Ask a Mexican

Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I hear all the time that 12 million illegal immigrants live in the United States. Is that true? Who counted them?

American Patrol

Dear Gabacho: Counting the number of undocumented in this country is as exact a science as determining how Mexicans can fit so many people inside a Ford Ranger. Estimates range from the 12 million you cited (originally published in a 2006 Pew Hispanic Center survey) to over 20 million, a figure bandied around by Know Nothings and taken from a 2005 Bear Stearns report. The problem with all the numbers is that they're projections based on the particular formulas a researcher chooses. Some of the most used factors include the 2000 United States Census, the number of deportations per year, the increase or decrease in usage of social services, the amount of remittances, and whether someone "looks" illegal. Truth is, nadie knows the real number of illegals in this country. Only one thing is certain: Not all are Mexicans. More than half, yes, but not all. Somebody should tell the Minuteman Project to start manning airports to ensure visitors won't overstay their visas, ¿qué no?

Dear Mexican: I'm a third-generation Mexican-American who was raised in a middle-class neighborhood. Growing up, I was only interested in being "American" and fitting in with my Anglo friends. But as I grow older, I'm beginning to appreciate the culture I came from and am still a part of. I enjoy your column and realize that you are a well-read, intelligent individual. Will you please supply me with a list of authors who write on social and historical issues of Mexicans in the U.S.?

Proud to Be Latino

Dear Wab: "Well-read, intelligent individual"? From what lunatic conspiracy website did you lift THAT? That said, no understanding of the Mexican people is complete without my books: ¡Ask a Mexican! and Orange County: A Personal History. Shameless self-promotion aside, people preguntan this question to the Mexican quite often, which flatters me, as it shows that folks view this column as something more than just cleverly stringed curse words and Guatemalan jokes.

The best writer on Mexican immigration is Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones: True Tales From Another Mexico shatters stereotypes of our neighbors to the south, while Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream examines what happens when they invade el Norte. Some of the best insights into the human soul occur through works of fiction. Here are three great ones: Rain of Gold, by Victor Villaseñor, the Sandra Cisneros canon, and Bless Me, Ultima.

I left out dozens of other libros, so readers, send me your picks; I'll put them in a column before Christmas so gabachos know what to get each other and you for Navidad!

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano