Ask a Mexican Already! Q&A with Gustavo Arellano


With both President Obama and Mitt Romney actively courting the Latino vote this past week, it seems like a good time to learn more about out neighbors to the south by revisiting last year's interview with Ask a Mexican! columnist and recent Reason contributor Gustavo Arellano.

Here is the Original text from the April 2011 release:

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 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 Jensen.

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  1. In 4 years of college (20 years ago), I never heard anyone tear apart the melting pot v. salad bowl dichotomy so completely, let alone at all. Dude is phenomenally brilliant for just opening his eyes and reporting the truth he sees.

  2. As someone who is half-Hispanic I think this is absolutely dead on, particularly about the tendency for assimilated Mexicans to maintain identity through food. Every Christmas my grandparents bring us tamales from a bakery in East LA, in additiont to birthday celebrations or family get-togethers featuring rice, mole, enchiladas, and other good food like that.

    Other than that, I speak very limited Spanish, was not raised a Catholic, and for all intents and purposes am white like my mom.

    1. I have British ancestry, yet have no urge whatsoever to eat blood pudding.

      1. While, I think it’s awesome, when well made, I can understand an aversion to it. That being said, what about Yorkshire puddings, or sticky toffee puddings? They’re delicious regardless of ancestry, and thoroughly British.

        1. I just picked blood pudding out of the air, Chef. I know not *all* British cuisine is the suck.

          1. HP Brown sauce also blows.

        2. I love sticky toffee pudding and have a recipe, but have never used it. Fish and chips on the other hand, there was a time when I would make that once a month.

    2. was not raised a Catholic

      Both my parents are white…and I was raised catholic.

      1. Catholicism forms a large portion of Hispanic idenity.

    3. Isn’t the food thing true of most everyone? They are comforting because it what was served to us as a child, so we (well not me, yet) serve it to our children. Language, on the other hand, is simply a tool to communicate with. If there is no need to use it to facilitate communication in day to day life, most people, regardless of heritage, will stop using it because, it provides no benefit to them. We all need food and language, but what you eat is dictated largely by preferences formed as a child, and language by who you have to talk to everyday to get shit done.

      At least that;s my take on why food persists generation to generation, while language and culture don’t, or at least not to the same degree.

      1. I’d be interested in seeing how Asian communities assimilate. I grew up in a community with a large Korean population and so virtually all of my Korean classmates spoke the language since presumably that’s what they spoke at home. I wonder if that’ll persist when they have American kids.

        1. I’m guessing this largely has to do with the concentration and size of the specific population in question. A large well establish subculture could possible insulate it’s individuals from the population at large. The larger the amount of services and opportunities in said community the less need for any individual to go outside that community to fulfill their needs.

          I know as a personal example the group on Indonesians my father moved here with, largely have English speaking children and aren’t involved in any lager community, as they all moved to places based on job prospects as they all already spoke English and there wasn’t much of an Indonesia community outside of NYC at the time. On the other hand there is a moderately sized Indonesian community that speaks the language and is somewhat insular, in South Philly. I can’t speak for other Asians. All the ones I knew in small town PA growing up were similarly isolated from anyone of a similar ancestry.

        2. how do we assimilate? We have our children fuck white children and make half asian babies.


          1. (it’s part of my plan)

            1. I once told a white supremacist we’d be better off if everyone were mixed-race.

              He called me a traitor and a [n]-lover.

              Oddly enough, a militant black man I talked to on the same mixed-race subject, was just as vehement and nasty about the concept as the white supremacist was.

              Just can’t please some people.

              1. I had a very close black lady friend many years ago, whom I decided to finally approach about my desire to take it up a notch. I asked her what she felt about interracial sex, and she let me know. It really pissed her off that so many black guys would leave their baby momma’s for some white skank out of some bullshit prestige game black men played amongst themselves. That’s a near euphemistic paraphrase of what she really said which included a few jabs at OJ’s ex.

                I was a bit disheartened, but ten minutes later, she came over and asked me, ‘you meant us, right?’


                1. I dated a black lady a few years ago, and in this supposedly White Power-infested hillbilly area, we caught more hell from other black folks than we did from whites.

                  1. America’s trailer parks are fascinating things. I use to drive a guy who worked in the warehouse at my last job in the evening for a few weeks while his car was at the shop. Driving through the rather large trailer park he lived, I would see combinations of the human stock never before assembled. I could only guess their lineage, but Swede/Samoan came to mind in one instance.

