Dear Readers: The Mexican's new book, Orange County: A Personal History, is in your local bookstore on September 16 — by puro coincidence, Mexican Independence Day! In honor of and to shamelessly promote my muy caliente libro (which deals with America's Gomorrah, the Reconquista and John Wayne), I'm answering a historical question this week. But first, a bit of housecleaning: In answering a pregunta a couple of weeks ago about pachucos, I was pendejo and forgot to explain the word's origins. Thankfully, many of ustedes aren't tontos like me; here's the most accepted theory:
Hey, ese: I liked your explanation about pachucos. One correction, however: They're called pachucos because the vatos in East Los originated from a neighborhood in El Paso primarily populated by folks who had emigrated from Pachuca, Hidalgo. They were the first ones to begin la moda that ultimately became the zoot suit. Otherwise, keep it going, bro, I'm glad you're doing your thing.
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Dear Mexican: Why, despite the richest of Spanish colonial, Mexican-era heritages and histories in California, is Orange County so seriously lacking in public awareness and presentation of that history? Sure, we have a few streets named after mis primos — Yorbas, Avilas, etc. — but where are the park statues of vaqueros y mujeres, the replica carretas, the public P.A. systems blaring "This Land Was Our Land" in Spanish? Is the current crop of Caucasians too cheap or red in the neck to pony up a few pesos to honor the real first citizens of the county?
A Longtime Californio
Dear Readers: I swear I didn't pay this guy to ask this. To make it relevant to ustedes outside Orange County, I'll limit my discussion to Mendez vs. Westminster, a 1946 case that desegregated schools in California for Mexicans and served as a precedent to Brown vs. Board of Education. It's a landmark in American civil rights, yet for decades, the only history book that mentioned it was Carey McWilliams's 1949 North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States. In Orange County last year, original plaintiff Sylvia Mendez asked to be included in Huntington Beach's Fourth of July parade but was rejected because organizers said she didn't provide enough entertainment! The contributions of wabs to our national tapestry are traditionally neglected outside of conquistadors and Manifest Destiny for the same reason other subaltern histories get short shrift: Any examination forces gabachos to deal with the actions of their ancestors. Know Nothings argue that ethnic studies lead to the Balkanization of America, a false dichotomy that never acknowledges that disciplines like Chicano Studies would have never emerged if previous generations of gabacho instructors had done their damn job.