Illustration by Mark DancyDear Mexican,
Why are Mexicans protesting against the LAPD over the shooting of that cokehead Salvadoran Peña and the unfortunate death of his infant?
Curious HB White Guy
You're lucky, you know that? The only time Huntington Beach gabachosworry about the police is when they burn couches or drink beer on front lawns during Independence Day. But Mexicans and Salvadorans and blacks and Asians—hell, anyone poor and colored—get to fret about trigger-happy cops daily. That's why Latino activists are furious about the death of Jose Raul Peña, whom a SWAT team killed along with his 19-month-old toddler, Suzie, after a July 10 standoff in Watts. I'm not defending Peña or demonizing the officers involved—haven't read the police report—but you gotta ask at some point: What's with cops and dead minorities? And would you ever see police rain bullets on a Foothill Ranch house if there was a domestic dispute? Just asking.
But tell you what, HB White Guy: take a drive down to your city's Oak View barrio and put your question to residents there. They'll tell you the story of Antonio Saldivar, an unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by officer Mark Wersching in 2001 because he vaguely fit the description of a gang member. A federal jury awarded Saldivar's family $2.1 million for the unprovoked death two years later; Wersching remains on the Surf City force. Saldivar's sin? A shaved head and brown skin. Yep, the cops are always right.
It can be 95 degrees outside and everyone else is sweating, but without fail, there is always a Mexican male walking around in a long—sometimes short-sleeved—plaid shirt with only the top two buttons buttoned. What does this mean?
Fashionably Perplexed in the SJC
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Seems San Juan Capistrano is stuck in the '60s—the 1760s. Or you've been watching too much American Me. I haven't seen the buttoned-up Pendleton look in years—Mexican males nowadays prefer dress-long sports jerseys or ironic T-shirts with such slogans as "Powered by Frijoles" or "Indigenous Inside" styled as the Intel logo. Those are just some of the T-shirts sold at Chicano Style, a boutique at Santa Ana's Mainplace Mall. The store's manager hasn't seen the Pendleton look in a while, either, but couldn't comment further because there were too many customers. Those Mexicans and their work ethic, I swear.
If you still see Mexican men sporting the two-button look, then I refer you to UCI professor James Diego Vigil's study Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California, which scholars regard as the Doing Fieldwork Among the Yanomamoof Mexican anthropology even 17 years after its publication. In Barrio Gangs, Vigil theorizes the popularity of the Pendleton look among Mexican men exists because "it conjures up the image of a group behind you, even if you are not what you represent. There is a certain amount of security created in that pause when an observer has to think about your social ties." So just like stuttering hipsters who wear a faded $30 Hall and Oates T-shirt, the hombreswho still button up their Pendletons are sheer poseurs—except these poseurs can kick your ass.
To get your own cool Mexican-themed hipster shirts, visit Chicano Style at 2800 N. Main St., Ste. 600, Santa Ana, (714) 972-0900, or check out their online catalog at chicanostyle.com.
Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at email@example.com. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym,por favor, or we'll make one up for you!