Almost Famoso

My life as 'The Mexican'

Honestly, I never really gave a thought to my Mexicanidad. But as I went through high school and college, my perspective changed. The year 1994 brought on Proposition 187, the resolution crafted by the Huntington Beach-based California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which would've denied benefits to illegal immigrants and their children. Two years later, Loretta Sanchez beat longtime incumbent Bob Dornan in a congressional race; Dornan claimed illegal immigrants fueled Sanchez's victory. And just as I transferred from Orange Coast College to Chapman University in 1999, Anaheim Union High School District trustee member Harald Martin made international headlines because he wanted to sue Mexico for $50 million for the district's educating the children of illegal immigrants. Children like me.

I didn't understand where all the hatred came from. I still don't. Oh, I know the historical and sociological aspects of xenophobia, especially when it comes to Mexicans in the United States. But I'm part of that invading horde anti-immigrant activists rail about, and I just don't see the doomed America they do. But as soon as I joined the Weekly as a freelancer in 2001, I realized few in Orange County agreed with me.

This was Mexican-Hating Central: home of such outlandish characters as the CCIR, whose monthly meetings in Garden Grove is as close to a public Nuremburg rally as you'll find in this country. It's where any Orange County Register story posted on their website inevitably becomes a forum to blame Mexicans, and reporters field angry phone calls and e-mail from readers if their stories seem even the slightest bit sympathetic to nosotros.

Yes, racism against Mexicans exists across the country. But I challenge anyone to find a place more wacky with its Mexicans than here. The only way you can really report on our immigration wars—where politicians try to hitch their star on bashing Mexicans, where aspiring Vietnamese politicians feel it necessary to declare they came to this country "the right way" and take campaign pictures next to the United States-Mexico border—is by parody. Really, Orange County: hate it or love it, ¬°Ask a Mexican! is our mirror. And the fact it now appears across the country shows that the rest of the country is thinking like us, for better or worse.

Now, go buy the book, cabrones: I can only lurk around Barnes & Noble so long.

¬°ASK A MEXICAN! BY GUSTAVO ARELLANO; SCRIBNER. HARDCOVER, 240 PAGES, $20. MEET GUSTAVO AT LIBRERIA MARTINEZ, 1110 N. MAIN ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 973-7900. THURS., MAY 3, 7 P.M.

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