On May 8, I wrote a commentary for the Los Angeles Times crowning Orange County as the Mexican-bashing capital of America.
On May 8, at 9:01 in the morning, I received the following voice mail: "Gustavo Arellano: you're a race-card-playing punk!"
Orange County: gracias for proving my thesis.
In my Timespiece, I laid out a structural, anecdotal, personal and historical argument. I mentioned the usual suspects—Proposition 187, the Minutemen, Mendez vs. Westminster—and mixed in some Marxian analysis, contending that "After receiving generations' worth of cheap Mexican labor to power the county's chief industries [in citrus, construction and the service sector], the OC psyche is wired to view brown-skinned folks as perpetual peons."
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Timesop-ed editor Matt Welch liked my original draft but wanted at least an acknowledgment that perhaps some of the OC Mexican-hate isn't inherently racist but stems from the problems brought on by illegal immigration. So I included the following passage: "Ask the haters, and many will insist that some of their best friends are Mexicans; it's illegal immigrants they despise. But the slope here between 'Mexican' and 'illegal immigrant' has always been a Slip 'N Slide."
Orange County: gracias for proving my thesis.
Within hours of the Times hitting the street, you overwhelmed me with e-mails and calls criticizing illegal immigration. "We in America will enforce our immigration laws because that is what the vast majority of this nation demands," began one of your nicer letters. "Why sir is this so offensive to you. After all, you are employed and financially benefit from bashing the very government which gave you an opportunity."
"I always felt you were a pro-illegal, Aztlan, open borders type, but I wasn't sure," went another. "After reading your article today, this came very clear to me."
Funny: my article didn't advocate for open borders and didn't take issue with American immigration law; indeed, it had little to do with immigration. It dealt with our county's pervasive Mexican-bashing, a charge no one actually disputed.
"A couple of questions for you," another gentleman wrote. "Might the attitude and actions of some illegal aliens cause citizens of Orange County to hate Mexicans? How many illegal aliens shall we let in before we say enough? How long will it be before we have open warfare between citizens and illegal aliens demanding their rights . . . rights that they haven't earned?"
The illegal immigrant/Mexican meld extended to the blogosphere. On the Timesimmigration blog, Borderline, the column drew the second-most comments of any postings. "The core of the problem is: What part of illegal don't they understand?" posted one reader. "Comprende, Mister Arellano?" The hate also flew over at the Weekly's blog, the Blotter, where one lady posted, "I don't understand why all of the other countries in the world can enforce their immigration laws (including and especially Mexico), yet when America even thinks about enforcing our own immigration laws we are labeled as xenophobic and racist. This is just silly and hypocritical!! We have the right to protect our own borders, period. If you don't like it—then leave."
The dozen or so phone calls I received were even better—a special shout-out to the anonymous woman who left a message calling me a "taco" and screamed that Mexicans don't have "bronze skin; it's dirty. DIRTY. You horse piece of shit." But my favorite moment has to be the fat-ass gabacho who plays for a crappy local band, who mockingly called me "Pepe" outside Sol Art Gallery in Santa Ana. Listen, puto: I know a Pepe. Pepe doesn't like it when people use his name as shorthand for "Mexican." I should call him, 'cause I know where your band plays next.
But I'll let you off: after all, you and so many of your fellow Orange County gabachos proved my thesis. And for that, I say gracias—it means more chances for me to share your hate with the world.
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