Will Mexicans Ever Accept Pochos?

[¡Ask a Mexican!] And why everyone should support the new César Chávez movie and book!

DEAR MEXICAN: I'm a second-generation, Orange County-raised pocho. Both sides of my family have been civil-rights activists since the 1940s. My mother's family took part in the landmark case Mendez, et al. v. Westminster, et al. in 1946. My father was a Chicano activist in the 1960s and 1970s. From the time I was a child, I had met various figures, including Reies López Tijerina, César Chávez, Bert Corona and Emigdio Vasquez. In 1975, my dad took me and my older brother to a demonstration against la migra; we marched to the federal buildings in Santa Ana. As an adult, after graduating with a B.S. and M.S., I have improved my Spanish with classes, books, magazines, television, films and travel to countries de habla española.

Despite my efforts to acculturate myself in Spanish, I am often met with the macho attitude of wabs and pochos apparently because I do not dress or act like them. At 6 feet tall and 250 pounds, I'm not being dissed for appearing to be a wimp. I have gone to gabacho businesses where the wab or pocho cashier has provided courteous service to Anglos and Asians with a smile, referring to them as "sir" and saying, "Thank you." While being served, I'm treated as though I'm a second-class citizen. I have been nearly run off sidewalks by wab pedestrians while walking with my 2-year-old son. A favorite of some wabs is to ask me to speak in English after I have said something in Spanish clearly and grammatically correct. I now live in Los Angeles, where for some reason I get much more respect from African-Americans than other Latinos. Is there a seemingly logical reason for this disrespect from wabs and pochos alike?

El Pocho Panzón

Mark Dancey

Details

Ask the Mexican at themexican@askamexican.net, be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!

DEAR BIG-BELLIED POCHO: Just a quick refresher for people who ain't from la naranja: a wab is a term specific to OC and is what assimilated Mexicans and gabachos call recently arrived Mexicans (before other Chicanos dismiss my homeland again as a fountain of anti-Mexican hate—all Chicano communities across los Estados Unidos have their own unique terms, as we discussed in this columna a couple of years back). While I understand your pain, you're going to have to deal with the realidad that Mexicans are always going to hate on other Mexicans for one reason or another. Pochos will hate other pochos for being too successful or not Mexican enough; pochos will hate wabs for not being successful enough or too Mexican; wabs will hate pochos for definitely not being Mexican enough; and wabs will hate wabs for being too successful or not being Mexican enough. Pochos get the brunt of the hate because they're the most gabacho, the one group all Mexicans can agree to hate. But truth is, Mexicans hate Mexicans more than gabachos hate Mexicans, and the sooner we get rid of this pendejada from our psyche, the quicker the full Reconquista will be complete.

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WATCH AND READ CÉSAR CHÁVEZ! Gentle cabrones: two big projects on César Chávez are out right now, each equally worthy of your support. The one that's getting the big press coverage, César Chávez, is a film starring Michael Peña as the legendary labor leader and a good intro into why his life and accomplishments are important for everyone to know. But the rest of the story is in Miriam Pawel's extraordinary The Crusades of César Chávez: A Biography, which finds Chávez not as the saint that keepers of his flame want him remembered as, but rather as an all-too-human man—one of the few thorough biographies to not come off as hagiography. Thank Hollywood and Manhattan for making a film and book about an important American who happened to be a Mexican (in the same year, no less!) and watch and read and debate.

 
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11 comments
atviflav
atviflav

"Wab" is not a term specifically from the OC. My family is from LAC and SFC and growing up, I heard the term in both area's, long before going to the OC.

Regardless, while growing up, my parents made sure that I was well read, kept up with my education, etc. I found that the most derogatory terms would come from my own people.

Just by opening my mouth and speaking without a "Mexican" accent, I would get other Mexican guys looking at me and asking "You think you're better than us?" and my look would be of confusion, and would lead me to asking why they would think this. There response would be "Because you talk like a white boy." My response would often leave them without anything to say, as it would usually be "What does a Mexican sound like? With an accent? In that case you don't talk like a "Mexican" either. Why do you "talk Black"? These were usually guys who'd been raised in Compton.

