Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican: I'm from the southeastern U.S. and people think that all people from there are dumb (and, in many, cases correctly—see Bush, G.W.). Is there a similar place in Mexico where other Mexicans think these people are in-bred mouth breathers?

Swanee Señor

Dear Gabacho: Jalisco.

I am a health researcher, and at my job I work with large datasets, including data on births in California. Approximately half of births in California are to mothers who have self-identified their race as "white" and their ethnicity as "Hispanic," and as we know the majority of Latinos in California have ancestry from Mexico.  I am wondering why so few Latinos identify their race as either Native American or multiracial? We know from genetic studies that many Mexicans have a significant proportion of Native American ancestry. For example, see Fejerman et al, (Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 2010; 19(4): 1074-82) who found that the proportions of Native American ancestry among Mexican women averaged 54 percent among those from Monterrey and 69 percent among persons from Mexico City.

An Angelena

Dear Gabacha: It's no real surprise that Mexis would either not mark any other box to denote their raza, or just mark "white." As you most likely know, no one in Mexico wants to identify as Indian because they're at the bottom of the race chain. That stigma still carries over to the United States: Figures from the 2010 U.S. Census showed that about 175,000 people identified as "Mexican-American Indian," which would make this group the fourth-largest Native American tribe in the United Unidos (only Cherokee, Choctaw, and Navajo would be bigger). But consider that in "Indigenous Oaxacan Communities in California: An Overview," a 2007 paper by Lisa Kresge for the California Institute for Rural Studies, the estimated population for this group alone was about 350,000—and that's just for the Golden State, and doesn't include the many Purépecha, Yaquis, Otomis, Mayas, Totonacs and many other Mexican indigenous groups in Cali. Until there's a incentive for Mexicans to identify as Indian (using an Aztec name to get into the chonis of a Chicanos Studies chica doesn't count ... yet), you're not going to find many Mexicans identify as indio—sad, but verdad.

After having done labor organizing work with Mexicans, I am greatly puzzled as to why all the white, lower-class Mexicans I have come across have these weird, ratty hairdos that are so God-awful that they rival what my male redneck cousins were doing to themselves in the '70s. Why do their brown counterparts know how to style their hair so much better?

No Entiendo Todo Esta Locura

Dear I Don't Understand This Craziness: I don't get your obsession with skin tone, because the Mexi-mullet doesn't discriminate. It was first popularized in the 1970s by stars of grupera music, a synth-heavy style of conjunto norteño popular in northern Mexico, where redneck Texas' influence predominates. The hairstyle spread to other musicians (see: that guy from Los Tigres del Norte, Ramón Ayala) popular with Mexican immigrant men, and trickled down to the fans; it remains de rigeur for any hombre working under the hot sun. And I'll betcha this style will come back among you gabachos: Like Islamic scholars preserving the classics during the Dark Ages, Mexicans take care of fads—raising your own chickens, trucker hats, food trucks, Pendletons—that ustedes "rediscover," much to our besumement. Silly gabachos!

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