Ask a Mexican: On Being a Mutt and Not Knowing How to Dance

I am a mutt. My father's father was an illegal immigrant from Mexico. My mother's father was an illegal immigrant from Ireland. My surname is Mexican and is usually mispronounced by gabachos and pendejos alike. I look more Irish than Mexican. And as my father never spoke it at home, the only Spanish I know is from three years of waiting tables at Norms, where the Mexican waiters called bad Mexican tippers pinche indios. While I prefer Patrón and Negra Modelo over Jameson and Guinness, I also prefer Metroid and The Replacements over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Morrissey. My fondest gastronomical childhood memory is of mi abuela frying up chicharrones from the remnants of chile verde preparations one day while telling me how her papi (a second-generation New Mexican) didn't want his daughter marrying a surumato, or dirty Mexican. I get what-the-fuck stares when I walk into Taqueria Zamora on Bristol for a chorizo-and-egg burrito. I get WTF stares when I inform pendejo gabachos why I don't appreciate their beaner jokes.

I know I'm not a Mexican. Se que no soy un gabacho. I don't even think of myself as un pocho, although I imagine that's where you'd say I fit best. I'm just tired of getting shit from everyone on both sides of the invisible race border that exists everywhere in our lives in Orange County and the Southwest in general. And what do I teach my two little girls who look even whiter than me?
Nada Pero Cansado

Actually, I'd call you a leprecano (half-Mexican, half-leprechaun), but my thoughts of which racial category you fit in should matter nothing — you call yourself what you want to call yourself, and tell those who have a problem que se vayan a la chingada. Teach your girls that people will harass them for their mixed heritage — but that's okay because anyone who clings to doctrinaire tests of ethnic identity, who can't accept that people's concept of nationality, race, and ethnicity vary and intersect, is deluded and, frankly, pendejo. The only other point I'll make is to thank you for introducing surumato into the Mexican's Rolodex of Racism. Cabrones: a surumato is the New Mexican version of wab, which is to say it's the historical term those New Mexicans who considered themselves "Spanish" and called themselves manitos used to ridicule newly arrived Mexicans. And Know Nothings say all Mexis are a united front — if only!

Can you please explain to all gringos that not all the Mexicans know how to dance salsa, merengue and other Latino dances?
El Cometa Mexicano

Only the surumatos don't. The manito Mexican knows his tropical dances thanks to cumbia (the slow shuffle originally from Colombia that all Mexican groups regardless of genre incorporate into their repertoire), Perez Prado (the King of Mambo that, while technically Cuban, enthralled the world while being based in Mexico) and the fact gabachas would rather dance to tropical rhythms than our corny-ass mestizo polkas and waltzes. Take a class, tonto, and watch the chicas' chonis come off.

Good Mexicans of the Week! The entirety of the Chicana/o Studies department at Metro State College of Denver. Last week, they brought in the Mexican to the Mile High City as part of their Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship program. It's named after an iconic Chicano activist in Denver who deserves national recognition (buy The Life and Times of Richard T. Castro: Bridging a Cultural Divide by Richard Gould to learn more about his amazing, too-short life), and I gave lectures around the city about Castro's legacy amid my usual shameless self-promoting. The highlight of my three days in Denver was a debate on the Reconquista between arch-Know-Nothing Tom Tancredo and myself. Before an audience of over 300 and a good thousand online, we shocked the nation: we had a civil discussion on a topic on which we were diametrically opposed, and we just might do it again. Gracias, Metro, for having the huevos to indulge me in my locura, and everyone else: send your kids and donations allá.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano