Tortillas Instead of Forks?

DEAR MEXICAN: My husband is a Chicano, and his parents are from Mexico. Why do Mexicans eat tortillas with every meal? My husband eats them with everything you put in front of him. I also noticed he uses his tortilla as an eating utensil. Do Mexicans purposely teach their children to not use forks and spoons? Do all Mexicans use tortillas as little shovels? I guess even when they're eating, they're working.

The Tortilla Shoveler's Wife

DEAR GABACHA: I'll wax more poetic about tortillas in my coming book about the history of Mexican food in the United States (out May 2012, cabrones—start saving those pesos!), but the short answer is simple: Cucharas y tenedores are fine, but few pleasures are better than tearing off a piece of a tortilla, grasping it with your fingers and using it to shovel down food. Tortillas have been part of Mexican culture for thousands of years, the one constant throughout our turbulent millennia. They're nutritious, utilitarian and don't need washing. Only Jesus is more perfect—why do you think He likes to show His face on tortillas?


GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK: A whole town. Consider the following letter:

Last fall, Flagstaff's Museum of Northern Arizona hosted the seventh annual Celebraciones de la Gente, partnering with the local organization Nuestras Raíces, which is based around the historic Hispanic families of Flagstaff. The weekend focused on the celebration of Día de los Muertos, but included music, dance, art, even formal presentations: Zarco Guerrero on the artist Lalo Guerrero and discussions by Carlos Velez-Ibanez (director of the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University) and Miguel Vasquez (anthropology professor at Northern Arizona University). I particularly enjoyed the ofrendas set up around the museum courtyard by Flagstaff families. These were attended by family members (often three generations) who answered questions and told their family histories—a wonderful opportunity to learn some history and culture, not from professors or books, but from our neighbors.

So . . . a shout-out to our Museum of Northern Arizona and only somewhat less directly to our little town of Flagstaff. It ain't utopia here, but we're doing pretty well as a pocket of sanity in a state sporting the meanest gun-slinging sheriff in America, a governor dumber than Palin and a state legislature bent on taking us down the road to madness.

One Old, Straight, White Man Who Still Thinks We're All in This Together

DEAR GABACHO: Gracias for the reminder that sane people do live in Arizona because between Arpayaso, Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce, your state is a couple of beans short of a burrito. Also, the Flagstaff City Council voted to oppose Senate Bill 1070. Book a vacation up there, folks, and people who are interested in the Museum of Northern Arizona can visit online at

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