¡Ask a Mexican! Why Mexicans In the U.S. Are Darker-Skinned Than Ever Before

¡Ask a Mexican! Why Mexicans In the U.S. Are Darker-Skinned Than Ever BeforeEXPAND
Mark Dancey

DEAR MEXICAN: How come all the Mexicans who came here two or three generations ago look like "almost-white" people while the ones coming now look like those little guys who live naked in the Amazon and kill things with blowguns?

No Indios Need Apply (NINA)

DEAR POCHO: Chalk the phenomenon up to the natural unfolding that is the American immigrant experience. Countries tend to dump their upwardly mobile, lighter-skinned natives on the United States before the shoddier, darker folks show up in the steerage of rusting freighters—remember that northern Italians arrived at Ellis Island before their swarthy Sicilian paisanes. That's what's happening with Mexico, NINA. In his 1983 study, East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio, historian Ricardo Romo cites a 1922 demographic survey that showed almost two-thirds of the Mexican community of Los Angeles at the time originated from just four states: Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco and Zacatecas. These states are in north-central Mexico, where the conquistadors spread their seed farthest and most vigorously.

As the 20th century progressed, however, Mexico's poorer, more indigenous states in the south tumbled like dominoes as they sent their populations to el Norte, subsequently ratcheting up the brownie mixture in the Mexican-American pot. Michoacán and Puebla (next to Mexico City) didn't start sending their residents en masse to the U.S. until around the mid-20th century; Guerrero and Oaxaca followed around the 1970s; our Central American colony, Guatemala, now follows. The push continues even in Mexico—in a 2004 Orange County Register piece, staffer Valeria Godines described the tensions between the güeros of Arandas, Jalisco and Chiapan immigrants, showing Mexicans can be as race-obsessed as their gabacho oppressors.

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DEAR MEXICAN: Why is it that when you invite a Mexican to a party, they feel compelled to bring along 30 of their relatives? I mean, bringing two or three people would be no problem, but we don't expect the number of people in our party to double by inviting an extra person!

Not Enough Food for Everyone

DEAR GABACHO: Mexicans and parties—was there ever a coupling more spectacularly grotesque? We drink mucho, we eat mucho, we fight mucho, we love mucho, we mucho mucho. Examining the Mexican propensity to party, Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz wrote, "The explosive, dramatic, sometimes even suicidal manner in which we strip ourselves, surrender ourselves is evidence that something inhibits and suffocates us. Something impedes us from being. And since we cannot or dare not confront our own selves, we resort to the fiesta."

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But one thing we don't do anymore is swarm parties with our extended family, Not Enough Food. Time was when Mexican immigrants would rent out labor halls to throw massive weddings, quinceañeras and baptisms and invite the entire rancho to bring everyone—more than 1,000 people attended my baby brother's christening reception in 1992, even norteño star Juan Zaizar! But the Mexicans of my generation prefer subdued celebrations—invite-only, no kids, with lame, sobbing testimonials by the best men and bridesmaids and no banda sinaloense to deafen guests with their brass-band roar. For instance, my cousin is holding his wedding reception next November at the Yorba Linda Community Center with an MC and a guest limit of 250 (considering that's about the size of the Miranda clan, there are going to be some angry primos next fall). Mexican parties are turning into prim-and-proper, gabacho-fied affairs, Not Enough Food—so we're taking over American society how?

Ask the Mexican at themexican@askamexican.net, be his fan on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter (@gustavoarellano) and Instagram (@gustavo_arellano)!


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