Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I can't get no respect!

Dear Mexican: I'm a second-generation Orange County-raised pocho. Both sides of my family have been civil-rights activists since the 1940s. My mother's family took part in the landmark case Mendez et al. vs. Westminster et al. in 1946. My father was a Chicano activist in the 1960s and 1970s. From the time I was a child, I was introduced to various figures like Reies López Tijerina, César Chávez, Bert Corona and Emigdio Vasquez. In 1975 my dad took me and my older brother to a demonstration against la migra where we marched to the federal buildings in Santa Ana. As an adult, after graduating with a B.S. and M.S., I have improved my Spanish with classes, books, magazines, television, films and travel to countries de habla española.

Despite my efforts to acculturate myself in Spanish, I am often met with a macho attitude from wabs and pochos, apparently because I do not dress or act like them. At 6 feet tall and 250 pounds, I'm not being dissed for appearing to be a wimp. I have gone to gabacho businesses where the wab or pocho cashier has provided courteous service to Anglos and Asians with a smile, referring to them as "Sir" and saying "Thank you." While being served, I'm treated like a second-class citizen. I have been nearly run off sidewalks by wab pedestrians while walking with my two-year-old son. A favorite of some wabs is to ask me to speak in English after I have said something in Spanish clearly and with correct grammar. I now live in Los Angeles, where for some reason I get much more respect from African-Americans than from other Latinos. Is there a seemingly logical reason for this disrespect from wabs and pochos alike?
El Pocho Panzón

Dear Big-Bellied Pocho: Just a quick refresher for people who ain't from la naranja: "Wab" is a term specific to Orange County and is what assimilated Mexicans and gabachos call recently arrived Mexicans. (And before other Chicanos dismiss my homeland again as a fountain of anti-Mexican hate: All Chicano communities across los Estados Unidos have their own unique terms, as we discussed in this columna a couple of years back.) While I understand your pain, you're going to have to deal with the realidad that Mexicans are always going to hate on other Mexicans for one reason or another. Pochos will hate other pochos for being too successful or not Mexican enough; pochos will hate wabs for not being successful enough or too Mexican; wabs will hate pochos for definitely not being Mexican enough; and wabs will hate wabs for being too successful or not being Mexican enough. Pochos get the brunt of it because they're the most gabacho, the one group all Mexicans can agree to hate. But the truth is, Mexicans hate Mexicans more than gabachos hate Mexicans, and the sooner we get rid of this pendejada from our psyche, the quicker the full Reconquista will be complete.

WATCH AND READ CÉSAR CHÁVEZ! Gentle cabrones: Two big projects on César Chávez are out right now, each equally worthy of your support. The one that's getting the big press coverage, César Chávez, is a film starring Michael Peña as the legendary labor leader and is a good intro to why his life and accomplishments are important for everyone to know about. But the rest of the story is in Miriam Pawel's extraordinary The Crusades of César Chávez: A Biography, which finds Chávez not as the saint that keepers of his flame want him remembered as, but as an all-too-human man—one of the few thorough biographies that doesn't come off as hagiography. Thank Hollywood and Manhattan for making a film and book about an important American who happened to be a Mexican (in the same year, no less!), and watch and read and debate.

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