!Ask a Mexican!

Illustration by Mark DancyDear Mexican,

What is it about the word "illegal" that Mexicans don't understand?

D.G.
LagunaBeach

Dear Gabacho,

Take your pick, D.G. Mexicans don't understand the word "illegal" because: (A) when paying their gardeners, nannies, busboys and factory workers in cash (and forgetting to withhold payroll taxes), U.S. employers don't seem to understand the word "illegal," so why should Mexicans? (B) The Anglo-American trappers and traders whom you and I were taught to admire as tough, self-sufficient frontiersmen and pioneers were among the American Southwest's first illegals. Who are you calling illegal, gabacho? (C) PresidenteBush's proposal to offer amnesty and a guest-worker program to all illegal immigrants—a move designed to appease his supporters in the business community—means even Republicans don't understand the word. (D) Whether they buy a fake passport or take a citizenship oath, Mexicans will never be more than wetbacks in the eyes of many Americans, so why bother applying for residency? (E) TheOrangeCountyRegisterstylebook reportedly requires its reporters to describe as "undocumented workers" the men and women you call "illegal." (F) Little-known fact: the fragment of poetry on the Statue of Liberty ("Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," etc.) does not, because of a French engraver's error, include Emma Lazarus' rarely cited footnote: "No Mexicans, please." Fucking French. But the real answer is the word itself. "Illegal" is an English word; Mexicans speak Spanish—yet you never hear Mexicans whine that their bosses don't understand such easy Spanish phrases as "pinche puto pendejo baboso," do you?

GotaspicyquestionaboutMexicans?AsktheMexicanatgarellano@ocweekly.com.And those of you who do submit questions: give your name or a pseudonym,por favor, orwe'llmakeoneupforyou!

 
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