Ask a Mexican Already! Q&A with Gustavo Arellano

Since 2004, Gustavo Arellano has written the wildly popular - and wildly politically incorrect -  Ask a Mexican! column in the OC Weekly. In each installment, the California-born Arellano answers reader queries about Mexican-American mores that rarely come up in day-to-day conversation. Recent entries have discussed whether it's safe to shop for prescription drugs in border towns, why Mexicans eat so many tortillas, and if it's common for Mexican men to wear necklaces bearing their mothers' names (it's not, cautions Arellano, and probably a sign that a particular hombre has a chica south of the border).

The column, Arellano told Reuters, "started off as a joke. It was supposed to be just a satirical take on xenophobia against Mexicans and it just exploded." The column now appears in about three dozen publications and spawned a 2007 collection (buy it here). The column is remarkable not only for its humor and insight but its willingness to talk frankly about topics that usually stifle even the most-open conversationalists.

In April, Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with Arellano about U.S. natives' attitudes toward Mexicans, whether half-Mexican Anthony Quinn's performance in Zorba the Greek or Jack Black's Mexican-wrestler turn in Nacho Libre was more ethnically offensive, whether Mexicans can or should assimilate, the effect of the drug war on border relations, and much more.

Approximately 7 minutes. Filmed by Hawk Jensen and Zach Weismueller; edited by Jensen.

Go to for downloadable versions of this video and subscribe to's YouTube channel for automatic notifications when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Juice||

  • ||

    Hey Gustavo, what civilized, or uncivilized country allows aliens to enter undocumented (sneak in) and allows them to work, pay taxes, and enjoy public services? There is isn't one. Mexico treats Guatemalans like dog shit. I'm a left-libertarian, and I go to meetings to learn how to bash America because it will get me laid.

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    "...what civilized, or uncivilized country allows aliens to enter undocumented (sneak in) and allows them to work, pay taxes, and enjoy public services?"

    Canada. You know. That big country right next door.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    You mean the one with 1/10 of our population?

  • ||

    Hey. Some of us our Canadian here at Reason, eh?

    Some respect.

    Ooo, hockey is on.


  • ||


  • Stupet dog||

    yo quero taco hell? yo

  • Trespassers W||

    I think we know OM's real name now.

  • GSL||

    The OC Weekly was way better when Will Swaim was still running things.

  • Brett L||

    Do we have to drink?

  • Otto||

    'My problem with Vincente Fox is, why didn't he come out against the drug war when he was in office?'

    It's kind of like cops joining LEAP - once they retire.

  • john||

    the ask a mexican link goes to a page on income distribution.

  • ||

    OK, that dude makes a LOT of sense.

  • MrGuy||

    Insightful even. I don't even need to go to that webpage now.

  • Esteban||

    What annoys me about people who are fearful that 'new' (hispanic and asian) immigrants not assimilating is that they completely ignore the experience of European immigrants in last 19th/early 20th century who set up a ethnic enclaves of their own, where only that particular ethnicity settled and tried to continue the ways of their old country. Neighborhoods called Little Italy were called that for a reason. Of course, second and third generation Europeans spoke English and adapted to and enhanced American culture, just like second and third generation Hispanics and Asians do today. My Cuban cousins in Miami (born to Cuban exiles) know Spanish, but converse with eachother in English almost exclusively. Here, in NYC, nearly all 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanic and Asians that I've met speak English with eachother and have grown up 'American.' Sure, they may tend to associate with people of the same ethnicity, but they pretty much have symbolic ethnicity, as Gustavo put it.

  • ||

    There IS a difference. Back then, Italians, Irish, Chinese and Jews in particular didn't have the luxury of all these PC laws and language to protect them. They HAD to first self-identify through Little Italy's and Chinatown's and then take on the Anglo-Saxon-Scot-German power base.

  • MWG||


  • ||

    Why Ask a Mexican when you can Ask a Google?

    1. Yes...

    Depending on the school, a bilingual education may be offered from the beginning, where half the day instruction is in Spanish, and the rest is in a second language, for example, English or French./blockquote>

    2. Is there a Mexican History Month in the US? Ask a Google doesn't think so.

    3. Can being Mexican help you get into college in the US? No. Those states that recognize that residence does not equal citizenship let residents pay resident tuition regardless of whether they are Mexican, American, White, or Polka-Dot.

    4. Probably not. Ask a Google wasn't too helpful here.
  • ||

    Make that </blockquote>...

  • Les||

    Mike, you simply have to stop valuing facts over opinions. This is the internet, after all.

  • Gregory Smith||

    I doubt American kids in Mexico are taking American courses that teach them how evil Mexico is and how good America is.

    Yet that is exactly what's happening in Arizona where Mexican kids take La Raza courses at our public schools.

