!Ask a Mexican!

Illustration by Mark Dancey

Dear Mexican,
Where does a Mexican's "sense" of color scheme come from?
I have seen trucks that are teal, maroon and yellow—all on one truck! Is this somethingustedes do on purpose, and doustedes know it looks like crap?
Blinded by the Blight

Dear Gabacho,
Alan Burner doesn't think that the Mexican love of vibrant colors is crap. Burner is a professor at the Art Institute of California—Orange County and one of the country's premier color theorists; his textbook, The Dynasty of Light, is required reading in art schools nationwide. "Color is very spiritual and symbolic of one's inner nature," the bueno professor told the Mexican. "Worldwide, if you view ethnic people with a rich heritage, you'll find vibrant colors, because they're energized. You look at Mexicans, they're passionate at what they do. When they work, they work hard. When they play, they play hard." That translates into the retina-searing trucks, houses and hair that offend you so, Blinded. Burner adds that gabachocriticism of bright colors is "just singing sour grapes because we don't have the guts to do what Mexicans do. [Bright colors] are a very brave approach to life—it shows you're not afraid of emotions. Americans, we're lazy and lethargic. We're stuffy. We're colorless. We're too busy building façades and not being genuine. We'll say, 'Bright pink is not a sophisticated way to paint your house,' but that's only because we want everyone to be as phony and plastic as we are." Translation, Blinded: you're as cowardly as a Guatemalan.

I could've sworn I heard somewhere that the song "La Cucaracha" was originally about Pancho Villa's soldiers, and the lyrics had to do with them not being able to march without marijuana. I totally forgot where I heard it, man, but I also heard something about the U.S. Cavalry tracking the troops, and how they would find joint butts strewn across the trail. Is this whygabachos from Hawaii to Ireland to Thailand refer to the end of a joint as a roach?
Alto en Vida

Dear Gabacho,
Next to "The Mexican Hat Dance" and "Livin' la Vida Loca," America's favorite Mexican song is "La Cucaracha." Even Carl Sandburg was a fan of the cockroach-citing ditty—the famed poet included it in his 1927 collection of folk tunes, The American Songbag. Sandburg wrote that he first heard it in 1916 in Chicago from two reporters who had covered the Mexican Revolution and "had eaten frijoles with Villa and slept under Pancho's poncho." Sandburg included eight stanzas of "La Cucaracha" in The American Songbag, but there are hundreds of variations. "'La Cucaracha' is the Spanish equivalent of 'Yankee Doodle'—a traditional satirical tune periodically fitted out with new lyrics to meet the needs of the moment," noted Cecil Adams, author of the syndicated column "The Straight Dope," in his 2001 take on the song's meaning. Indeed, "La Cucaracha" is one of the oldest songs in Hispanic culture. There are lyrics that ridicule Pancho Villa, the French occupation of Mexico, the Carlist Wars of the mid-19th century, even the Moors ("From the skin of the Moorish king/I have to make a sofa/So the Spanish captain/Can sit in it," goes one such version—and you think Europe hates Muslims today!). I'd never heard the "Cucaracha"/roach theory until you mentioned it, High on Life, but it wouldn't be the first time gabachos had appropriated Mexican culture to describe their sinful acts—"Dirty Sanchez," anyone?

Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at garellano@ocweekly.com. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym,por favor, or we'll make one up for you!

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