Dear Mexican: I recently received the biography of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. While reading about his friendship with Jimi Hendrix, I came to a part in which Ronnie describes Jimi as part black, Cherokee and Mexican. I’ve always read about Jimi’s grandmother being Cherokee, but this was the first I read about him being Mexican. I Googled Hendrix’s name with the word “Mexican” and received many hits. Is this another mentira originated by Mexicans, like Anthony Quinn’s supposed real last name being Quintana?
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Dear Wab: Man, the locuras some people believe and repeat, ¿qué no? I’ve seen mentions of Hendrix’s supposed Mexican heritage everywhere from the aforementioned Ronnie: The Autobiography to mainstream American newspapers to even the bloody BBC. But don’t believe what you find on the Internet: It’s only good for dailyrotten.com and reading my column. I have no idea why or when people began believing that Hendrix was part wab, but the rumor’s been around since at least the late 1990s. The closest I can peg him to possessing any Mexican roots is gracias to Charles R. Cross’s 2005 book Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix. In it, Cross cites an interview Hendrix once gave in which he remembered how one grandmother gave him a “little Mexican jacket with tassels” when he was a child — and how little Jimi was ridiculed for wearing it. Also, Cross found a Hendrix diary entry that makes mention of his “Mexican mustache.” Cross’s bio is a must-have for any music fan, since it’s the best of the many Hendrix books out there, and he also gives the most thorough genealogy of Hendrix’s family I’ve seen, going back through both sets of grandparents: The guitarist did indeed possess gabacho, negrito, Canadian and Cherokee blood, but no Mexican sangre whatsoever.
Mexicans claiming a major historical figure as one of their own is nothing nuevo. I’ve read that Thomas Alva Edison was from Zacatecas, that Walt Disney was the bastard child of a Mexican, and that Jessica Alba wants her baby to be Mexican. Wishful thinking all of it, just like the many gabachos who insist that a Cherokee princess is in their family tree (never mind that the Cherokees had no royalty). In fact, the only crypto-Mexican who has ever panned out is also the most unlikely: Ted Williams. Yep, America: Teddy Ballgame’s mami was Micaela Venzor of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.