    You should check out the VDARE blog and learn the true nature of the illegal immigration lobby.

  • JT||

    I'm tired of this whole "La Raza are crazy Mexican racists" narrative. Yes, there are Hispanic supremacists in America. Yes, La Raza is a stupid name and they should change it. But La Raza is policy wise, not much different from the NAACP, and while I disagree with both of them in several areas, that does not make them a bunch of racist lunatics.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    But La Raza is policy wise, not much different from the NAACP, and while I disagree with both of them in several areas, that does not make them a bunch of racist lunatics.

    The question of whether the NAACP and La Raza are racist is a false one--they're more indicative of the PC trope that ethnic pride is only considered to be appropriate if practiced by non-white organizations.

    I don't care if they think their ethnic group is better than others, I just can't stand their hypocritical hysteria when whites actually dare to do the same.

  • Esteban||

    Shorter Greg: Brown people scare me.

  • JD the elder||

    So, if the Federal government waves its wand and says the magic words over them, scary illegal immigrants can magically be transformed into non-scary legal immigrants? Even if nothing else changes?

  • Gregory Smith||

    Tell you what, JD, if someday I get a global greencard that gives the freedom to work in any country in the world, then we can throw immigration laws out the window.

    Until then, Speedy Gonzalez is simply gonna have to be a good immigrant, apply for a visa, and come here legally.

  • ||

    Do you think the same way about free trade as you do about free migration?

    How about free reading? Do you believe in not reading any other author's work if he won't read yours?

    Why do you so despise freedom?

  • Gregory Smith||

    It was Milton Friedman who said that immigration to work is not the same as immigration to welfare. As long as we have public schools, public universities (some give in-state tuition rates to illegals), public hospitals, etc, we can't afford a horde of illegal aliens to come here.

    Besides, what do you tell to the families of the victims of illegal aliens? You're gonna tell them "sorry your son died, we could have protected our border and keep those criminals out, but we were afraid of being called racist."

    Want open borders? Get rid of open welfare. Otherwise, come here legally or don't come at all.

  • ||

    Of course immigration to work is not the same as immigration to welfare. Welfare must not be a draw for immigration, and today there is zero evidence that it is -- as Milton Friedman notes...

    Look, for example, at the obvious, immediate, practical example of illegal Mexican immigration. Now, that Mexican immigration, over the border, is a good thing. It's a good thing for the illegal immigrants. It's a good thing for the United States. It's a good thing for the citizens of the country. But, it's only good so long as its illegal.

    That's an interesting paradox to think about. Make it legal and it's no good. Why? Because as long as it's illegal the people who come in do not qualify for welfare, they don't qualify for social security, they don't qualify for the other myriad of benefits that we pour out from our left pocket to our right pocket. So long as they don't qualify they migrate to jobs. They take jobs that most residents of this country are unwilling to take. They provide employers with the kind of workers that they cannot get. They're hard workers, they're good workers, and they are clearly better off.
  • Miku||

    Unless you show me statistics that indicate otherwise, I am willing to guess people in this country legally are more likely to commit violent crime than illegal immigrants. Most illegal immigrants I have known were good law abiding immigrants because they did not want to be deported.

  • ||

    No, illegal aliens who come here to breed at my expense scare me.

    Why again is it ok for US citizens to breed at my expense?

    Also if they breed here then the kids are American citizens just like me.

    Your logic points directly to racism....but i will simply give you the benefit of the doubt and continue to think of you as an idiot.

  • Arcaster||

    I think your points have more to do with government running education than they do with Mexican immigrants.

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    So the standard for doing the right thing by people who want to come to America and work hard is to ask the sh!thole country they leave behind to match America line for line?
    Just come out and say it: You're in, so nobody else gets in.
    Fortress American jackwagon.

  • ||

    NICK, your first link is to some policy paper about the evil 1 Percenters.

  • OO||

    "the California-born Arellano..."

  • Nick Gillespie||

    Thanks, fixed

  • Doc S||

    No Mr. Gillespie - Thank you!

  • Doc S||

    God I love mexican food... best part of living in Chicago and having lot's of mexican friends with parent's from Mexico.
    sssssssssooooooooooo gooooooooooooddddd

  • NotSure||

    This may be un-PC.
    Never understood why some Americans see Mexicans as non-white ? Do these people not know that their ancestors came from Europe ? The first Europeans in America were Spanish not English. That guy in the video looks white to me.

    If you want to blame the immigration problem and the strain on resources (which is a real problem), do not blame the people getting the free goodies, blame the people handing the free goodies out i.e. the politicians.

    In the long run the Mexicans will probably return back to Mexico, some people have made bold future predictions (which I agree with) that Mexico will become an ever greater economic power and will start to match American incomes.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Never understood why some Americans see Mexicans as non-white ? Do these people not know that their ancestors came from Europe ?

