is literally a mating call, but also because the emotive power of mariachi is supposed to turn men crazy, into drunken shouters, into sobbing messes — it's "Free Bird" writ large, but replacing the onanistic guitar solo with trumpets. If you want a genteel evening, ask for a trio — another fine Mexican musical style, but one where the audience is supposed to be as well behaved as the Centre Court crowd at Wimbledon.
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