Ask a Mexican

Any Deport in a Storm

Dear Mexican: I am an illegal alien who just turned eighteen. Is there anything I can do to become a legal alien besides deportation or marrying a U.S. citizen?
Wetback Who Wants to Dry His Back

Dear Wab: Go back to Mexico — seriously. Section 212(a)(9)(B)(iii)(I) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act states that "no period of time in which an alien is under 18 years of age shall be taken into account in determining the period of unlawful presence in the United States," meaning you can return to your mother patria, get a visa and come back to los Estados Unidos in, oh, about ten years. Having said that, now can you appreciate the caca that illegals face, gabachos? Even if a Mexican wants to enter this country the right way, our immigration system is so Kafkaesque — where else but the American government can you find such a crucial bit of information for millions filed away as a clause to the subparagraph of a paragraph in the subsection of a section's article? — that most Mexicans would rather trudge through blistering deserts or suffer in a cramped Ford Ranger than deal with it. And it's not an innate Mexican trait to break immigration law: As I've said before, put any poor country next to a rich one; add historical symbiosis, Manifest Destiny and saber-rattling; mix in a dash of globalized economics, and voilà! Your own illegal invasion! I don't want to say there's no hope for you, Wetback, but any chance of amnesty in the next couple of years is less likely than a Guatemalan in the White House. In the meantime, keep adding to the fat of the land while taking some scraps for yourself. Anything less would be un-American.

Dear Mexican: Since moving to Aztlán from Boston, I've spent so much time with my next-door neighbor from Mexico City that I've taken to using the word manito as a term of endearment with my buddies, regardless of who and where they are. It's been my observation that most Anglos think mano a mano means "man to man." Being a bit better informed, I believe its literal translation is "hand by hand" and colloquial meaning is "hand to hand." Is manito the diminutive form of hand? If so, why do Mexicans use this term?
Not Handy With Español

Dear Beantown Gabacho: I appreciate your re-Reconquista, but tus questions are more over-the-map than your newfound metropolis. Manito is the elided form of hermanito, which means "little brother," and it's just one of many words Mexican men use to strengthen camaraderie with their amigos. Others include güey, broder, cabrón and pinche puto pendejo baboso. Mano a mano means "hand to hand" in its literal and colloquial forms and refers to a faceoff of any kind, not just the macho type. The term comes from bullfighting, where a mano a mano is a specific matador competition. And I hate to ruin your etymological deducing, but the Latin origins for hermano and mano aren't the same, even though they sound similar: Hermano comes from germanus, which sprung from germen (seed), while the Latin word for hand is manus, probably deriving from the Sanskrit manus — and I say probably because this is ¡Ask a Mexican!, not Scisco Latin Agricola Etymologiae.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano