Asked by 'Ask a Mexican'

Gustavo Arrellano from the "Ask A Mexican" column currently read locally in the OC and LA Weekly is a cool guy when he isn't picking on the opposite side of an issue that I hold dear.

I first wrote him in response to his column about Chicano/a studies that read like he was hating on ChS. He wrote back within days and we dialogued. Cool. I questioned his downplaying of Chicano studies when he is a product of ChS. He claims Mexican, but is born and raised in the OC. This contradiction in itself is total Chicano. Him being able to spew about Mexicans, wabs, and Guatemalans is because of the discourse ChS has opened up. He backed his points up well. Being at CSUN I have a lot of advantages (not that we are perfect), in his experience he got to see some of the downsides of our discipline. We didn't come to total agreement but that was never the goal. It was to share ideas and see if either of us really could support our own views in friendly debate. It was all good.

He has since written columns I love and some that leave me scratching my head thinking "What is this OC homie thinking?"

Other people I have spoken to about him all say the same thing. Sometimes he is right on, other times he isn't, either way if you contact him, he writes you back. Maybe after his book comes out he won't be able to do that anymore, so try him out now.

This week his column is about reader feedback on his logo. Ironically his logo isn't even on the web nor print edition due to all the adverts. Nonetheless, his logo is of the stereotypical gap toothed, fat, sombrero wearing, Meskin of the frito bandido lineage. He asked readers to comment on his logo. Is it racist? Is it played out? He believes that he was disempowering the image by showing it and claiming it was a pic of his dad.

Go here for the OC Weekly web version. (their typos, not mine)

But this is what I wrote (and I edited por vous) and got published. Thanks 'Tavo.


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 usage as a negative? It is 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 word’s or image’s meaning by using it is unrealistic. WE need to come up with new terms and images that will destroy the old racist ones. For example: “wetback” or “illegal alien” should now be “nuevo pioneers.” As Audre Lorde said, “We cannot dismantle the master’s house using their tools.” Lets start making some new tools, words and images, ¿simón ese?
Gerard Meraz,
Professor of Chicano Studies, Cal State University, Northridge


EL CHAVO! said...

It's good to remember that he's just one vato giving his take on Mexican/Chicano life, some will be ring true, some will sound false, depending on the listener. It's good to have his voice out there though, we are in a period where Chicanos have the option to speak for themselves now, and there's gonna be lots of disagreements ahead. The more the better!

nina said...


When can we have another MLNM debate?
April 20th is coming! ;-)

Gustavo Arellano said...

Gracias for the letter and post, profe. I would hope people don't agree with me all the time--I want kicks in la cabeza from time to time. Pero I kick back...

pushing30 said...

The gap toother meskin looks like my Tio.
When my other Tio got married, everyone wore these big Zacatecas buckles and pointy boots and big hats as they danced to Tamborazo.

I was like OMG.

pushing30 said...

oh and anyways, its good to disagree. Makes it more fun sometimes. I love Ask a Mexican. and yeah, sometimes his shit is whack and other times, its on point, especially when he is bitch slapping a gringo with some hard core hitting facts. I love that shit!

cindy said...

Did you tell him most Mexicans aren't so ugly? Maybe it's the Arellano line. I kid, I kid. I disagree with Gustavo all the time, but I also like his brand of satire.