Ask A Mexican!

Dear Mexican: Is there a pecking order at the places where you see day laborers awaiting to be hired? What's the hierarchy? Are all those dudes Mexican or are some Central and South American, and if so who has priority when the random contractor comes by to pick up a worker for the day? Also, after they make a bunch of loot, do they go back to Mexico and live in the lap of luxury or what? Gracias!

Dude Who Already Got a Job

Dear Gabacho: The ethnic makeup of day laborers really depends on what part of los Estados Unidos you're in. In Los Angeles, for instance, research done by the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education and my old boss, Abel Valenzuela, has found that about 15 percent of day laborers in the region are not Mexican. In New York, on the other hand, you have big percentages of Eastern Europeans and South Americans (especially Ecuadorians) in the jornaleros equation. As for a pecking order: whoever came first gets the prime jobs, while the latter arrivals get the hard stuff. It's an American tale as old as time: my zacatecano dad, for instance, works for people from Jalisco. Papi hires michoacano-run firms for any construction jobs at his house; those Michoacán natives, in turn, get poblanos to do the sawing and shoveling. And those workers, in turn always hire a Oaxacan or guerrerense as a chalán to do the dirtiest work imaginable. All these guys used to go back to Mexico to live the good life after making their pennies here, but the drug cartels put an end to that quick—no joke!

Do you believe there is a cultural difference that causes Mexicans to have less sensitivity about personal and shared space? I grew up all over the South and lived for six years in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The town where I lived was less than 10 miles from the Texas-Mexico border. Immediately after moving to the valley I noticed that the Mexican people at the grocery store, mall, doctor's office, school, and most every other place had less respect for their surroundings. Whether shopping for clothes or groceries, I found Mexican people had little restraint when it came to bumping your cart out of the way, shoving you if you are in the way of their purchase, or hovering at a disturbing proximity. I also notice a complete disregard for respecting the products on the shelves of stores. Mexicans would grab a shirt or pants off a table, take a look and throw them on the floor or on top of a pile. This same behavior was true at restaurants, bookstores and all manner of shops. Is there a different attitude toward public boundaries in the Mexican culture? I would like to understand the behavior so I can keep it from breeding untrue stereotypes!

Feeling Violated 

Dear Gabacha: You know a Mexican's sense of personal space is fucked up when our term for standing in line is hacer cola—make ass. Kind of explains our hatred of immigration policy, ¿qué no?

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