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The Naming Debate

Dear Readers:
Muchas, muchas responses to my March 8 column asking whether I should keep this column's gold-toothed, mustachioed, sombrero-wearing fat Mexican logo and what should I name him. The overwhelming majority of ustedes support amnesty for the wab, but a few folks also made articulate arguments in favor of deportation. Following are pro and con letters from gabachos and wabs alike:

Por amnesty

I dont think Ill ever stop hating that image because it makes me think of the countless times I have to counter ignorance, explain the logo and be the voice of brown gente over and over to people who dont get it. On the other hand, because you keep this image in my face, youre making me understand that it represents what it actually is: a stereotype of our people made up by people who dont understand our cultura, our raza. And although I may not like it, it is a reality. So Ive come to embrace this phony image. Its true that we give it the power it has over some of us. And because I know that, I cant let it get to me or have influence on me. I think this logo is more than appropriate for what its being used. You have the power to use humor to educate in such an artistic way that few can get away with doing. This logo exemplifies exactly what youre trying to do: break through to people who are trying to get it. And for this, I thank you. Let em rip.
La Que Sí Sabe

Fuck em if they cant take a joke. When I lived in San Antonio, I had a tee shirt of Speedy Gonzales that featured his friendly image. A couple of whacked-out Chicanos told me at an art opening one night, "That shirt is racist." I replied, "Speedy is kind, helpful, smart, energetic, and he always wins. Shit, you guys are right. He aint a Mexican at all." Fortunately, their switchblades jammed as I did an impersonation of Speedy . . . ¡andele andele!
Gabacho Greg

Por Deportation

Fag, nigger and wetback have been used in rap and comedy for nearly 20 years. Yet still today, when Ann Coulter uses fag, when Isaiah Washington uses fag, when Michael Richards uses nigger — despite the repetition of these terms — they still sting and are used primarily as insults. What makes us think that using an old stereotype of the drunk, gap-toothed Mexican is going to erase its history and use as a negative? Its not going to happen. These racist terms and images were made for racists to use as racial slurs. To think we have the power to change one words or images meaning by using it is unrealistic. We need to come up with new terms and images that will destroy the old racist one. For example: "wetback" or "illegal alien" should now be "nuevo pioneers." As Audre Lorde said, "We cannot dismantle the masters house using their tools." Lets start making some new tools, word and images, ¿simon ese?
Gerard Meraz

Professor of Chicano Studies, Cal State University, Northridge

As for naming the Mexican, the following Denverite put it best:

Whatever we name the Mexican, it wont matter because everyone will call him Chuy.

Gracias to everyone who offered feedback. More responses, critiques, and suggestions appear below, in no particular order. And don't fret: More spicy questions will be answered next week!

Ive been around a long time, managed to laugh at Speedy Gonzales and Jos Jimenez, couldnt have cared less about the Frito Bandito, and couldnt understand the flap over the Taco Bell Chihuahua, even though it was led by my good friend Mario Obledo. I looked forward to I Love Lucy because Ricky Ricardo had an accent. I loved the Cisco Kid and Pancho too. They were my childhood heroes.

They looked and acted a little like me and my family, too. I grew up being called a Mexican as if it was a bad thing, a Chicano as if it was a good or bad thing, an Hispanic as if it was a condescending thing, a greaser as if it was a dirty thing, a beaner as if it was a smelly thing, a Mexican-American as if it was an inclusive thing, a spic as if it was a despicable thing, a wetback as if I didnt belong. I was called cabrón, guay, mijo, pendejo, Viejo, Chulo, Feo, Vendido, Indio, Don, y Doctor by my Spanish-speaking friends. The stuff that bothered me? I got over it. I learned to chalk the insults up to ignorance and racism and not stoop to their level. Me, I dont need thought police telling me or anyone else what to think, how to respond to images, or what images I can use.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano