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Saturday, April 13, 2002

Mexican Like Me


I once dated a girl who became critical of me and my life plans (imagine that). She said something like, “Why is your biggest goal in life to be a spic?” She was right to a certain degree; I would like to be Mexican when I grow up. I hurled a worse epithet at her, much viler than spic. I said that her biggest goal in life was to be a soccer mom. She is probably sitting in her mini-van listening to Neil Diamond and waiting to pick up her 2.3 (a farm accident?) kids. She’ll probably meet her hubby at Chili’s© for dinner. They will probably stop by Blockbuster© to pick up a video. They’ll probably rent their favorite movie to see again, Sister Act (sorry, but that is one horse that can’t be too dead or beaten too much, that goes for Miss Goldberg, as well).

If you did a search on GOOGLE for ‘white woman’ her name would probably pop up first. I’m sure being white isn’t the worst way to spend your entire life but you don’t have to rub it in by buying a mini-van and going to fucking Chili’s. I have been white almost my entire life and I just get really, really bored with it sometimes.

I went to see the excellent Mexican film Y Tu Mamá También yesterday and I was feeling nostalgic for that country. There are a couple scenes in the movie in which the central characters are having beers in these crappy Mexican cantinas. I have been in hundreds of Mexican cantinas but I was envious of their ability to blend in, the way I suppose I blend in when I walk into a bar here in Seattle. I want to be like the Mexicans in the movie. Although I speak Spanish well I have light skin and light brown hair and no matter how much I work to extinguish my gringo accent I still look like a gringo. I will always be the gringo who thinks he’s Mexican. People get a kick when I say, “Tengo alma latina.” (My soul is latin)

It is hard for me to be funny in Spanish because I am not completely bilingual. Something that gives me a tremendous sense of achievement is when I can make a joke in Spanish to my Mexican friends. The jokes that get the biggest laughs for me generally concern “La Migra” or some other law enforcement entity. For many Mexican immigrants this is a factor of everyday life, so humor is as good a way to deal with it as any. A guy we know named Ramón had a little run-in with the law (immigration papers) and for weeks afterward I got big laughs with this play on words, “¿Donde está Ramón, en la casa o la cárcel?” (Where’s Ramon, at his pad or the pokey?) I guess you had to be there with a gut full of Negra Modelo’s to laugh, but I made a funny in Spanish.

I lack a fluency in popular Mexican culture to be really funny in Spanish. I try to keep up. I also read several French publications in an effort to stay up on that culture that I love even more. It is funny that I do my best to avoid popular culture here in the USA but I seek it out in other countries. I like the Algerian Raï singer Cheb Mami and I spend a lot of time on kazaa.com downloading popular Greek music. In the immortal words of JFK “Ich bin ein fuzzy little foreigner.”

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