Ask a Mexican

California State Assembly member Gil Cedillo updates us on the DREAM Act

Dear Readers: I usually don't allow anyone to hijack this columna, but an exception must be made for California State Assembly member Gil Cedillo. He's been fighting the good fight for decades, recently trying to get driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and ceaselessly supporting DREAMers. Cedillo was so moved by the undocumented college student who wrote in a couple of weeks ago fretting about his future and inability to pay for community college that the chingón assembly member wrote in with this public-service announcement:

Unfortunately, Congress has stalled on passing the Federal DREAM Act. However, here in California just last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 130 and AB 131, which allow all students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.  Assembly Bill 130 went into effect on January 1, 2012, and allows students to receive private scholarships. Currently, there are many organizations, donors and colleges raising money for undocumented students.  Just a few weeks ago, UC Berkeley announced that it awarded approximately $1 million in scholarships, which was funded by a combination of private gifts and endowments, to 140 students. In Silicon Valley, a group of technology leaders has donated money for scholarships and resources to undocumented students through an organization called Educators for Fair Consideration. Furthermore, next year, once AB 131 is implemented, students will have the opportunity to receive Cal Grants, Board of Governor's Fee Waivers (for community college students) and other state-funded scholarships. Although I agree with Gustavo that we must keep the faith while the Congress acts on the Federal DREAM Act, here in California we at least have something to be proud of and look forward to.

Gracias, Assembly member Cedillo. If only more lawmakers across the country agreed with you on this issue. Now back to our regular programming.

Dear Mexican: Why do Mexicans change their names, seemingly at whim? For example, Antonio Garcia Rodriguez is Antonio Garcia on Monday and Antonio Rodriguez on Wednesday. And by Saturday, he might call himself Pedro Garcia! Is this a plot to confuse whitey? If it is, it's working!

No More Nombres

Dear Gabacho: From the moment a Mexican is born until the day he's seis pies abajo, his sole goal in life is to confound gabachos — commanded so by diosito en el cielo in Leviticus, it is. But the long-winded names Mexicans use isn't part of that conspiracy. You can actually find a version of this question in my ¡Ask a Mexican! book, but let me reiterate: Traditionally, a Mexican's full name constituted four parts: a first name, a middle nombre, a surname and the mother's apellido (more than a few Mexis drop the middle name and use those initials to create cool belt buckles). This insistence on honoring the maternal and paternal sides of the familia, however, wreaks desmadre on American legal forms, which frequently mistake the maternal name for the last name, a middle name for a surname, or a surname for a middle name. And now you know why far too many Mexis get pulled aside by the TSA — oh, and that whole Tío-Lencho-looks-like-Saddam-Hussein thing, too...

I'm coming to Denver! Gentle cabrones, my much-promised Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America has finally hit bookstores, and I'll be in town at the end of the month to talk tacos. Mark your calendars for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, when the real fiesta comes down at Su Teatro, 727 Santa Fe Drive. In addition to my learned lecture, the evening will include food from some of my favorite Den-Mex kitchens, a "Tribute to the Taco" art contest, and Sangre Chicana, Denver's finest Chicano garage/ranchera band. Admission is a bargain $3; watch this space next week for the final details.