Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: Do Mexicans Sling Racial Slurs at Each Other?

Dear Mexican: Do Mexicans sling racial slurs at each other or casually refer to each other as "wabs," similar to the way blacks call each other "nigger?" What's your take on the whole "nigger" thing, anyway?
Kingfish the Cabrón

Dear Blackfaced Wab: What do I think of "nigger"? Um, it's bad? I think you mean que pienso of "nigga," which some etymologists and the Washington Post argue means something completely different: an appropriated term when gabachos and Mexicans use it among each other, a term of endearment when African-Americans use it to describe ellos mismos. There's no real comparison in Mexican Spanish, except maybe paisa and its regional synonyms (wab in Orange County, cheddar in Denver, brazer in Chicago and so many more; consult the May 13, 2010, edition of this columna for a comprehensive list of slurs that Mexicans in el Norte use against each other). But the big difference is that such jabs use class instead of race; Mexicans use racial terms to describe family members (the obsession of tías and parents with classifying their progeny as güero, moreno or — my favorite — prieto azabache, "jet black," a term my mami endearingly used to describe the Mexican's younger brother) and strangers. And while we're on the subject of "nigger," raza: Can we finally admit to America that the term Mexicans use to deride blacks (mayate) is far nastier than the N-word because it not only means "beetle," but also "homosexual"? The more you know about Mexicans, America...

Dear Mexican: Why do a lot of Mexicans let their toddlers stay on the baby bottle longer than most kiddos? I work at a surgery center that specializes in children's dental surgery, and most of the patients are Mexican kids getting their teeth fixed from just such scenarios. I've also personally known Mexican mothers whose children's mouths were completely blinged out with dental work. Any insight on why the Mexican bambinos stay on the bottle so long?
Wean 'Em Off

Dear Gabacho: You're right about this problem. Multiple studies have documented the numbers of Mexican chicos who suffer from what's scientifically known as early childhood caries (ECC) and colloquially known as baby-bottle tooth decay. The disease rots baby teeth, leading to a situation that makes even rapper Riff Raff's dientes look good. UCLA student Sally Chu's 2006 "Early Childhood Caries: Risk and Prevention in Underserved Populations," in the Journal of Young Investigators, found that "Hispanics have the highest rate of ECC in both developed and developing countries, with an average prevalence of 13%-29%, second only to Native American," citing the seminal 2002 paper "Caries-Risk Factors for Hispanic Children Affected by Early Childhood Caries." All studies cite poverty and lack of education more than they do culture, so I guess here you want me to make a psychosexual joke about how Mexicans overall are still attached to their mami's chichis, leaving us perpetual infants. Well, you ain't gonna get it, so I'll make up for it with this equally lame insight:

Why do Mexicans like to drive lowriders? So they can cruise and pick strawberries at the same time. HA!

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano