[¡Ask a Mexican!] Disney's Mexican Heritage?
Dear Mexican: You once asked why Mexican bands don’t hit it big in the good, old U.S. of A. I think the simple answer is that there are no Mexican Mouseketeers. You don’t get to be Justin Timberlake by picking a guitarrón. Slater from Saved By the Bell doesn’t count. The real question is why Disney, a company that started with its first big park in Anaheim and introduced us melanin-deficients to topiary and churros, denies its Mexican heritage?
Dear Mick: Disney and Mexican heritage? What herencia—Donald Duck in the enjoyable World War II propaganda piece, The Three Caballeros? Those old Tijuana Bibles showing Minnie Mouse walking into a room and finding Mickey sodomizing a grinning Donald? The thousands of piratería statues, piggy banks, piñatas and every imaginable tchotchke sold by enterprising Mexicans from tourist spots in Mexico to stateside swap meets? Exploitative working conditions that inspired a memorable protest outside Disneyland last summer, featuring cops arresting hotel employees dressed as Disney characters? Surely, you don’t mean to reference Walt Disney’s supposed Mexican heritage? The Mexican once heard a Chicano Studies teacher state proudly with a straight cara that gabacho parents adopted the Mexico-born Disney and that the history books hid this fact so Mexican students couldn’t claim him as part of la raza (and we wonder why public schools fail brownies so . . .). Actually, the myth is that Disney was born Jose Luis Girao, the illegitimate child of Spaniards, and was summarily put up for adoption in the United States. The most-thorough Disney-as-Spaniard examination appeared in a Nov. 30, 2001, article in the Guardian British newspaper, but no concrete proof exists. That doesn’t stop some Mexicans from trying to claim him (along with Thomas Alva Edison, Jimi Hendrix and Chewbacca) as one of their own, including people who should know better—the Library of Congress once included Disney in a display at the hallowed institution honoring Latinos a couple of years back.
Dear Mexican: Do Mexicans really think A Day Without a Mexican is a good movie, that California would completely, instantly collapse if Mexicans suddenly disappeared? Isn’t that what psychologists and psychiatrists call “delusions of grandeur”? Do Mexicans think non-Latinos cannot operate the sophisticated piece of technology that is known as a “gas-powered leafblower”? And they do realize that millionaire musician Beck, one of the most Anglo guys out there, used to be a landscaper with a leafblower?
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Dear Gabacho: Where to empezar . . . How about disputing your assertion that Beck is muy gabacho? He isn’t—named an album Guero (missing the umlaut over the letter u), which literally means “light-skinned,” but often interchangeable with gabacho. Beck incorporates Mexican rhythms into songs and visuals into his albums due to growing up among wabs in Los Angeles. (If you’re learning this for the first time, read this column more closely! This is the third time in as many years I’ve answered a Beck/Guero-related question, although each in different contexts. Why can’t I get more queries about Luis Perez Meza?) Not many Mexicans, gabachos, chinitos, negritos, or anyone really liked A Day Without a Mexican; the 2004 film grossed only an estimated $4.1 million at the box office, and it has yet to become a cult classic among Mexicans, like Born In East L.A. or the Charles Bronson canon. Mexicans do believe this country can’t exist without cheap immigrant labor—it’s not called “delusions of grandeur,” but rather “knowing American history and how capitalism operates.” Finally, of course we know gabachos are smart enough to operate leafblowers—that’s why you’ll never see a gabacho using one to make a living.
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