[¡Ask a Mexican!] Uncle Tom's Wabbin'
Dear Mexican: How can I get Mexicans to arrive at a meeting ON TIME?
Dear Gabacho: Tell them you’re offering green cards on a first-come, first-served basis. And then diles a gabachos to eliminate the concept of arriving “fashionably late” the way they did the Polish joke.
Dear Mexican: I was reading through the glossary in your ¡Ask a Mexican! book, and I came upon the word pocho, an Americanized Mexican. To me, it suggests some sort of essential Mexican-ness that I find to be disturbing. There is a similar ethic in the black community. The term “Uncle Tom” comes to mind. It is used as the ultimate humiliation to a black person, and I wonder if pocho has the same weight to it? Being a person who has never fit into the ideal of anything, I sympathize with anyone who finds himself on the outside. The pressure to relate to everyone else in your gene pool is ridiculous. In my experience, it often comes from the most mentally and economically impoverished, hence the term “ghetto pass.” The pressure is so great in the black community that black professors regularly use the words “ain’t” and “folk,” as if to prove their blackness. I suspect there is a class component in the Mexican community also. What say you, wise Mexican?
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Dear Negrito: The idea of ethnic or national purity isn’t limited to Mexicans, of course, and I’m with you in ridiculing anyone who subscribes to such pinche notions. In the Mexican case, vis-à-vis the negrito community example, differences exist. Pocho doesn’t necessarily signify a betrayal of the Mexican community to shuck and jive for the gabachos like Uncle Tom does for blacks; it just means the dilution of Mexican cultural and linguistic features in someone of Mexican descent (the term comes from an alternate meaning for pocho—rotting fruit—but not even the Royal Academy of Spanish has a clue about the word’s etymology). The most immediate corollary to Uncle Tom in Spanish is Tío Tomás or Tío Taco, but both are, ironically enough, pochismos (pocho sayings) with little usage in Mexico, where the slur for a sellout is malinchista, referring to Cortes’ Indian translator, or a vendido. As you imply, the only Mexicans who care whether someone is Mexican enough are insecure twits who aren’t Mexican enough themselves, and some of the most notorious examples come from Chicano Studies professors (but not all of you, o noble researchers of everything wab!) and Carlos Mencia. Oh, and immigrant elders, but their angst is excused—that’s the American-immigrant experience, after all.
Dear Mexican: Why can’t Mexicans seem to learn and use English like most other immigrants around the country?
Dear Gabacho: Consult page 21 of my ¡Ask a Mexican! libro, then go ask New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez about his family. Hopefully, he’ll aim a spiral at your huevos.
¡ASK A MEXICAN! GRATIS BOOK CONTEST! Sí, gentle readers: It’s that time of año, when I give away an autographed copy of my book to one lucky reader from each paper that carries my columna and cinco readers from everywhere else. The challenge: In 25 words or less, tell me the name of your favorite local Mexican restaurant and what makes it so bueno. I’ll be traveling ‘round los Estados Unidos on my trusty burro soon to research my upcoming book on the history of Mexican food in the United States, and I need places to haunt and cacti to sleep under. One entry per person, one winner per paper, and contest ends when I say so!
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