Dear Mexican: I work with mostly young, progressive, educated white folks at an institution of higher education in Southern California. The other day, I mentioned buying a shirt that reads "Illegal immigration started in 1492." We had a good laugh and my co-worker, whom I like a lot, said that it actually began in the Ice Age, suggesting that no one kind of human has claim over "land" or geography. While I get her argument, I was stunned. A flippant response like that diminishes the struggles of people trying to make a life here, under adverse conditions, having fled other adverse conditions, and the systematic historical exceptionalism mythology, jingoism, xenophobia and racism that has created the current state of affairs. Can you give me a good comeback for when an otherwise cool gabacho says some similar bullshit?
—A Chicana in the Hallowed Halls of Learning
Dear Pocha: You can point out that attachment to a vanquished homeland is a fundamental part of the human experience—witness the Garden of Eden, Israel, Palestine, Aztlán, Camelot and even The Sandlot—but did you try "Check your privilege?" How about "We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us?" Maybe "Who's the illegal alien, pilgrim?" Perhaps "Vete a la chingada, pinche sucia pendeja babosa"? Or the classic "Chinga tu madre"? I know you're looking for an intellectual retort, but even Kant knew that a well-thrown verbal chingazo every once in a while makes the best possible point.
I enjoy your column, and I need advice on how to handle a difficult situation with a very special Mexican in my life. I am in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and my little sister is a smart, kind, and beautiful twelve-year-old Mexican girl. Since we became sisters three years ago, she has been telling me all about what she wants for her quince (a beautiful blue dress, a stretch Hummer, a mariachi band, etc.). Although her parents don't have much money, they try very hard to do special things for their kids and make their lives really happy. Today, her mother told me that they are not going to have the money to throw my little sister a quinceañera party. Instead, they want to take an inexpensive trip to the beach (she LOVES the beach), and save the rest of the money for her education. Her mother wants me to help her discuss the situation with my sister. Her parents have decided to tell her now so that she doesn't spend three years planning a party that isn't going to happen. I would like to do something special for my sister which captures the spirit of a quinceañera celebration, but without the traditional party. However, being a white lady, I have no idea what that might be. Can you help me figure out what a girl needs on her quince to feel special and celebrated? I love her so much, and I want to make her feel happy.
—Happy to be a Güera Hermana
Dear Gabacha: Primeramente, can you throw the chingones parents a party for breaking the chains of quinceañera nonsense? Not spending tens of thousands of dollars on one day of a teenager's life in order to save for their daughter's educational future? What a novelty! That said, a beach party quinceañera is not only feasible, but would be more memorable than any rented VFW hall or community center. Check into reserving a big section of sand, tell the parents to invite her friends and family, and watch how happy your hermanita will be. And don't be surprised when all the Mexicans go into the ocean with their clothes on ...
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