America's love-hate relationship with Mexicans and Mexican food
A couple of years back, I put four white supremacists in prison. They had made the mistake of going into the Slater Slums of Huntington Beach, the city's traditional barrio, to kill a random Mexican. They got as far as stabbing a man before the Slater Slums smackdown began: The community came out from their apartments and kicked the shit out of the KKKlowns — a beatdown of wonderful, ironic proportions. Not a single Mexican was arrested; the Candy Ass Gang, as we called them, went away for years, convicted on hate crimes.
I discovered that the crime was premeditated, announced on a white-power Internet radio show just weeks before. But I also discovered that the attackers loved Mexican food: A bunch of pictures a source forwarded to me showed the pendejos in various states of devouring burritos and tacos from Del Taco, the Mexican fast-food chain that's known for being better than that Taco Bell mierda.
Race traitors? Hardly. Just following American policy: Hate the Mexican, love the Mexican food, assault the Mexican, get your ass handed to you by Mexicans. This has been America's experience with Mexicans, a cycle of justice that must be remembered when considering what's happening to this country right now in the wake of SB 1070 and its many copycats. Those Know-Nothing politicians, judges and voters who pass law after law trying to stop Mexicans from asserting themselves in this country are like King Canute commanding the tide to stop: The game is already over. We beat you with our Mexican food long ago, and we're going to beat you on SB 1070 as well.
More Crossing the Line viewpoints:
"Bordering on revolution: America's war on Mexicans has gone too far," by Michael Lacey
"Welcome back, Jim Crow: A tradition of keeping African-Americans voters from the polls," by Chuck Strouse
"Latino activists prepare for the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's SB 1070," by Stephen Lemons
Village Voice Media commissioned artists associated with the Phoenix-based cultural collective Xico to produce a series of covers for its papers -- each one is unique to each city -- for its national story on Arizona SB1070, "Crossing the Line." Here are those images with additional artworks and biographical information on the individual artists. Founded in 1975, Xico is a nonprofit organization that promotes Chicano, Latino and Native American heritage through the arts. Its programing includes arts classes and workshops for underserved youth, community exhibitions, artist education, printmaking workshops, the valley's oldest Dia de los Muertos/A Celebration of Life festival and small-venue performances. To find out more, visit www.xicoinc.org.
Although the dinner table may seem an unlikely battleground, you've got to know your history, kids. Food is one of the first things a conquering group demonizes when trying to repress a smaller group. The Spaniards tried to wean the Aztecs off tortillas and into bread, to no avail. During the Mexican-American War, urban legend had it that animals wouldn't eat the corpses of fallen Mexican soldiers due to the high chile content in the decaying flesh.
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Similar knocks against Mexican food can be heard to this day in the lurid tourist tales of "Montezuma's Revenge" and in the many food-based ethnic slurs still in circulation: beaner, greaser, pepper belly, taco bender, roach coach and so many more. "Aside from diet," the acclaimed borderlands scholar Américo Paredes wrote in 1978, "no other aspect of Mexican culture seems to have caught the fancy of the Anglo coiner of derogatory terms for Mexicans."
But that's all an undercurrent in the larger story of Mexican food's conquest of this country to the tune of billions of dollars: tacos, tequila, hot sauce, chile, Chipotle, Rick Bayless and so much more. If America had truly been successful in its anti-Mexican campaigns over the past 150 years, it would have eradicated our cuisine à la the dishes of all the Native American tribes we exiled to permanent ethnic curiosity. It's not like politicians haven't been down this road before: Dudley Do-Rights have long tried to ban street vendors, taco trucks, cottage-food industries and other Mexican culinary traditions from suburbs and cities alike, only to see the common American repudiate them again and again.
And that's what's going to happen with SB 1070. It will go down as did California's Proposition 187, which sought to make all government workers migra agents but later was declared unconstitutional. It'll fail like the mass deportations of Operation Wetback in the 1950s and those that occurred during the Great Depression — government mandates that Mexicans and the Americans who hire them quickly ignored. It'll fall like Los Angeles — once one of the most gabacho big cities in the United States, now run by a hell of a lot of Mexicans and their obsequious gabacho counterparts.
Hell, even Tom Tancredo loves Mexican food. The notoriously anti-Mexican former Colorado congressman debated me about assimilation in Denver during the fall of 2010. And what did we eat before the philosophical fisticuffs? Tamales.
America: If Tom Tancredo, who did his damnedest to stop Mexicans from coming into this country and left a failed legacy on that front, admitted defeat with each bite of a millennia-old meal, then so will you. Don't worry: We'll be nice. And we'll make sure to add an extra shot of tequila to your frozen margarita when the courts, either now or in a decade or two, realize that SB 1070 is the Plessy v. Ferguson of the 21st century and overturn this pendejada. In the meantime, keep stuffing your face with tacos!
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