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Dear Mexican: I have a question from one Mexican to another: Why do gabachos think we know everything about plants? During conversations with the estadounidenses, I will get asked about plants, pruning, how to keep roses alive, etc. I understand many of my compatriotas working over here are gardeners (and are the best at it!), but that does not give us all a botany degree. Please help me figure it out.

Xochimilco Dreaming

Dear Wab: Within each stereotype lies a kernel of truth, goes the pinche cliché, and your example is a great case. Compared with gabachos, each Mexican--no matter how assimilated or fresa--is a walking greenhouse. Many of our mamis know about the wonders of yerbas (herbs) to tend to a family's medicinal needs: yerba buena tea for most any ailment, aloe vera to salve a burn, and epazote for a bad case of the pedos. All Mexican families try to grow some type of edible plant on whatever land they can find, be it a simple chile plant or towering corn stalks. This knowledge is passed down from generation to generation if you're a good Mexican; if you're not, go find a tia to teach ti.

Gabachos might chortle at us since growing one's own crops for subsistence is the hallmark of a developing society, but that's fine: As the Great Recession spreads, and gabachos suckled for decades on the teat of prepackaged meals and convenience lose their jobs, they'll increasingly realize that living like Mexicans not only makes life more affordable; it comes with hot second cousins, too!

I realize your column is tongue-in-cheek, but you also perpetuate a myth: that all Hispanics are somehow "hard-working" because they'll do manual labor. Or, as I've heard many claim in defense of illegal immigration, "They'll do anything to earn a living."

That's a lie. There's one thing the majority of Mexican and Central-American immigrants won't do to make a living: think. I teach in Los Angeles. The majority of students in the district are Hispanic--Mexican and Central American. Most of these students are failing--they're relatively illiterate. They fail because they are lazy. They will not do the work. They will gladly tell you that. What I have come to find, sadly, is that the majority of Hispanics from Mexico and Central America would rather do manual labor than use their brains. This is why Hispanics in the Southwest constitute a growing and perpetual servant class: because they have a visceral hatred of education.

It's part of a white liberal myth that manual labor makes for "hard work" when it comes to illegal immigrants and their children. Manual labor makes for sweat, and nothing more. Intellectual effort is far more difficult, and makes for success and competitiveness; that's why the majority of the Hispanic students I work with are headed for little better than their illegal immigrant parents: manual labor. The reason: not oppression, and not racism, but because, as so many of them proudly exclaim, they're lazy.

Not Proud of My Heritage

Dear Disgrace: If ever there was a case for teacher accountability, it's you. Go Netflix Stand and Deliver, and learn a cosa or two.

KNOW NOTHINGS!

Who amongst you can truly say they hate the illegal Mexican but not the legal one? Who amongst you doesn't care about culture but everything about the law? The best three responders (keep answers less than 100 words) get a Border Patrol hat or a copy of my ¡Ask a Mexican! book--their choice! Deadline is Feb. 19, so ¡ándale, ándale, ándale!

More by Gustavo Arellano

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