Since when did black beans become "higher class"?

Dear Mexican: I'm in this country illegally, but I have a current passport from the country I am from, and I have an international driver's license. I could not renew my California driver's license after my travel visa expired. Occasionally, I fly commercially within the U.S., and these docs are always sufficient. I wish to take a cruise to Alaska that leaves from and returns to Seattle, with no stops in Canada. Will these docs work for that, or am I putting myself at risk with the authorities?

La Estrella de Sinaloa

Dear Sinaloa Star: While you can theoretically make it — your proposed trip is domestic travel, after all — it's better not to put yourself at risk, since the Obama administration is even cracking down on cruise ships in its ridiculous search for the undocumented. Then again, maybe you should take the trip. Go to Alaska, then smuggle yourself into Canada, as the Great Gabacho North continues to welcome Mexicans like they're welcoming burritos. (Burrito Brothers in Toronto? Not too bad for a Canadian burrito.) According to the Mexican Migration Project, the number of temporary workers who found employment in Canada grew from about 7,000 cabrones in 1998 to nearly 18,000 in 2007. And those hosers are so darn nice that academics writing for the Migraciones Internacionales journal last year opined, "Although results reported here suggest that American guest workers fare much better in the labor market than those without documents, they still do not achieve the same level of economic welfare as their counterparts in Canada, earning less money per hour, working fewer hours per week, remaining abroad fewer months per year, and thus earning 28 percent less income during a season of work." You heard the eggheads, raza: Time to push Aztlán into Alberta!

Dear Mexican: I must be one low-class individual. According to the news tonight, Taco Bell is introducing an "upper-class" menu next month that includes black beans. I never even heard of black beans until I moved from Los Angeles to Denver. Grandma always made pinto beans, and I used to (and still do, on occasion) eat them by the bowl. Since when did black beans become "higher class"?

Dumbfounded in Denver

Dear Gabacho Wab: Beans as status symbols? You know it! Although black beans are a part of the Mexican diet, they're traditionally only found in the southern and Gulf Coast states; the rest of the country sticks with pinto beans. But black beans became associated with Mexican food in los Estados Unidos mostly because of food trends that gabachos loved and Mexicans didn't bother with. They started popping up at "higher-end" Mexican restaurants during the Southwestern cuisine movement of the 1980s, the same fad that brought us fajitas and the abomination known as the Southwestern (or Santa Fe) chicken salad, an ensalada that's unknown in New Mexico. The mega-chain Chipotle, which emphasizes its use of hormone-free meat, continued the use of black beans, further searing into the American psyche the idea that those legumes are somehow healthier than pintos, even though both are equally good for eaters. Now Taco Bell is following in Chipotle's footsteps with the use of frijoles negros, knowing that gabachos now associate black beans with trendy food and the humble pinto with beaners. I will give Taco Bell credit regarding one part of its Cantina Bell project: While it didn't get a Mexican to head it, it did get some Venezuelan chica instead of a gabacho like Rick Bayless, thereby keeping this atrocity in the Latino family but not daring to pin it on an actual Mexican. Now, that's progress!

 
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