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Fungus Among Us

Who says you are what you eat?

Dear Readers: Gracias, gracias, gracias to ustedes who bought the Mexican's book last week (deportation for those who haven't). I've done mucho national press, and e-mails have invaded my inbox as a result, which means I lost the first question I wanted to answer this week. A Seattle reader had asked why Mexicans eat huitlacoche, a corn fungus that means "raven's shit" in Nahuatl and has the even less appealing English name "corn smut." The insinuation was that disgusting Mexicans eat anything; this Mexican would've agreed and responded that wabs also enjoy such "exotic" delicacies as dried crickets, cow guts and ants engorged with honey -- sabroso! I would've urged the gabacho to try huitlacoche and relish its musky, sweet charm. I'd have noted the double standard -- how gabacho-approved fungi like mushrooms and truffles command top dollar, while huitlacoche is dismissed, even ridiculed in the food world. And then I would've ended by calling the Seattleite a pinche puto pendejo baboso. Too bad that letter is lost to the ether, ¿qué no?

Dear Mexican: A couple of years ago, Major League Soccer named its new Houston franchise 1836. They supposedly had run the name by "Hispanic community leaders" and gotten general approval. After the name came out, there was a huge backlash from the media, university professors and politicians saying the name was offensive. MLS has since dropped it. But my question is whether the name is truly offensive to most Mexicans/Mexican-Americans, or whether it's mostly a bunch of hype. And if it is offensive, why, considering that many (most?) of the rebels fighting for independence in the Texas Revolution were Tejanos and Mexicans wanting freedom and not just a bunch of land-grabbing Americans?

Viva los Colt .45s

Dear Gabacho:What is it with ustedes Houstonians naming a sports team after a number, then pussying out and changing it after public protests? Anyway, yes: Many Mexicans find the 1836 name offensive because it signifies the ultimate destiny for Mexicans in this country. You're right to note that many Tejanos fought to free the Lone Star Republic from the yoke of General Santa Anna; what you didn't mention is the case of Juan Seguín. This Tejano aristocrat fought alongside Sam Houston and other heroes of the Texas Revolution, only to have those gabachoTexans exile him to Mexico just six years later. As Seguín recounted in his 1858 memoirs, "I embraced the cause of Texas at the report of the first cannon which foretold her liberty; filled an honorable situation in the ranks of the conquerors of San Jacinto, and was a member of the legislative body of the Republic." But the new Texans made Seguín feel like "a foreigner in my native land," forcing him to seek "shelter amongst those against whom I fought; I separated from my country, parents, family, relatives and friends, and what was more, from the institutions on behalf of which I had drawn my sword, with an earnest wish to see Texas free and happy." The Alamo was a chance for gabachos and Mexicans to get along and form a new country -- and the gabachos instead treated the Tejanos as little more than Mexicans, setting a standard for Americans that continues.

 
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