Fashion Statement

A guide to wab-wear, from mottos to masks.

Dear Mexican: I'm perplexed. I just saw a middle-aged wab wearing tight pink stretch pants with the phrase "Pink Taco" emblazoned across her misshapen buttocks. In my experience, Mexicans of the Mexico-born variety seem to wear a lot of clothes with odd/tacky slogans. My question is simple: Do wabs know what their designer knock-off American clothes say?

H & M Whore

Dear Gabacha: Of course they do -- and what you described isn't the worst example out there. I've seen a Mexican woman wearing a T-shirt with an illustration of a grinning guy receiving fellatio from a fish under the caption "The Happy Fisherman" and a schoolkid lugging his books in a Simpsonsbackpack with an orange-tinted Bart on the shoulder straps. That many Mexicans own clothes with bewildering statements of dubious origin owes more to shopping at swap meets, yard sales or la segunda("the second," as in secondhand stores) than any ignorance of English. Why waste hundreds of dollars on clothes, reasons the Mexican mind, when you can just wait for gabachosto get fat and donate their castoffs to Goodwill? Not only that, but Mexicans understand that logos and silkscreened declarations on their pants' ass ultimately mean nothing in the grander scheme of things. They see clothes for what they are: protection from the elements. Trust me, H & M Whore. My mother -- a perfectly sane, classy mujer -- once bought a sweatshirt for a buck that read "This Isn't a Bald Spot...It's a Solar Panel for a Sex Machine." She blotted out the naughty word with ink and proudly used the sweatshirt for years.

Dear Mexican:What's the deal with men in masks? From Subcomandante Marcos to El Santo, masked men seem to be a real fetish in Mexico. Should I be turned on?

Embarazada

Dear Pregnant Wab:You should be turned on by allMexican men, chula, masked or not. I'm sure you're looking for an answer that involves mysticism and the ancients while revealing an innate proclivity among Mexicans to hide themselves, weaving in references to machismo, the Conquest and telenovelasfor good measure. But you won't get it from me. If you want that kind of respuesta, turn to a smarter wab: Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, who devotes a chapter in his 1950 book The Labyrinth of Solitudeto the amor of masks. "The Mexican, whether young or old, criollo or mestizo, general or laborer or lawyer," he writes, "seems to me to be a person who shuts himself away to protect himself: his face is a mask, and so is his smile." Paz argues that Mexicans hide everything -- their feelings, plans, illegal relatives -- because "opening oneself up is a weakness" in their culture; masks are a physical manifestation of the psychological.

My theory? Masks are cool. As great as El Santo -- Mexico's most famous wrestler -- was in the ring, he became an icon mostly because of a luminous silver mask that accompanied him through dozens of films and into the afterlife. Masks allow wearers to bend societal norms and participate in activities that proper Mexicans would frown upon, like lucha libreor hatching a revolution in the Chiapan jungles. Without them, the wearer is just another Mexican -- and who wants to be that?

 
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