Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican: I write to you with a doubt similar to the one that Incensed in Chicago felt a couple of weeks ago, when her friend couldn't believe that Mexicans worked in professional, white-collar jobs.

I live in Tijuana, and of the gabachos who put roots here, you can't find a single professional—just starving people and retirees, people who no longer have money to rent a house in San Diego. Those who aren't swindling recovering drug addicts are arrogant drunks who always miss a piece of cheese from the other side named Rush Limburger.

This is why I'm urged to ask you: Does Gringolandia lack professional people, or is it exporting solely its own undesirables? And how is it that none of them are even able to work in the fields? Please accept this hug from where (as we in Tijuana say) the motherland begins.

Xolotl de Tijuas

Dear Wab: Sure, gabachos who live in Mexico occupy white-collar jobs: They're professional colonizers who do a terrible job of it. What else can you call groups of people who settle in a foreign land, stick to their own kind, don't bother to assimilate and stay in constant contact with their homelands, yet never bother to ingratiate themselves into the fabric of their new lands?

, the Mexican government makes it muy difficult for Americans to migrate and live in la suave patria, but at least Mexicans in the United States gamed the system enough so that they became indispensable to the republic; Mexico can expel its gabachos and survive (see Pershing's punitive campaign, the 1938 nationalization of Mexico's oil and Mexicans booing Miss America in the 2007 Miss Universe Pageant).

There was recently a death in the Mexican family that lives near me. Another neighbor and I debated about taking food, flowers and other tokens of comfort as our tradition dictates. She consulted with a Latino friend who told us to stay away; it was a private affair. The men just stood outside, drinking beer with their hats pulled down, barely speaking to one another. The women stayed inside. Few people brought food, just the occasional 12-pack of Pepsi.

My neighbor and I grew up with the tradition that you dress up and take food to the family. We wanted to do something for them but took the advice of her friend. For the next few weeks, the neighbors looked away from us; normally, they are very friendly. I just didn't understand why we couldn't offer our condolences and help feed their family and friends. We respected their privacy and stayed away. Can you please explain? Is the tradition of grief so different?

Resquiat In Pacem

Dear Gabacho: Not really, so get a new Latino friend. You didn't specify what religion your Mexican neighbors follow, a crucial fact, because the bereavement process varies from faith to faith. Only the most esoteric ones prohibit outsiders, though, so I'm sure you could've stopped in with food to express your condolences without offending anyone.

But let's assume the Mexican family was Catholic, since every Mexican believes in the Virgen de Guadalupe. The neighbors looked away from ustedes because they suffered a loss in the family; it's called "being sad." The men stood outside while the women remained in the house because the ladies were praying the Rosary to guide the departed's spirit out of Purgatory and toward heaven, and Catholic men are required by doctrine to help the journey along by waiting outside and getting borracho. No one brought food, because the family's relatives cooked fresh meals every day during the days of mourning. Your Latino friend should've explained this to you; how sad that you had to write to a columnist about such a personal matter!

Nevertheless, you did the right thing then by being respectful, Resquiat, so do the right thing now: With everyone having left, go to your Mexican neighbors and offer any moral support they might need.

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