If you’ve never heard of Gustavo “The Mexican” Arellano and his syndicated column ¡Ask a Mexican!, printed weekly in 37 newspapers throughout the U.S., you must be living on the hinterlands of pop culture. In his column, which has a circulation of about 2 million, Mr. Arellano uses scholarship, acerbic commentary, irreverent humor, cynicism and simple smarts to break down racist boundaries and answer the most straightforward questions about Mexicans. Questions regarding differences among the broad spectrum of Latinos the world over are addressed. No cultural group is safe from his biting wit, as whites, Chicanos, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Chinese, blacks and even Argentines are all fodder for his humor.
This sensational columnist has received countless awards and been written about in the New York Times. He has appeared on the “Today” show and “The Colbert Report.” He’s even been threatened by white supremacists, but he still he trudges forward in an attempt to diffuse racial tensions.
New Mexicans have not been free of Arellano’s mocking scorn. So what better way to set this cheeky columnist straight about New Mexico than by turning the tables on him? Here, I answer Arellano’s questions about what it really means to be New Mexican.
Gustavo Arellano: I’m from Zacatecas, where we venerate the Santo Niño de Atocha. His statue is in Plateros, so how the hell did he end up having fans in New Mexico?
Joseph Baca: Ah Mexican, let me stir your refries. You Zacatecanos may lay claim to the great singer Antonio Aguilar and other famed Mexicans such as the luscious Rebecca de Alba (who was to that Puerto Rican pansy Ricky Martin what Lisa Marie Presley was to Michael Jackson), and even Don Juan de Oñate (who by the way, is well remembered by New Mexico’s indigenous peoples due to his macabre fetish for cutting off feet), but laying claim to the legend of the Holy Niño is just wrong. Zacatecas has a strong tradition of worshipping this particular representation of baby Jesus, but remember, he is universally venerated and his image—that of a wandering pilgrim—knows no boundaries. Santo Niño de Atocha’s power was first demonstrated when he fed and protected Catholics imprisoned by the Moors in Atocha, Spain. In 1554, a statue of him and his mother was brought to the mining region of Zacatecas, where he performed the miracle of rescuing miners. In 1857, New Mexican Severiano Medina brought a replica of the sacred child’s statue to a private chapel in Chimayó, N.M., which became acclaimed for healings and miraculous doings and lead to the famed annual pilgrimage to the region. Among New Mexicans, the devotion to the sacred wandering pilgrim is legendary, especially among those who braved crossing over the frontera (and especially Texas) to our state.
Do all New Mexicans have curanderas living with them? That’s what “Ultima” told me ...
In answer to your question, as New Mexicans, if we don’t have an in-house curandera such as a grandmother or aunt, I can assure you that there is one close enough in the community to always lend a hand.
If more people read our favorite son Rudolfo Anaya’s fabulous coming of age tale Bless Me Ultima, this country might have an entirely new approach to health care reform. Us New Mexicans laugh in the face of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh’s accusations of Mexican health care abuses, which is used by these culero gabachos to spread anti-immigration racist rhetoric, because we’ve always known we can depend on local curanderas for health concerns. Curanderas are practitioners of the arts of traditional healing or folk medicine and are widespread throughout the Southwest. Using a combination of body-balance-restoring techniques such as cleansing, massage and herbs, curanderas rid sick people of ills such as bilis (intestinal disorder), mal ojo (spell cast by a jealous person), empacho (constipation) and susto (trauma or shock). In short, a quick look at these gueys Limbaugh and Beck, and it’s easy to see that a curandera empacho treatment would be just the thing to blow out their backed up, bloated bowels and rid them of what ails.
We shipped the seeds of this flavorless faux chile to Anaheim, where some entrepreneurial Mexican farmers realized they could make a buck off clueless Californians.
When it comes to the Reconquista, will New Mexico side with Mexico or the U.S.?