    Probably because Mexicans themselves go out of their way to classify themselves as non-white.

  • ||


  • ||

    Yeah I have read the same thing, the world in 100 years by Friedman is paticularly well though out. Though ultimately I reject the idea. Mexico has a long history of corrupt goverment that I do not think will be solved soon. Though I do concede that it is a possibility. If the prospects of Mexico ever becoming a legitamite rival to the US became more probably; I think it would be much more likely for the US to eventually annex Mexico to prevent it from being a rival power.

  • DLM||

    Mexico will never be a rival power. I could see annexation of some parts, though, if Mexico starts to break up for some reason.

  • ||

    .. and the number one idiotic policy espoused by doctrinaire libertarians is . . .

    Open borders for welfare states with no ID requirements to vote!

    Congrats guys - with this you are officially butt buddies with the Diane Feinstein left.

  • DLM||

    Open borders for welfare states with no ID requirements to vote!

    I'd have no problem with open borders, except people would need to constantly prove citizenship for eligibility for social programs, which leads to national documentation (much more than just a driver's licence or socialy security card to be effective) and toward a police state (ok, I *might* be exaggerating a bit). I'd prefer not to go there.

  • ||

    I don't know if anyone in the OC actually reads the OC Weekly. I saw boxes of free copies at Chapman university (stationed in front of halls and restaurants) that were rarely touched. The janitors would lump them with the school newspaper to make space.

    From what I remember, the paper's basically an attack dog for the democrats who will blame the "wingnuts" on everything..... in a state that's been dominated by liberals for quite sometime. For those guys, Orange County is some kind of terrifying dystopia where everyone hates Mexicans and the minutemen rule the day.

    Click on the the link, and sure enough, they're gnashing their teeth about the "tea partier" who sent the racist emails. OMG, when was the internet invented?

  • LibertyBill||

    Wait so he doesnt want to exterminate all white people? What about all those wonderful "facts" Paleocons have been telling us about them? /end of America doom and gloom talk

  • Confederal_Republic_by_2030||

    Mexicans speak weird. v scary. l0l0l0l

  • C.Moore||

    One's ability to travel freely ends at my private property line.

    Our national border is a property line. The same rule applies; the owners of the property have the natural authority to set rules & conditions as to who may & may not cross that line.

  • ||

    Our national border is a property line.

    No it's not.

  • johannaz||

    Then what use is a national border?

  • ||

    The national border is where the sovereignty of the government claiming the territory ends. It is useful because it happens to be where governments whose sovereignty you like less ends as well.

    To say that a national border is a property line explicitly means that all "private" property within doesn't really come with property rights, but rather with a bundle of privileges used by the "owners" of the property at the whim of the true property owner, the government.

    One can have that stance. But one does not then really believe in private property, as C.Moore thinks he does.

  • johannaz||

    Because we're unable to declare our patch of land a sovereign country, we can't grant a government the power to redress theft? Or are you saying borders are sovereign lines, and not to be confused with property lines?

    To help me out; if two public parks share a national border, can governments set rules & conditions on human migration between?

  • ||

    I'm saying that borders are sovereign lines, not to be confused with property lines.

    Governments can indeed set rules and conditions on human migration across their borders. But to be legitimate those rules and conditions must be consistent with individual rights. In particular, migration can be forbidden only for specific persons for specific proven causes that threaten the compelling public interest. That a person is a terrorist or carrier of contagion qualify. That he exceeds a quota of his type does not.

    As for your example where the governments actually own the lands on the two sides of the border, I'll do you one better. If Greyhound privately owns terminals that abut each other on two sides of the border, I'll allow that the government has the legitimate authority to know everyone who crosses and to prohibit the crossing of those who are truly dangerous.

  • DLM||

    I'm saying that borders are sovereign lines, not to be confused with property lines.

    And of course no one actually owns that property anyway. It's just free unowned land. /s

  • Miku||

    Even if our nations border a property line, why would we want to prevent the workers who allow cheap food production. The amount of economic activity illegal immigrant workers facilitate through cheap labor, as well as the tax revenues (they pay all excise taxes) they allow far outweigh the social costs.
    From a libertarian perspective I do not know how one can consider a country under national sovereignty legitimate national property. Borders are most often, as is true with our own, decided through long histories of coercive action on individuals. Sovereignty creates a system by necessary services are facilitates, ie police and defense, but it has little to do with legitimate ownership by the government of property.

  • Dumb fuck||

    Who the hell do you think you are, you stupid libert-aryan??? Brown people are, like, weird. I therefore deduce that they should all be evicted from America.

  • ||


  • Ricky||

    Thanks ForSharing

  • comwenj||


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