Dear Mexican: The perception of Mexico having a defective culture has come up in your column several times. It's most important to point out the historical differences. The United States was invaded by settlers who came to live here permanently. Mexico was conquered by gold-seeking thugs who wanted to return rich to Spain. The U.S. received the Protestant work ethic. Mexico received Spanish feudalism and the authoritarian Catholic Church, which discouraged independent thought and dissent. Historically, Mexico has been dominated by a very small, overpowering, land-owning, abusive aristocracy — hence, lots of very poor people (essentially economic slaves) who could never get ahead. That's what the 1910 revolution was all about. Here in the U.S., lots of people could own their own land after the Indian land was commandeered. Is it any wonder that many Mexicans seem to not take as much personal responsibility as gabachos would like? Family mattered more than civic involvement because you could only rely on your family.
Amigo of Aliens
Dear AA: I appreciate your effort, but you're committing the same sins I rail about constantly without even knowing it! You nailed the economic analysis, but the false dichotomy of Mexicans weighed down by a Catholic-Spanish mindset and therefore not as predisposed to wealth, as opposed to the rapacious capitalism inherent to the Protestant-English worldview, is as clichéd as a Mexican sleeping underneath a cactus. Mexicans, no personal responsibility? What's immigrating in search of a better life called? Mexicans, no civic involvement? Who do you think booted out the autocratic PRI party after decades of ruling Mexico — or beat the shit out of the Spaniards in 1810 and American industrialists in 1910? Who beat down Sharron Angle in Nevada? And hate to break it to you, broder, but we aren't the only country in the Americas ruled by an abusive elite — and I ain't talking about Guatemala, either.
Ask a Mexican
Dear Mexican: How come everything Mexican jumps? They got jumping cars, they jump the fence, and Mexican jumping beans. Confused Gabacho
Dear Gabacho: You forgot the Mexican Hat Dance, lucha libre, the voladores of Papantla that fling themselves from hundred-foot poles, Acapulco's cliff divers and our preferred way to deal with schoolyard bullies. Answer: a Freudian-Pavlovian response to life after undergoing a childhood of nalgadas.
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Dear Mexican: Can a gringo run for president of Mexico?
Call Me Presidente Pendejo
Dear Gabacho: Sure! Although Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution explicitly prohibits foreigners from running for office, Artículo 82 states that those eligible for the presidency must be "a Mexican citizen by birth, in full enjoyment of their rights, child of a Mexican father or a Mexican mother and have resided in the country at least twenty years." Article 30 establishes that a Mexican citizen is someone born in Mexico regardless of the citizenship status of their parents, or born outside Mexico to at least one Mexican citizen who attained said citizenship by birth or by naturalization. It's conceivable, then, that a full-blooded gabacho can run for la presidencia of Mexico, but not likely: Although we like our leaders light-skinned, we already got our share of a part-gabacho president in Vicente Fox — and he was as much of a pendejo as his American counterpart, Dubya.
GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK: Daniel Hernández (the reporter, not the Tucson hero) is the reason that you're reading this columna. His new book, Down & Delirious in Mexico City, is a dizzying, dazzling collection of essays about his experience in la mera capirucha. If you want to understand Mexico in all its twisted glory, this tome is a must-read. More information at Daniel's website, danielhernandez.typepad.com.