Ask a Mexican

Aztlan is now a myth understood

Dear Mexican: In a column some time ago, you mentioned the Aztec prophecy claiming that their "descendants would reclaim ancestral lands in the southwest U.S." I'd appreciate it if you could shed a little light on this statement. This is the mythical state of Aztlán you're referring to, right? What are its borders? How many Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, Central Americans and indigenous peoples know and/or believe in this? Is there a movement to take over these lands? And how similar is this to the (incorrect) Jews' claim to the holy land of Israel?

Texas Truth Seeker

Dear Gabacho: Oh, Aztlán! Nothing gets Know Nothings more encabronados than this creation myth. The breve version: The Aztecs told the Spaniards that their ancestors migrated from somewhere north of modern-day Mexico City. The Spaniards began a-slaughtering, unintentionally elevating Aztlán to Eden in the minds of the Mexica. Centuries later, the 1960s Chicano movement began appropriating Aztec motifs and picked up on the People of the Sun's longing for the Garden. Not content with pilfering from one culture, the Chicanos also grabbed from another — the historical reality of the southwest United States once belonging to Mexico — and conveniently anointed this geographic region Aztlán, despite there being no evidence that the Aztecs ever lived anywhere in the Southwest, let alone the whole enchilada. At least the Jews kept their origin story straight for millennia.

Aztlán seems like revanchist irredentism, ¿qué no? But believing in it is mostly a college phase, like thinking Communism can work or that Dane Cook is funny. Most Mexicans only vaguely consider Aztlán, and then in the same way gabachos think about Plymouth Rock. Some Chicanos remove Aztlán from its terrestrial moorings and adopt its Edenic spirit — that is, the spirit of a people committed to bettering their community. Nothing harmful in that. But some do believe the American Southwest is Aztlán and that all non-Mexicans should go back to Europe. The Mexican calls these ahistorical pendejos indigenazis. Don't believe the hype: Aztlán is as harmless as arroz con leche, and anyone who believes otherwise has listened to too much Coast to Coast. Mexicans aren't taking back any ancestral lands because they're guided by Aztec destiny or fiat; the U.S. can take credit for that demographic reality, baby.

Dear Mexican: I have a Mexican stepson whom I love dearly. I go to all his soccer games, and these kids are so happy when they win, but when it comes to taking their picture, they NEVER smile. Why don't Mexicans smile in pictures? Why so serious?

The Joker's on You

Dear Gabacho: To hide our gold and silver teeth.