Ask a Mexican on Mexicans Who Don't Like White People

My most beloved niece married a boy of Mexican extraction. I am very fond of him, but he and his family hold us all at arm's length. It's very difficult to get close and has made me back off. My niece has told me that his mother "doesn't like white people." Wouldn't it be better to get to know me before deciding you don't like me? Isn't her attitude racist? I'll never forget walking into their wedding with big smiles because my niece, a real sweetheart, was getting married. We were greeted with stony faces and no responses to our greetings. It felt like being in West Side Story. Looking back, maybe I should have clicked my fingers and sang, "When You're a Jet." Is there something I can do, or should I just continue to be courteous when we meet and try to find something to talk to them about? It is hell to hold a conversation with his family, and they always make me feel that I'm in the way (actually, his father is nice and makes great burritos).

Wondering Whitey

Stop being so gabacha. Believe it or not, not all Mexicans like white people. Your nephew-in-law obviously does, and it seems his papi goes gaga for the gaba as well. But your niece's suegra? Not so much. I can offer advice: Take the woman out to a spa day, treat her to a nice lunch, smuggle over the last of her sisters from Puebla — but the sad reality is that Mexican moms keep pointless vendettas for life. Whatever! You're upset about one pendeja making family reunions uncomfortable. I should detail which of my cousins don't talk to the other cousin over something said by uncles 45 years ago . . . but I still need to show my face at family quinceañeras, you know? Man, are our family funerals fun!

Can you enlighten me regarding something I am curious about regarding tortillas? Why are flour tortillas available in 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch diameter sizes, but corn tortillas are available in only a 6-inch diameter size?

Worth the Girth

Easy. Flour tortillas can get bigger because of their gluten, of which corn tortillas have next to none. Because of that, corn tortillas have a maximum size before disintegrating like the U.S. border. The largest corn tortillas I've ever seen don't get bigger than eight inches, but as I told the Charleston City Paper last year, tortilla sizes are like penis sizes: It's not the size of the ship, but the motion of the masa that matters. Or to paraphrase another penis aphorism: Once you go maize, you'll always sing its praise. Better yet: Once you learn to like corn, it'll always be your porn. No?

While conversing with Mexican-American 'manitas, I came to a halt when trying to conjugate the verb pistear or pistiar. Whence does this term originate?

Slushed-Out Sista

This is a great way to show the world anew the baroque, vulgar wonders of Mexican Spanish. The Real Academia Española (RAE), the official guardians of Spanish in the world, doesn't acknowledge the Mexican Spanish definition for pistear — "to get smashed with pals" — but what do they know? The paisa slang ultimately derives from pisto, which is both an adjective (drunk) and noun (said drink that got the pisto person pedo). And pisto comes from the Latin pistus — "smashed." Now it makes sense why Mexicans use pisto as a synonym for being borracho, ¿qué no? Meanwhile, all the RAE can offer as a definition for pistear is some Central American mamadas about making money — pinche mamones. And, yes: The RAE sure as hell doesn't offer the Mexican Spanish definition of what a mamón is, either.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano