¡ASK A MEXICAN!
July 6, 2012
By Gustavo Arellano
Dear Mexican: Suppose the United States government and the American public were as progressive and conscious of our country’s true self-interest as are, for example, many European countries; and suppose this had been true in the decades immediately following World War II, when Northern and Western Europe subsidized the development of Southern European nations, such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. If the U.S. had sponsored and funded infrastructural, educational, social and economic development in Mexico during the 1950s to the 1980s the way the more prosperous countries of Europe helped the less prosperous nations of their region to prepare them for membership in the future European Union, would not Mexico today be a much more prosperous, healthy, sustainable and pleasant place to live than it is, with less immigration into the U.S. and immigration therefore a much less contentious issue? Would this not be even more true of the over $1 trillion the U.S. has burned through, to no great effect, in Iraq and Afghanistan that might instead and much more beneficially have been spent and invested in our neighbor to the south, with whom we share an enormous land border and many of whose population are also members of the U.S. population?
Need a Mexican Marshall Plan
Dear Gabacho: You’re ignoring the billions of dollars El Norte has sent down Mexico way in the form of governmental aid and immigrant remittances over the past 60 years and neglect to mention that the subsidies the more prosperous European countries gave to their less-fortunate, non-Warsaw Pact neighbors provided only temporary relief—look at all the bailouts being proposed for Spain, Greece, Italy and their ilk nowadays. Not only that, the relationship between those European countries is vastly different from the relationship between Mexico and the United States—the latter is more like the neo-colonial model of Great Britain and India, or France and Algeria. All the hallmarks are there: mass migration from the former colony (or defeated nation, in Mexico’s case) and the classic hatred of the Other in the receiving country while wholeheartedly accepting their cheap labor and devouring their cuisine while morphing it into all sorts of pendejadas—tater tots tacos!
I’m a gabacha who teaches in a Juvenile Hall. In my classroom, I often have rival gang members, and so I enforce strict rules of behavior so that things don’t get out of hand. These rules also send a message to the kids that they’re capable of positive behavior and lets everyone feel safe. These rules include name-calling and cussing, and it goes for both English and Spanish. I’m not completely fluent in Spanish, but I know enough (from your book!) to recognize the bad words. I also know that sometimes these words are said in jest, but to avoid misunderstandings and keep things safe, I don’t allow anyone to jokingly call anyone names in Spanish or English either.
I was wondering if you could provide me with a word or phrase I could use with the Spanish speakers that their abuelitas would use to tell them to clean up their language. I also know, and talk to my students about this, that sometimes on the streets, you must talk a certain way to survive, but in my classroom they must talk in a way that is practice for job and college interviews. Just because they are currently incarcerated does not mean they do not have real futures, and I want to do my best to help prepare them. Gracias.
Creencia del Mejor en Mis Estudiantes
Dear Believer in the Best of Your Students: “No digas malas palabras” (“Don’t say any bad words”) is good, but better is “¡Ten vergüenza!” (“Have shame!”). Better? Combine the both. Best? “¡Cállate el hocico!” (“Shut your mouth,”) but more accurately (“Shut your snout”). It’s technically rude to say in Mexican Spanish—and that’s why parents and grandparents say it to their young ones, the linguistic version of a chancla.