                    1. Until I see a mix of aborigine and Eskimo, I won’t have lived.

    4. But if that were the case, why is Spanish now used on public signs so much nowadays? Why are there Spanish broadcast networks?

      That’s really the problem – you’ve got a culture separated by its use of a different language. It has nothing to do with race, since gasp, Spain is just as much European as England and Germany and so forth.

      Countries will different cultures tend to have problems, and eventually likely will end up as separate countries. You can artificially stick them together for a while, but usually it doesn’t end up well.

      (My grandmother was a Lopez, so I probably could be considered hispanic, but just like my Swiss ancestors didn’t continue to speak German, she didn’t keep speaking Spanish)

      1. Your swiss ancestors would disagree with the basic premise of your argument.

      2. But if that were the case, why is Spanish now used on public signs so much nowadays? Why are there Spanish broadcast networks?

        In the US there were German language newspapers and books.

        The rest of your premise falls apart after that fact is exposed.

        1. By the way the first US German language paper was published by Benjamin Franklin.

          1. It’s like he read my post, erased it from his memory, then posted the very question I attempted to answer as a fact supported by his single antidote.

      3. But if that were the case, why is Spanish now used on public signs so much nowadays? Why are there Spanish broadcast networks?
        Because Spanish sounds better then English.

    5. Isle?os on my dad’s side. The only homage to Catholicism in the household while growing up was Friday fish night. Irreligious then, dad became a protestant convert for the last years of his life. Of my two remaining uncles on that side, one is an atheist, and the other is Catholic. I’ve mentioned this before, but not recently, of my two remaining paternal aunts (there were ten in all, aunts and uncles, at one time), one was a truck driving lesbian who graduated from art school, but found the road to her liking (same with dad, liked living like Kerouac then sticking around). She is now a nun who was involved in several restoration projects. Her specialty being medieval tapestries.

  3. I have a question. Why does Mexico suck so much? It can’t be the climate. El Paso is a modern 21st century city while 100 yards away Laredo is a third world hellhole. Why? The solution to illegal immigration is to make Mexico a better place to live. Then the wetbacks can stay there instead of coming here.

    1. You shouldn’t talk about beaners that way.


    2. Corruption in their government.

      Basically their equivalent of the Democrats ran the entire country for close to a 100 years.

      Look at what that has done to cities in the US, like Detroit or St. Louis. Urban blight everywhere. The same thing applies to Mexico.

      1. THIS.

        Beautiful coastlines, an abundance of natural resources, a huge manufacturing base, etc… All wasted due to government corruption and a historically oppressed citizenry. It’s so engrained into the culture that I’m afraid it would take a dozen Hiroshima bombs to even begin the process of change. Adding insult to injury our government bribes of billions in “aid” to their corrupt officials to fight a drug war, which has further destabilized an already unstable government, isn’t helping their situation.

    3. You’re wrong Mexico is doing good and getting better. They have a strong emerging middle class.

      1. Without the monkey of the drug war on their backs it would be evident that Mexico is pretty close to a first world nation, and though not exactly there, it is already among the riches. The revolution was a step back in their rightful heritage of being the other Texas during the second great oil boom of the 1920’s with disseminated wealth building a strong middle class, but oligarchy and the supporting structure of socialism being what they are, that had to wait decades for substantial reform took root.

        1. before substantial reform took root.

        2. Imagine if they legalized the selling of drugs.

          They say, “Bring a boat, plane, whatever and load up. How you get it home is your problem”.

          Never mind, we’d probably invade them and kill half the population, then hand over power to the former drug dealers.

          Why? Because we are stoopid, that’s why.

          1. Never mind, we’d probably invade them and kill half the population, then hand over power to the former drug dealers.

            That’s precisely the backdrop of the backstory behind how Saito came to become part of Section 9.

      2. No, you’re wrong. Otherwise we’d be talking about what a shit hole Canada is and how funny Juan Candy was on Segunda Ciudad Televisi?n.

    4. The conventional wisdom always calls out Mexico’ endemic corruption.

      On the other hand, there are other reasons, geographical and political: Mexico has no navigable rivers, few lakes, and in general the nation just lacks water. Next, the nation lacks land as well. Better said, the nation lacks a tradition of land ownership. In the US, there was a whole continent available for anyone who could come along and farm it. The opportunity to own one’s own land, and defend it by bearing arms, was unheard of by European peasants in the 19th century.

      These long-term so-called structural features are more relevant.

