October 10, 2008
By Gustavo Arellano
SPECIAL RECAP EDITION
Dear Readers: I don’t like to rerun columns ‘cause it makes me look like a lazy Mexican, but I realize that, as my column invades foreign terrain (Chattanooga! Columbia, South Carolina! Steamboat Springs, Colorado!), new readers might not understand some of my commandments. Following, then, are the two most-frequently asked questions about the Mexican’s methodology:
Dear Mexican: A friend of mine calls Mexicans “wabs” but being a dumbshit doesn’t even know what it meansexcept that it’s not P.C. What’s it mean?
Dear Gabacho: “Wab” is a slur that assimilated Mexicans use to describe and deride recently arrived Mexicans. It can be used as a noun (“Refugio is such a wab”), a verb (“Look how that idiot Refugio wabbed up his truck with a bull sticker!”) or even an adjective (“Refugio’s mustache is so wabby”). The etymology of wab is unknowncould either be a mongrelization of “wetback” or “wop.”
But what’s most fascinating about “wab” is that it seems to be a distinctly Orange County term. When I’ve asked various Latino journalists over the years if they’re familiar with the term, most drew blanks. And Lalo Alcaraz, the dean of Chicano comedy, thought it meant “white-ass bitch.” Pinche racist pocho.
The final word on wab goes to Dr. Armin Schwegler, a professor in UC Irvine’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese who specializes in dialectology and Spanish in the United States. He’s taught at the school for 20 years and drops language trivia like some people default on their house paymentsdid you know, for instance, that the area from Denver to the Pacific Coast is the largest dialect continuum in the world, meaning Western American English is one boring tongue? But Schwegler has never heard of wab. He’s not surprised the epithet exists, though. “People always think naively that language is just for communication,” the good doctor told the Mexican. “But language is so important because it’s also an identifier. With wab, you can see this tied into the question of nationhood. It’s rooted in social discrimination. You coin a word, and it circulates around.”
So rejoice, Thesaurusaurus Mex! Wab is all ours! It can now join Barbara Coe; the Costa Mesa-based, Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review; and ¡Ask a Mexican! in the Orange County section of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch.
I’m fairly sure that your jibes against Guatemalans are mostly for comic effect, but, entre broma y broma, algo se asoma. What have you got against the true raza cósmica?
Dear Chapín: “Between joke and joke, something peeks out.” Nice dicho (aphorism), Guapo! But you didn’t ask a question about Mexicans, pendejo. I’ll make an exception, though, since Mexicans and chapines are brothers in soccer futility. Mexicans despise Guatemalans for many legitimate reasons. Your tamales are betterour puny corn variety doesn’t compare to your wondrous paches, potato tamales stuffed with chicken and just about the most filling, tasteful snack in the Americas. The Mayans contributed more to world culture than the Aztecsdid you know the Mayan calendar remains the most accurate in history? Your national bird, the long-feathered quetzal, is prettier than our golden eagle. In 1821, free from the yoke of Spanish rule, Guatemala joined the burgeoning Empire of Mexicoonly to spurn us two years later for the United Provinces of Central America, a coalition of Central American nations created to resemble the United States but whose corruption and monocultural economics instead inspired the term “banana republic.”
But Mexicans hate Guatemalans mostly because of immigration, Guapo. Mexico can barely control its southern border with Guatemala because the Guatemalan government does nada to secure its side, leaving Mexico exposed to illegal immigrants, drug runners and terrorists. Guatemalans consistently top Mexico’s annual list of the most-deported. And the Guatemalans who do cross over dress funny, are darker-skinned than the average Mexican and don’t like salsasome don’t even speak Spanish! Guatemalans are the Mexicans of Mexicoand who doesn’t hate Mexicans?