Ask a Mexican

Did Mexicans get the short end of the stick when it comes to height?

Dear Mexican: I live in a Northeastern city, and a game I play with myself during the cold, wintry months is counting how many Mexicans I see without a heavy coat or appropriate outer garment. Believe me, I'm not prejudiced (I, too, am a minority, and this game is lightweight compared to some of the games I play involving my own race), but I'd like to know: Why do so many Mexicans prefer to brave the elements in just a long-sleeved shirt or a sweater? Is it a cultural thing, like "I don't need no stinkin' coat?"

Black Urban Gringo

Dear BUG: See, you think you're not prejudiced, but then you threw in that allusion to the notorious quote used by my tío, Alfonso Bedoya, in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre involving badges. Now, why would a good negrito do that? You won't find the Mexican quoting Stepin Fetchit or Mantan Moreland, although I did steal my beautiful grin from the darkies of yore because gabachos demand consistency in their racial caricatures. But, yes: Mexicans don't need no stinkin' coat. Large-scale Mexican immigration to the frozen Northeast and upper Midwest is a relatively recent phenomenon; like not flushing our soiled toilet paper and distrusting tap water, buying the various layers needed to properly weather a snowstorm is a custom that most icebacks still need to learn. Besides, it's not like the Mexis who unwittingly constitute your game are prancing around desnudos; as you noted, they'll at least have some layers against the elements. And we're cut from a different stock, BUG: Ours is a raza where North Face jackets and Burberry coats are the least of our concerns. After all, what's a snow flurry when President Barack Obama has yet to make any push for amnesty, or when the bigoted, corrupt shade of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has now spread across Arizona?

Dear Mexican: Why is it Americans think Mexicans are all short? I've been around various communities of Mexicans in California and in Mexico, and I see a wide variety of height, from short to tall. I'm thirty years old and 5 feet, 10.5 inches, and my little brother, who's sixteen, is six feet and growing! Could this be a recent phenomenon of all the shorter Mexican nationals coming from Oaxaca and other regions near Guatemala? Because we all know chapines are the shortest in Central America! Also, can you answer us the science behind why some cultures/ethnicities vary in height? Apparently, the Dutch in the Netherlands are among the tallest people in the world!

A Tall Mexican, Standing Proud!

Dear Wab: Gracias for taking a swipe at Guatemalans for me! But I hate to break it to you: Gabachos think we're short because, statistically speaking, we are. In 2008, the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics released a study titled "Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults: United States, 2003–2006" that found Mexicans are substantially shorter than their gabacho y negrito peers. The average height in the survey for Mexican males over twenty was 5'7", a full two inches shorter than the ebony and ivory. Mexican women were 5'2", also about two inches shorter than their sisters from other misters. But, like the example you gave from your brother, heights are a-changing. The average height for wab men between 20 and 39 was 5'7.2", 1.1 inches taller than hombres sixty and older. I'm not a geneticist, but good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will always add a couple of pulgadas to any raza. Hear that, Guatemalans? There's still hope to trump your enano status — not that there's anything wrong with that, por supuesto...

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