Of course we would side with the U.S., pendejo—do you think any of us are willing to give up all the amenities we have living here? But before you get the idea that we’re as spineless as a pocho lettuce-picking-crew foreman, take note of New Mexico’s history of standing up to the federales. One example is when Reies López Tijerina and his band of revolucionarios used armed insurrection to take over the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse in 1967. It was a protest over land grant ownership stemming from what Tijerina felt were broken promises written in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. There is nothing wrong with standing up for one’s rights, but if you think we’d give up shopping at Wal-Mart, flushing toilets with seats to sit on and 24-hour 7-Eleven burritos in exchange for the myth of the Reconquista, you better take out the nipple of that Herradura bottle and come up for air. As you said previously, the legend of the Reconquista is used by men in power to keep ignorant gabachos preoccupied as their Wall Street brethren pick everyone’s pockets. Besides, Fox News commentators need something to talk about, so let’s just move right along—and pass the cerveza, hermano.
It’s true, there’s more money changing hands behind the scenes at the Santa Fe Legislature than at a Juárez cocaine cartel poker game
Red or green, which gets guys laid more often?
OMG Mexican, I guess you’re trying to enlighten your gabacho readers as to our state’s amorous abilities—but if they’re notoriously unsuccessful Lotharios with the romantic sensibility of a bowl of beans, they’re better off at the bar plowing their date with tequila in hope of seeing some panties. But as for you, hedge your bet by ordering your New Mexico dish sauced in what we refer to as “Christmas style,” both red and green chile, thereby doubling your chances at getting a little panochita. I have observed that younger, less experienced women have a preference for unripened chile verde, which has an immediate reaction on their brain chemistry, raising their body temperature and level of excitement. On the other hand, red chile—hotter in both appearance and flavor—needs a refined, experienced woman who understands subtlety to appreciate its nuances. Keep in mind when seducing a woman with chile: MODERATION. This will keep both of your digestive tracts in balance and guarantee an accident-free good time for all, especially the next morning.
How did a New Mexican Chile become known as the Anaheim Chile?
Every New Mexican has an understanding of all there is to know about chile. The tale I heard was that an honorable New Mexican developed the Anaheim chile in the early 1900s. We realized the skin was overly firm and the spice level nonexistent compared to the luscious “I feel a fuego in my culo” Hatch, N.M. peppers we were accustomed to. So we shipped the seeds of this flavorless faux chile to Anaheim, where some entrepreneurial Mexican farmers realized they could make a buck off clueless Californians. Since then, we’ve been able to keep our good stash within the state. This, my amigo, was our first lesson into making money in the marijuana trade—selling bunk stems and seeds to clueless pochos and gabachos.
Is the fact that New Mexico has so many corrupt politicians further proof of the inherently corrupt Hispanic soul, or is there something else in play?
Hey baboso, your accusations of an inherently corrupt Hispanic soul has you sounding like that traitor La Malinche, who translated for the Spaniards as they killed the Aztecs. It’s true, there’s more money changing hands behind the scenes at the Santa Fe Legislature than at a Juárez cocaine cartel poker game, but not only among New Mexicans—it just appears that way. Sure, our former State Treasurer Robert Vigil and his predecessor Michael Montoya were convicted of cleaning out the state’s coffers. New Mexico’s most powerful politician Manny Aragon was jailed for pocketing millions. Our Hispanic Governor Big Bill was tainted by pay-to-play allegations, and the list of greedy greasers grows faster and longer than Tiger’s love liaisons. But, come on you Orange County wab; admit that behind most of these convictions there is some equally guilty gabacho who had his avocado seeds squeezed so hard by the federales, he was spitting out Spanish-named accomplices like an auctioneer. Mexican, you know damn well these alleged money crimes were simply south-of-the-border-style stimulus packages. These men were jump-starting our ailing economy by borrowing bucks to build up the barrio’s bank.
Santa Fe is the Mecca of this mixed-up mythology, which allows Las Vegas, Taos and Española Mexicans to believe that they are all descendants of the Spanish royal court.
Are there still people who call themselves Hispanos, or is that some Chicano myth?
Clearly Northern New Mexico is foreign territory to you, Mexican. Otherwise you would know that Chicanos, Hispanos and the folklore of Hispanos of Spanish decent is alive and well among these wannabe Europeans. Santa Fe is the Mecca of this mixed-up mythology, which allows Las Vegas, Taos and Española Mexicans to believe that they are all descendants of the Spanish royal court. These confused pinche putos use the fact that many of them are light-skinned with blue eyes to advance their claims, while the fact is most of their abuelitas were groping the gabacho neighbors behind the barn. Much of this lore really came about as a form of self-preservation among Mexicans when faced with strong tides of overt racism from whites. In the mid-1800s there were numerous lynchings of our brown skinned brethren, and around the time of the Great Depression there was enormous anti-Mexican sentiment that led to the deportation of about 500,000 people, most of them U.S. citizens. Suddenly, every wire-broom mustachioed Mexican became a pure-blood Castilian-speaking Spaniard, purged of any Tapatío sauce in his veins. So when you hear that Castilian lisp being used by a Northerner, you may want to beat them like a piñata for being as confused as a Guatemalan jet pilot.
Is that Fo chick from “America’s Next Top Model” still around town? She was cute.
It’s been my experience that unless you have the looks of Luis Miguel or your parents own stock in Univision, top fashion models are off-limits to vertically challenged brown guys like us—unless, that is, you want to be their walking drink stand or parasol holder on the beaches of St. Tropez and Cancún. But I have uncovered a treasure for you greater than all the silver in the mines of Zacatecas and Grant County combined. Felicia “Fo” Porter now resides in L.A. but still considers our fair city home. Fo, who is flattered by your inquiry, happens to be a fan of the Weekly Alibi and an even bigger fan of yours. “I ADORE the Alibi, that’s one of the main columns!” she says via Facebook and referencing ¡Ask a Mexican! specifically. “Hahaha, I’m flattered. Hahahahaha, that’s amazing he remembered me!! I consider and call myself a ‘Blaxican’ due to being half black and Mexican. My mom is Mexican and my dad black.” At 5 foot 8 inches, she’s a short model and has a thing for nerdy Orange County beaners. Fo’s message to you, Mexican, is that she’s dying to share Margaritas with you as you whisper sweet Nahuatl nothings in her ear.
Mexican, clearly you are aware that there are more Bacas in New Mexico than any other state. The Bacas know their place in New Mexico lore is that of prolific breeders. The ubiquitous surname began spreading after the arrival of Cristobal Baca and his family in 1600. One of Cristobal’s descendants had eight children, and further down the line Trinidad Baca had 20 children by three different wives. And so the unstoppable multiplicity of this dynasty began. You may think that when surnames were doled out by occupation, Baca’s should have been called conejitos (little rabbits). But instead, since many Bacas worked in the cattle industry, they were given the last name Baca (closely related to vaca, meaning cow). Like many cerveza-swilling pinche panzons and their grounded-to-the-couch-by-overconsumption-of-frijoles viejas, I could claim to be related to a conquistador or the Third Duke of the First Family from Alhambra, Spain. I could tell you about the Bacas being major land owners in the state, and how I can retrace my roots to whatever famous historical Mexican I read about, but like most New Mexico families, 98 percent of my Baca family tree is composed of unaccomplished borrachos who live to party and breed—so spark up the mariachis, pass the guacamole and tequila and let the fiesta begin—“ay ya yay ya yay—ahua!”
In concluding this interview, Mexican, my grandma Margarita used to say, “Cada cabeza es un mundo,” meaning every mind is its own universe. It came to mind once while while making love to a gorgeous blonde Texan, who in the middle of our passionate tussle, stopped to tell me in her most twangy Tejana accent, “You shore do have a big dick—for a Mexican.” Well, to this day I am trying to figure out what she meant, and whether it was a racist insult or salacious compliment. And so race relations go, Mexican: It’s all about perspective. One person’s giant burrito is another person’s tiny taquito.