Ask a Mexican

Argh! Did Mexican pirates all walk the plank?

Dear Mexican: My wife and I have an argument going about pirates. And since you are the source for all things Mexican, I'd thought I'd ask: While I know there were Spanish and Portuguese pirates back in the early 1600s and 1700s, were there ever any Mexican pirates? Not pirates from Spain who pirated in Mexico, but real, honest-to-hay-soos Mexican pirates? Would be interesting to know!

Pirates Pat McGroin and the Right Reverend One Eye

Dear Gabachos: It depends on your definition of "pirate." If you're looking for a famous swashbuckler from the days of Blackbeard, tough tamales: Historians never bothered to glorify the numerous buccaneers who ransacked Spanish galleons laden with the gold and silver of Mexican mines off the Mexican coast. The most famous Mexican pirate was Fermín Mundaca, who operated a contraband empire from the island of Islas Mujeres off the coast of Quintana Roo during the mid-1800s — but Mundaca was a Spanish native. Why look back in the past, though, when so many Mexican pirates exist in the present? Piratería is as Mexican an industry as tortilla-making and immigrant-smuggling: The International Federation of Phonographic Industry, an organization that fights music piracy worldwide, estimates Mexicans make more than $220 million off of illegal CDs, most sold at the nearest swap meet, bodega or taco truck near you. And before some of you readers start insinuating that such a startlingly large amount is somehow indicative of the Mexican culture's tendency to steal, what would you call file-sharing?

Dear Mexican: Do Mexicans get annoyed that whenever a Hollywood movie calls for a Mexican character actor, Cheech Marin gets the job? This is great for Cheech, but must be bad for Mexican actors struggling to land a good part in Hollywood. Danny Trejo gets the badass roles, Antonio Banderas gets the leading-man roles, and character roles go to Cheech (in the case of a small budget, maybe Tommy Chong, but he's cast more for being an old stoner than a Mexican). With the blooming careers of truly great Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, don't you think Hollywood should give some other Mexicans a chance in the limelight? Cheech is already rich — let someone else have a slice of the pie!

Celluloid Culero

Dear Gabacho: No argument from me, except Tommy Chong and Antonio Banderas ain't Mexican!

Dear Mexican: If we stereotype a person by drawing attention to the fact that someone is Mexican instead of the content of their actions, why do minority cultures celebrate the very fact that, say, Mexicans fought for certain types of rights? Aren't they stereotyping themselves by doing so? If I did the same thing as a white person, I'd be considered racist. So why aren't you considered racist as well?


Dear Gabacho: I've contestado many a silly question in this column, but yours takes the pastel as the stupidest I've yet answered. What Know Nothings such as yourself don't understand is that when minority groups struggle for civil rights, they're merely calling America on its founding bluff — you know, that whole "all men are created equal" bullshit. So when Mexican parents in Orange County in the 1940s sued four school districts for segregating Mexican kiddies away from gabachitos, the parents didn't do it just to benefit wabs; the resulting lawsuit, Mendez vs. Westminster, served as a precedent to the much-more-famous Brown vs. Board of Education. When César Chávez marched and fasted for justice in the fields, his ultimate causa was the same as that of European unionists at the turn of the twentieth century: a fair shake for the working man. When millions march for amnesty for the undocumented, it's a protest against a hypocritical, Byzantine immigration system that entangles all foreigners, not just Mexicans. Whites fighting for "white" rights only shows how freaked some gabachos get about realizing that minorities are actually, finally being treated like Americans. If trying to battle hate makes me a racist, then here's a Roman salute to your face, pendejo.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano