My gabacha friends and I marched in the May pro-amnesty rallies and wanted to show our support on our chests as well as our feet. We wore tee shirts that read, "I only (picture of big, juicy lips) mojados" on the front, and "Yo solo (lips) mojados" on the back. Some Mexican guys complimented the shirts, but my Chicano Studies-type friends got angry. They said I was colonially objectifying Mexican men as sex objects, and that gabachos can't ever use the word "mojado" because it's like the "n" word in English. They were pissed, and they dissed. I feel bad should I?
Chica Against Making Immigrants Scapegoats, Enemies, Targets, and Animals
Your unfortunate experience reminds me of an apocryphal quote attributed to Emma Goldman; after a comrade told the anarchist icon that her gaiety wasn't helping the Cause, Goldman replied, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution." Similarly, the PC pendejos who trashed your smart, sexy mojado ("wetback" in Spanish) tee shirts show why most Mexicans and children of Mexican immigrants wish Chicanismo would go the way of the Frito Bandito. Protest with playfulness is a tradition in Mexican culture witness Super Barrio, a corpulent masked wrestler who emerged to fight for victims of the 1986 Mexico City earthquake and went on to serve in Mexico's Congress.
The culture of Chicano activism, while fighting the good fight, also creates insufferable, self-righteous bores whose idea of political humor is screaming "GO BACK TO EUROPE, PILGRIM!" at geriatric gabachos. I blame Chicano studies, which corrupts the brains of young Mexicans with antiquated concepts like victimization, objectification and grade inflation, all anathema to the libertarian Mexican soul. Besides, what male, straight or joto, doesn't want to be sexually objectified? Oh, and mojado isn't the "n" word of Mexican Spanish; that honor falls to "Guatemalan."
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I'm interested in hiring day laborers. I plan on feeding them, hydrating them, and so forth. Problem is, I couldn't find them in the town where I have a project. Where do I find day laborers? Should I feel good about providing them work, or shitty about denying an American the job? And how do I ask, "Do you know how to use a chain saw?"
Five Dollars, Five Hours
The Mexican's Arizona cousins tell me that the best Grand Canyon State jornaleros hang out at Macehualli Work Center (16801 North 25th Street, Phoenix, 602-254-5230). Pick your tool-wielding Mexican with pride, Five Dollars; men like you entrepreneurs who undercut the American worker by replacing him with cheap immigrant labor pushed our country to glory.
But do me a favor: Press Phoenix's city fathers to open a day labor center. Many municipalities across los Estados Unidos have solved their day laborer problem by funding such locales; at the centers, the mad capitalist ballet of curbside jornaleros gets tamed into an orderly, litter-free exchange of labor. According to "Comparing Solutions: An Overview of Day Labor Programs," a 2004 research paper prepared by the Idaho-based Day Labor Research Institute, many cities with day labor centers found that taking jornaleros away from street corners put less of a burden on taxpayers than allowing them to roam. "Not only was money saved," adds Institute director Lynn Svensson, "but also police were freed up to deal with crime rather than what they consider nuisance calls." So fight crime, gabachos build a day labor center in your neighborhood. As for the chain-saw translation question, it's "Sabes cómo usar un motosierra?" But just say, "Trabaja hard, or I'll call la migra," and your Mexican will comprende whatever mangled Spanish you may sputter.
Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at email@example.com. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we'll make one up for you!