Dear Mexican: Why Are Mexicans Obsessed With Clowns?

Dear Mexican:
Why are lowrider artists obsessed with surly clowns? I went to an exhibition of the art of Mr. Cartoon in Venice Beach years ago, and the clowns in his art were downright disturbing. I’ve seen these nasty clowns on T-shirts and in a bunch of other places, too. What’s up with that? Did the whole culture have a nasty experience at the circus?
Cirque Du So Low

Dear Gabacho: I’m answering this pregunta not just because it’s a good one, but to teach all my gentle readers the value of patience. This question was sent the first week of ¡Ask a Mexican!’s existence, which is now more than ten years ago. I’m finalmente getting to it, because it’s about pinche time, you know? So you, too, will get the question you sent hace seven years answered…eventually. The answer to this one is muy simple: Mexicans like payasos, period. From Cepillín to Javier Solís’s “Payaso” to Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” to the classic cholo tattoo and “Smile Now, Cry Later” mantra (itself a throwback to the song of the same name by Sunny & the Sunliners) to the assassin dressed as a clown who strolled into a narco’s party in Baja California last year, shot the guy dead and escaped, Mexicans are clown-crazy. Gabachos might find them creepy, but we love the eternal tricksters because they’re representations of our id, and a reflection of the importance we put on humor no matter how dour our reality. I could also cite Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz’s essay on masks, and how clowns are a metaphor for Mexicans, but Paz hated pochos, so fuck him.

Dear Mexican: I read that demographers are predicting that there will be more Mexicans than anybody else in California in twenty years, just from the birth rate alone. A guy like you must have some brujo in him, so use your skills, ese, and tell us what you see in the future. Will California be like Whittier? Or will it resemble Rosarito, with all the gabachos crowded into condos near the beach?
Future Forecaster

Dear Future: Twenty años? Try last year, when Latinos surpassed gabachos to become the most-populous group in the Golden State. A 2011 demographic profile by the Pew Research Center showed that Mexicans made up 83 percent of California’s Latino community, so paisas and pochos should outnumber everyone by the end of this decade. So what does the future hold? You’re reading it: a child of Mexican immigrants who works a white-collar job and whose nieces and sobrinos will no doubt have names like Brittney and Brad. Sorry to break it to Know Nothings, but the Reconquista will be the most anticlimactic event since the release of Chinese Democracy.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano