For this Labor Day fin de semana, behold two oldies but goodies that I amazingly haven't yet passed off as new in this columna. The first one is still current and one of the favorite questions the Mexican ever got; for the second respuesta, I've added some thoughts at the end, given that it dates to 2007 yet the question is, like the Mexican lust for gabachas, eternal. Enjoy, and eat 11 tacos de chorizo for your favorite Mexican, wontcha?
Whatever happened to the "lazy Mexican"? Now all I hear is that they're taking our jobs.
Isn't that the stupidest paradox? Really: How can someone simultaneously be a yeoman and a layabout unless he's Shaquille O'Neal? But accusing ethnics of being both is America's most cherished immigrant insult. Every group felt its contradictory sting: Chinese (opium smokers or railroad coolies), Irish (drunks or ward bosses), Scandinavians (oafs or Vikings), Italians (slum dwellers or Mafiosi), Jews (rag-picking parasites or international bankers) and now Mexicans. The insult's popularity draws its venom from our Puritan forefathers, who considered life outside of labor sin: It's a miracle the phrase on Auschwitz's gate, Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Brings Freedom), isn't inscribed on the Capitol Dome. What's strange, though, is how modern-day gabachos forgot the Protestant work ethic long ago; meanwhile, immigrants continue to pick up Max Weber's flame without forgetting to enjoy life. Bested in both works and pleasure, gabachos seethe, grow fat and elect evangelicals — and don't get me started about faith without works and its relationship to American sloth.
I had a heated discussion in my van pool with a couple of gringos in which they made a comment that immigration (both legal and illegal) needs to stop. I replied jokingly, "Then who will take our orders at McDonald's or work in the fields?" They had the nerve to tell me there are several Americans willing to work those jobs, especially in the fields. I laughed. Wasn't there a study a couple of years ago in which they sent Americans who were collecting unemployment to pick strawberries, and they all quit within a week?
Pocha from the Central California Coast
Many readers have asked the Mexican about the study you cite, but I've yet to verify its existence. This makes me believe it's an urban legend along the lines of successful Guatemalans, or Mexican women taking it up the ass to keep their virginity. Besides, who needs a mythical study proving gabachos don't work in agriculture when the government has documented this phenomenon? Consider the Department of Labor's 2005 National Agricultural Workers survey. The finding that's pertinent to us: Eighty-three percent of America's agricultural workers identified as "Hispanic," and Mexicans constituted the vast majority of that figure. Gabachos, meanwhile, accounted for only 3 pinche percent of all fruit and vegetable gatherers. Many factors besides laziness can explain why gabachos won't take these jobs — terrible wages and working conditions, better employment opportunities for English speakers — but the fact remains that gabachos and crop picking go together as well as Mexicans and la migra. So, want to save America from the Aztlanistas, gabachos? Head for the fields and groves, wrap a bandanna around your face to fend off the pesticides, and start picking. And make sure there are no bruises on the fruit, lest the foreman dock you an hour's pay. (Modern-day coda: This is exactly what hasn't happened in the years since, which just happen to fall under the Great Recession. Farmers have begged Americans to pick their crops because of a shortage of Mexican workers — and, nothing).