To be honest, I never thought that there was a specific way that Mexicans should act, talk, or carry themselves in general. I've never treated anyone, Mexican or otherwise, with nothing less than respect unless I was disrespected first. I've always felt that you talk and act like you do, depending on where you raised and who you hang out with. It's inevitable that you pick up the slang and mannerisms at a young impressionable age.

The areas I grew up in had a White majority, with about 5% "other" including Latinos from many different backgrounds.

Thinking back, even the Mexican girls in High School would give me the "talk". Usually going along the lines of "No wonder the white girls like you. You're cute, but you talk just like them, so I couldn't date you."

Which funny enough, my girl for the last 5 years has been a Mexican girl... though, just like me, talks without a "Mexican" accent, but is very active in Civil rights of all people, and every ethno-centric.

Hell, I've even experienced this "anti-pocho" sentiment in Hollywood. I've done a few films, and when auditioning for "Mexican" roles, the casting directors (some were Mexican as well) would always tell me "You don't look Mexican." to which I would ask "What does a Mexican look like? You're Mexican and we have the same features." and both White and Mexican casting directors would usually deflect to "Oh well, we have a role you do fit. One is Eastern Block European, and the other is Mediterranean/Iberian." For some reason, I was always cast as some sort of European, and never a Latino of any form.

I remember telling my dad about this, and he concluded with laughing and stating the following "Hollywood has a long line of keeping stereotypes alive. They don't seem to want the world to know that Mexican is a nationality. Not a race. Mexico is as diverse as the United States because we went through as much as they did  with invasions, migrant workers from Europe, Jewish and Armenian transplants. Asians in port cities, as well as Blacks on the East Coast due to slave ships coming through our ports, and even some wrecking there, leaving the slaves behind. They want the world to think that all Mexicans are short, dark, native looking people and when they 'don't' want a Mexican that looks that way, they usually hire a Spaniard, or Latino from another country... that is if they don't hire an Anglo actor to play Mexican."

Ann Walker
Ann Walker

Cesar was born in Yuma - close to the border but definitely part of Estados Unidos

Torres Lemuel Is
Torres Lemuel Is

Gustavo Arellano, shit man I was called a Pocho by my chilango cousins after my parents moved up here, didnt even take a couple generations. As always, enjoy ur column much love from Texas. Dont get me started by adding T exanos to the mix. Lol

Sylvia De Luna
Sylvia De Luna

Yeah growing up I did get called a Pocha here and there. It always bothered me. Now that I am an adult I know its just another form of Racism. Its like when Northern Italians think they are better than Southern Italians...same type of Racism...within our own race.

Henry Ruiz
Henry Ruiz

It is time we finally get together. We are plagued by both sides of our heritage from Europe and the internecine warfare and hatred among our Native ancestors that led to the Europeans destroying us. I used to be ashamed of who I am until I learned the truth. I am proud of who I am and the rest of us. Regarding the Cesar Chavez film I will have to wait until The DVD comes out. The film isn't being shown where I live because of the demographics (I live in New England.) I miss my Mexica family. By the way it hurts to be called a Pocho especially among my immediate family. As far as the term Chicano. It is confusing. I was always told it was derogatory. I'm from California and remember the Chicano movement. I recall that I was treated with disrespect by some of those Chicano types. I also recall that the most positive relationships I had were with our poor, especially the so called illegal immigrants. They never called me a Pocho. They called me Hermano.

Victor Salas
Victor Salas

Preach it brother! I never understood the hate between all of us Mexicans. Its probably why I don't like using "Chicano" since its just another way to distance yourself from the fact that you're simply a Mexican born in the US. It shouldn't matter how or where we grew up, or even our place on the economic ladder. Bottomline, we're all Mexican and should be proud of the Culture we share together.

Sandra Madera
Sandra Madera

I saw the movie, but thanks for the book recommendation. I was never taught about Chavez and the farm worker movement in any classroom.

Jerry Vazquez
Jerry Vazquez

I don't see any war jajaja. I think its just the media looking for another story.

DTSABUZZ
DTSABUZZ

Well written response on the question Gustavo. There is so much truth of hate within the mexican communities and families. There are some pride issues with one always trying to out do the other, meanwhile their families back in mexico are just getting by.  

 
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