¡Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican: I am perplexed. I just saw a middle-age wab (complete with a bright-red, lipstick-accentuated moustache) wearing tight pink stretch pants with the phrase "Pink Taco" emblazoned across her misshapen buttocks. In my experience, Mexicans of the Mexico-born variety seem to wear a lot of clothes with odd/tacky slogans. My question is simple: Do wabs know what their designer knock-off American clothes say?

H & M Whore

Dear Gabacha: Of course they do—and what you described isn't the worst example out there. I've seen Mexican women wear T-shirts with an illustration of a grinning guy receiving fellatio from a fish under the caption "The Happy Fisherman," day laborers who don't know NCAA from naco keeping warm in Notre Dame jackets, and school kids lugging their books in a Simpsons backpack with an orange-tinted Bart on the shoulder straps. That many Mexicans own clothes with bewildering statements or dubious origins owes more to shopping at swap meets, yard sales or la segunda ("the second," as in secondhand stores) than any ignorance of English. Why waste hundreds of dollars on clothes, reasons the Mexican mind, when you can just wait for gabachos to get fat and donate their castoffs to Goodwill? Not only that, but Mexicans understand that logos and silkscreened declarations on ass pants ultimately mean nothing in the grander scheme of things and see clothes for what they are—protection from the elements. Trust me on this one, H & M Whore. My mother—a perfectly sane, classy mujer—once bought a sweatshirt that read "This Isn't a Bald Spot ... It's a Solar Panel for a Sex Machine" for a buck. She blotted out the naughty word with ink and proudly used the warm, sturdy, cheaply bought sweatshirt for years.

What's the deal with men in masks in Mexico? From Subcomandante Marcos to El Santo, masked men seem to be a real fetish in Mexico. Am I supposed to be turned on?


Dear Pregnant Wab: You should be turned on by all Mexican men, chula, masked or not. I'm sure you're looking for an answer that involves mysticism and the ancients while revealing an innate proclivity among Mexicans to hide themselves, weaving in references to machismo, the Conquest and telenovelas for good measure. But you ain't getting it from this Mexican. If you want that kind of respuesta, turn to a smarter wab: Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, who devotes a chapter in his famous 1950 book The Labyrinth of Solitude to the Mexican amor affair with masks. "The Mexican, whether young or old, criollo or mestizo, general or laborer or lawyer," Paz wrote in "Mexican Masks," "seems to me to be a person who shuts himself away to protect himself: His face is a mask, and so is his smile." Paz goes on to argue that Mexicans try to hide everything—their feelings, plans, illegal relatives—because "opening oneself up is a weakness" in their culture; masks, according to his train of thought, are a physical manifestation of the psychological.

My theory? Masks are cool. As great as El Santo—Mexico's most famous wrestler—was in the ring, he became an icon mostly because of a luminous silver mask that accompanied him through dozens of films and even into the afterlife. Masks allow wearers to bend societal norms and participate in activities that proper Mexicans would frown upon, like lucha libre or hatching a revolution in the Chiapan jungles. Without those masks, the wearer is just another Mexican—and who wants to be that?

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