Ask a Mexican on Mexico's Soccer Woes and Mana

I have a Mexican friend at work, and we happened to get in a discussion that started off fine — but I believe that I offended her as the discussion progressed. My intention, of course, was not to do such. We were talking about an upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration, and I asked if she knew the true meaning behind Cinco de Mayo. "Of course I do," she said. "It was a famous battle we won" — "we," meaning Mexico. "That's great," I replied, "because a lot of people have the wrong idea, they think it's when Mexico got its independence." She then said, "Yeah, only you gringos think that."

She implied that she should know because she is Mexican-American. I said that she's really an American who happens to have Mexican heritage. "I don't call myself a European-American," I told her. I was born here, just like she was! I said if that was the case, she should call herself a Roman-Moorish-Spanish-Mexican-American. She turned and showing signs of being upset, and said we are really in Mexico. I was at first confused, then I realized that she was suggesting that Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico was originally Mexico's land. I said, "Actually, we're in Nevada which I don't think was part of that region." I also stated that it was originally Indian land and that the Mexicans took the land from the Native Americans. We, being Americans, took it from the Mexicans. Seeing that she was upset, I apologized for upsetting her. Those were not my intentions. What's your opinion?

H.R. Harridan

Nevada not a former part of Mexico? Where do you think the name came from — the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle? That said, you were in the right. She shouldn't have called you a gringo at work—she should know better that we save that for when you're out of sight, or mutter it under our breath when you're one cubicle over. She also shouldn't be telling you that this land is Mexico — although it is, it's a classified secret not ready for revelation until Nevada is majority-Mexican like Southern California. Finally, her whole weepy-moany act is beneath a true mexicana — she should've dismantled your weak-ass arguments with the facts or — better yet — a well-placed chinga tu madre.

I'm a very white man who lives in a small town about 13 miles from the Mexico border. In this small town there is a coffee shop, and an attractive Mexican lady started working there. She does not speak English. I have a Spanish/English dictionary, and I have been writing her notes when I go into the coffee shop. She writes back in Spanish, short little notes. She says hello to me every time I go in there; I have been practicing my Spanish "hello." That is about as far as we have gotten. Her children speak English, but she does not. I cannot see spending my life talking to her through her children.

I am not sure what to do next. Can you help me with the next step? I would enjoy spending more time with her . . .

Still on Spanish

Wow, a Marty Robbins song come to life! While your average Chicana scholar would rightfully rip you apart for your paternalistic, colonialist, macho, heteronormative attitude, I'll be a bit more sympathetic: You're going way ahead of yourself. Already talking about seeing a lifetime with this woman? Get to a situation where you can slip off her chonis first, son! And to get to that step, learn some habla first. And to get to that step, get thee to a Spanish-language class; since you're near la frontera, a soccer league will suffice.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano