DEAR MEXICAN: Help a pocha out—what can I do to reclaim my heritage? I grew up in Orange County with my white mother and half-brothers and -sisters who used to tease me that I needed a green card to get home after trips to Rosarito Beach. I now live in my Mexican father's home (he grew up in Rock Town, Duarte) since inheriting it after he passed in 2010. My father never taught me to speak español, which haunts me. . . . Help! For instance, I try to practice my Spanish when I order at the local taco truck. Sometimes, I feel as if it's not well-received because I get answered back in English. I don't want to come off as condescending. It's not that I assume they don't know how to speak English; I'm just trying to see if someone other than my boyfriend can understand me (he's half-Dominican and shares some of my same cultural dilemmas). I try to particpate in my neighborhood's various events, and I'm learning my aunt's tamale recipes and such. Any other things this half-Mexican should try?
Mexican in SGV
DEAR POCHO: Primeramente, you need to get it out of your cabeza that you need to speak Spanish to be a proper Mexican. Cuauhtémoc didn't, and they still built a statue of him in Tijuana. And take a chill pastilla: If your local taquero responds to you en inglés when you try out your Spanish, it's probably because he has pity on you and is trying to make you feel comfortable, so don't take it as an insult. I'm glad you're learning your tía's tamale recipes, and I'd actually focus on that to reclaim your heritage—food is the great transmitter and keeper of culture, and symbolic ethnicity is how fifth-gen Irish-Americans can still claim they're from County Cork despite having as much in common with a shantytown Irish as a Trump piñata does with the Santo Niño de Atocha. The most important thing is that you're proud of your mexicanidad, and you're most likely better off than your asshole half-hermanos—stay classy, Orange County!
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DEAR MEXICAN: I've heard a style of Mexican music that intrigues me, yet I cannot find the name of it. It's similar to mariachi, as it usually has a small group, upright bass, guitar, etc. The vocal harmonies are very, very good—almost sounds like the Beatles with jazzy overtones. I have heard songs such as “Triana Moreno” and “La Bamba.” I did an internet search, and the closest thing I could find is son jarocho; however, pictures show bands from Veracruz using harps and other different instruments. The style I am trying to find has conventional instruments. There was a band that played this style a few years back at Acapulco, the restaurant in Orange on Katella Avenue near a big movie theater. I also recall that my mom had a record back in the early 1960s called Los Pinguinos at El Shrimp Bucket. This is the recording I loved as a child. The vocal harmonies were extremely good. The music is obviously not mariachi, as there are no horns or violins. I would appreciate you pointing me in the right direction!
Living in Seizure World
DEAR VIEJITO GABACHO: Since when has a harp not been “conventional”? I found your album on eBay, but no way am I spending $35 on it. I did look at the tracks, however, and the mix of Mexican classics and the songs you mentioned peg Los Pinguinos' style as trio. Oh, and there's the whole thing of YouTube having tracks of Los Pinguinos—you do know about YouTube, right? Next time you have a question for the Mexican, make it a true head-scratcher, like what happened to los 43 students of Ayotzinapa or why Mexicans root for Chivas when a fourth-division German team would send them to la chingada.