Dear Mexican: I'm a culturally sensitive, PC Asian-American who laughed my head off at Jack Black's imitation of a Mexican in Nacho Libre. Is this wrong?
Dear Chinita: Wrong? Of course not. While Latino activists weep and moan about how gabachos like Jack Black reduce Mexicans to stock characters with mustaches and bad accents, real-life Mexicans not only don't care about those stereotypes, they embrace them. Visit your local Mexican restaurant, and its logo is most likely the Mexican that American consumers have demanded from Hollywood for over a century: a fat greaser sleeping under a cactus or burro. Check out my real-life portrait that runs with this column. And did you notice that many of the Mexican fans who attended last month's FIFA World Cup in Germany dressed in ponchos, fake mustaches the size of black kittens and sombreros large enough to use as a raft? Mexicans know that caricatures are just that: exaggerated depictions based on a kernel of truth that no one should take seriously. Besides, Mexicans love to offend as much as gabachos. Switch on Telemundo or Univisión, where hilarious caricatures of jotos, negritos, chinos, gabachos, indios, fat people, the rich, the poor, chicas calientes, dwarves -- everyone and anyone -- prance across the screen. So laugh away during Nacho Libre, Vietnammy Mammy, but remember this: If you laugh at Mexicans, you'd better laugh as well when we depict your race as buck-toothed, slanty-eyed, rice-rocket-driving dog-eaters in the next hot telenovela.
What's the deal with Mexicans and their fear of banks? In my neighborhood, a home invasion netted the robbers $2,000 that the Mexicans victims were using for their next mortgage payment. When I mentioned this to a mexicana friend, she told me she was once robbed of $15,000 that she kept at her apartment. Doesn't word reach the wabs from their relatives in el Norte that American bank accounts are insured to $100,000?
Güero in the Barrio
Mexicans have distrusted American banks for generations, because of bad experiences with Mexico's shaky financial institutions, because American banks wouldn't allow non-residents to open accounts, and because many Mexicans are paid by their tax-dodging gabacho employers in cash -- hence a gray-market financial system based on mattresses, tomato cans and cacti. But that's a habit nowadays practiced by only the wabbiest Mexicans, because in 2001, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup and other major American banks received approval from the United States Treasury to accept a Mexican identification card (known as a matricula consular) as proof enough for an illegal to open a bank account. The underground money of illegal immigrants soon flooded American bank vaults and continues to do so: A July 18, 2005 BusinessWeek article forecast that "half of all U.S. retail banking growth is expected to come from new immigrants over the next decade." Critics (see AmericanPatrol.com, for instance) accuse Wells Fargo and Bank of America of pandering to illegals, but remember this, Güero: The influx of Mexican money into American banks means that, like the U.S. economy itself, your life savings will soon depend on Mexicans.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.