In 2004 the OC Weekly, an alternative paper in Orange County, California, asked its lone Latino staffer, Gustavo Arellano, to answer questions from white people about their puzzling brown brethren. Thus began the scabrous, politically incorrect, and culturally informative "¡Ask a Mexican!" column, now syndicated in 37 papers nationwide.
Arellano, 29, is a fierce defender of his native Orange County, long a hotbed of Republican politics and anti-immigration activism. In September, Scribner released his new book, Orange County: A Personal History. reason asked Arellano to tell us the three biggest misconceptions about the O.C.
1.) That Orange County is where all good Republicans go to die. The worst GOPers, in fact, roam here, from Taliban pals (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher) to xenophobic mayors (Costa Mesa's Eric Bever). Dick Nixon was a veritable Mr. Smith compared to his progeny.
2.) That there are any oranges left. Fewer than 100 acres of orange groves remain in a land that once fed America with the sweet fruit. The last working orchard, a 42-acre San Juan Capistrano lot, was transferred in 1992 to city hands via the threat of eminent domain and is scheduled to become a maintenance yard.
3.) That the O.C. (don't call it that) is lily-white. We became a majority-minority county in 2004, and Latinos will outnumber whites in two decades if current demographic trends hold. And given the innate fecundity of us Mexicans, you know we will!