Can a Non-Mexican Latino Portray a Mexican on Television?

Can a Non-Mexican Latino Portray a Mexican on Television?EXPAND
Mark Dancey

DEAR MEXICAN: I've been following a show called You're the Worst since it started showing on FX last year. Among other things, it features a character named Edgar Quintero, an awkward and troubled Iraq War veteran who happens to be Mexican-American. I think this must be the only such character regularly featured in series television these days. My only issue with the character is that, though he is well-handled, the actor who plays him is obviously from Back East. Non-Mexican-American actors have been playing Mexican-American characters, sometimes quite well, for decades. In this case, Desmin Borges has a Puerto Rican background, and I don't consider that a problem in and of itself. But I have a big problem if they talk as if they are from New York or Chicago. The language of those of us out west, Latino and otherwise, is different, and we rarely see this acknowledged on television or in movies. Nonetheless, I love the show, and he is certainly my favorite character. At any rate, I wanted to know if you had an opinion about this character and his portrayal.

Television Reconquista

DEAR GABACHO: You gotta get your Borges background right. He's part Puerto Rican, born in Chicago, raised in Houston, lives in New York City and works on a show based in LA—as jumbled a cultural history as that of any Mexican. You're the Worst is funny, and Borges' character is great in that he's just a guy—not a Mexican, not a Puerto Rican playing a Mexican, but a guy who happens to be Mexican. I can't state how revolutionary that is in an industry that still writes Mexican men as little better than cholos and narcos. And while it'd be cool if a Chicano from City Terrace played Edgar Quintero and made him talk as if he were a Chicano from City Terrace, it sure is better than Douglas Fairbanks playing Zorro—or, hell, Hillary Clinton pretending to be an abuela.

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DEAR MEXICAN: Why can't second- and third-generation Mexicans just chill? The reason I ask is because lately, there have been more cholos infiltrating the Colorado River, and although there's plenty of room for them, they always get all stabby or start fights. I've been going there for years and love it because everyone's pretty much drunk and happy . . . except for the cholos. What's up with that? Could it be that the Indian in them gets crazy with hard liquor? Or is that just with American Indians?

La Coconut

DEAR POCHA: Cholos fight because they're cholos, just like bros fight at Lake Havasu because they're bros. You can no more hate a cholo or bro for fighting than you can hate Donald Trump for being dumb—it's who they are. The problem, of course, is when said cholos or bros or Trump fuck it up for everyone else. The solution? Place them all on a houseboat and let them sort it out—someone greenlight THAT show!

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

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