Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican: Why is Mexico such a dump? Just to name a few of the problems: stray dogs running all over the place, piles of trash burning in the street, blown-out tires hanging from cactus by the side of the road, shredded plastic shopping bags plastering every fence in sight, rampant corruption in government, and lawlessness so flagrant that the entire police force in a Sonora town was recently killed or forced to flee by armed thugs working for the drug cartels.

Don't even try to blame all of this on us gabachos. And if you don't believe me, ask the millions of Mexican citizens who are voting with their feet by trying to sneak into the United States. Why can't Mexico get its act together already?

Don't Understand Mexico's Problems

Dear DUMP: Of course I'll blame Mexico's problems on you gabachos. A drug market that makes the cartels so rich and powerful? Los Estados Unidos. Plastic shopping bags? From America. Millions of Mexicans voting with their feet? To go to America and fill its need for cheap, young labor.

Hey, Mexico needs to look at itself deeply to address its many issues, but for gabachos to claim that somehow they're completely innocent in causing Mexico's ills is like claiming Taco Bell doesn't give you a serial case of Montezuma's revenge.

Why do upper-class Mexicans from Mexico hate the lower class in Mexico?

Exeter Elitist

Dear Gabacho: The same reason the 1 percent loathes the 99 percent, and European royals wanted nothing to do with the peasant class except to exploit them. Explaining Mexicans isn't always about the Virgin of Guadalupe and Aztecs, cabrones.

I'm an American of Polish-Czech decent. At every wedding, and at my elders' houses, we used to listen to polka. I moved to the Southwest 15 years ago from the Midwest, and I occasionally hear mariachi music from other cars or on the radio. I am beginning to like the music. It really reminds me of polka, but with a Southwest kick.

Sadly, the friends I have of Mexican decent or persuasion are not fans—so could you recommend a good collection or a good band to start? I'm doing it because I like music, and figure music might help me brush up on my lame bilingual skills.

Polaco Who Likes Tacos

Dear Polack-Honky: I think what you think is mariachi is actually conjunto norteño, which is the Mexican-music form that most approximates traditional polka—mostly because that's what it is. That's the music with the wild accordion, the metronomic 2/4 bass beat, and a wonderful corniness that only hick cultures (i.e., Mexicans, Czechs and Poles) can truly love—mostly because the music was introduced to the borderlands between northern Mexico and Texas in the mid-1800s.

For old-school conjunto norteño, you want to download the collections of Los Alegres de Terán, Los Relámpagos del Norte and Los Cadetes de Linares; for the newer groups, Los Rieleros del Norte, Ramón Ayala (one of the members of Los Relámpagos del Norte) and Los Invasores de Nuevo León. Don't forget Flaco Jiménez and his whirlwind Tex-Mex classics. And timeless, of course, is Los Tigres del Norte.


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