      The biggest thing holding the nation back today is in fact the drug war. The drug war in Mexico is in truth an insurgency, with the central government fighting the drug cartels’ private armies in the hinterlands. Therefore, the government lacks all legitimacy, especially amongst the people living in the hinterlands who are the poorest Mexicans of all. It’s no coincidence that they also form the great pool of illegal immigrants. The drug war is an attack on people’s livelihoods, even though it means growing drugs for the international market.

      To make illegal immigration less attractive for Mexicans, staying in their own country has to be a better bet. If it was, then nobody would ever want to leave.

      So that’s why the drug war and illegal immigration are related directly.

      1. There’s not much water in Arizona either but that didn’t stop Phoenix.

  4. Troll feeding: it’s what’s for dinner

    1. No.

      I cooked a Thai basil chicken noodle thing. It’s fucking awesome.

      Has three types of peppers, and the veg was cooked in my pepper infused oil. Basil was picked from the garden right before it went into the pan.

      I use a big cast iron skillet to stir fry with. It keeps its heat so you get that asian doneness to the vegs (still a little crisp, not mushy, and also not raw).

      1. Naah, GBN. Steak on the grill tonight.

        1. I made the chicken over coals on the grill. I even chopped up the slightly charred/crispy skin and put it in the noodles.

          Steak is on wednesday.

          Gas, or charcoal?

          1. Mesquite, and I’m a Kraut.
            Slatherered with melted butter/O-oil. Thick, so it’ll take 3-4 minutes per side to get a char, and then (maybe) move over off the blazing fire.
            Yours sounds good, but it’s a beautiful evening in SF and I can watch the twilight.

            1. That’s how I make a steak. O-Oil, salt and pepper cooked rare. Simplicity is underrated.

              1. Did take a move to the side to keep the center rare, and it was WONDERFUL!
                Salad, a side of pasta with home made marinara. And a ‘meaty’ red.

      2. Dominos Pizza for me

        1. Can’t gripe about that. Crisp side salad, and I’m good.

          1. Episiarch told me he gets the chicago style pizza from dominos all the time, and he loves it.

      3. Elk burgers on the grill.

        1. How is elk? I’ve never had it.

          1. A little gamier than beef or bison. Not nearly as gamy as venison. This was my first Elk and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. We haven’t bought any beef since November and I’ll probably shoot another.

          2. Elk is extremely lean. I practically live on it. Elk, bison, venison, and locally raised beef and pork. Francisco’s assessment is accurate.

            1. It would be great if more libertarians came here where I’ve settled. It’s awesome being half free, much better than not free at all where I came from.

              1. Where you at? A gulch in the mountains of CO? 😉 I’m just outside Great Falls MT.

                Half free here too. The idiots are gaining ground.

  5. Why the fuck are people engaging the troll? I’m not even going to look at the Cathy Young thread.

    1. ‘Cause it’s a Sunday evening, and kicking a brain-dead ignoramus is amusing.

  6. 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…..c-3_9.html or Jack Black’s Mexican-wrestler turn in Nacho Libre was more offensive, whether Mexicans can or should assimilate, the effect of the drug war on border relations, and much more.

  7. The things you learn on Wikipedia:

    The duties undertaken by fags, the time taken, and their general treatment varied widely. Each school had its own tradition. Until circa 1900 a fag’s duties included such humble tasks as blacking boots, brushing clothes and cooking breakfasts, and there was no limit as to hours. Later, fagging was restricted to such light tasks as running errands, bringing tea to the fag-masters’ study and fagging at cricket or football. At many schools, fag-masters were expected to reward their fags for their efforts at the end of term by giving a monetary ‘fag tip’.

    Modern usage as demonstrated by master thespian Willem Defoe:

    1. By “fags” you refer to cigarettes?

    2. So the whole thing about the word fag coming from bundles of sticks is bullshit…

      Homophobes were in fact not calling them wood to be burned but in fact referring to gays as younger students who acted as servants?

      I realize ‘fag” also refers to a bundle of sticks…but thinking on who uses the word fag, ie kids, I think it is probably likely that the history of the word is derive from the above described practice.

      1. Exactly what I was thinking when I came across this while researching some Stephen Fry related links. It does make more sense that that is how modern usage came about given the sexual abuse of under classmen that would be inherent in such a system.

  8. When I lived in Tequila, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico I did my very best to assimilate in that culture. Certainly, I was not very skilled at doing so. But, I did make the effort.

      1. Wow. Victims Family. Saw them in 1986.

  9. This is the election agenda and now the voting is reach into the california and now mexicans in the game.

  10. Areeba Areeba, undelay undelay lol

  11. 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.

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