!Ask a Mexican!

Illustration by Mark Dancey

Dear Mexican,
Why do some illegal immigrants bring their
familias over but others leave them in Mexico?
What are the advantages/disadvantages of each option?
Esposa Noswimo

Dear Gabacho,
Have you tried sneaking your family across the border, Esposa Noswimo? Paid a coyote a minimum $6,000 per head? Fretted for days as they crossed la frontera stuffed in trunks or walking through deserts? And you have no way to know if your beloved is alive until they show up at your door, exhausted? Then you have to take care of them on your illegal immigrant salary? Makes leaving them back in Mexico easy, ¿qué no? Nevertheless, a surprisingly large number of Mexicans do it. "Because unauthorized migration is driven primarily by the search for better wages," writes Jeffrey S. Passel in a recent Pew Hispanic Center study, "the undocumented migrant is commonly thought of as a young, male worker usually unaccompanied by a wife or children. In fact, the full portrait of the unauthorized migrant population is more varied." His report found single men and women account for only 3.1 million of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States; by contrast, there are 6.6 million families where either spouse is undocumented. The obvious advantage in bringing over families is that they're—and say the following as if you're Edward James Olmos, por favorfamilia, the spring from which Mexicans draw their strength and salsa. But some Mexicans don't want that. Part of the attraction of El Norte is the absenceof family. Some Mexicans want to strike out on their own, leave home and family and talk with the kids, spouses and parents only during funerals or to bail them out of debt. Some Mexicans want to become Americans.

Why couldn't blacks cope with Katrina, yet Mexicans affected with similar natural disasters are always able to rebuild on their own without the help of the government? They reorganized without shouting, "We wan' food. People iz dying. Help us, Mista Bush."
¡Qué Chocolate City ni Que Chingada!

Dear Readers,
This wab raises three interesting issues. First is his blatant racism—his use of Stepin Fetchit dialect shows why many African-Americans don't back Mexicans in the current immigration debate. Segundo is the wab's wonderfully idiomatic pseudonym. The literal translation is "What Chocolate City Nor What the Fuck?!" However, "¡Qué (insert noun here) ni que chingada!" is a Mexican Spanish turn of phrase that means "Don't give me any of that bullshit!" And weird but true: the polite form of this saying is "¡Qué (noun) ni que ocho cuartos!—What (noun) nor what eight rooms?!" a phrase that makes as much sense as a Mexican vegetarian.

But never mind the bigotry: the third point this wab raises is the más interesante.Mexicans long ago learned that government won't bail your culo out of anything, whether it's a devastating earthquake, howling hurricane or tanking economy. So we learned to be self-sufficient in a way that makes libertarians look like socialists. Mexico's infrastructure markedly improved in the past couple of decades because Mexican migrants in the United States raised funds on their own; the Mexican government assisted them (by matching remittances on a federal, local and state government level) only when they realized the money would save Mexico. Americans, on the other hand, still expect elected leaders to help in times of need. That's not a bad thing: that's the ostensible role of government. But Katrina victims and all Americans should know this: not only is the border between the United States and Mexico gone, but the Dubya crew has assimilated into the ineptitude and corruption that marks all Mexican presidential administrations. In this age of globalization and mass people movements, government won't do a single damn thing for you: salvation will come only via Mexicans.

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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