Ask a Mexican

Historic precedents that overturned discriminatory laws

Dear Mexican: My dad says that when he was growing up in Downey, California, they used to open the local pool to mexicanos and negritos on Thursdays only because the pool was cleaned on Friday mornings. Is this an accurate account of racism in the 1940s or an exaggeration? Do you know of other blatant racial policies back then, and which ones still exist against Mexicans today?
Pocho Pendejo Who Can Barely Hablo Español

Dear Pocho: Absolutely true story. Gabachos think the desegregation movement was primarily an African-American affair, but that's nowhere near the verdad. The fact is, Mexican-Americans not only suffered a lot of the same discrimination (work, school, housing, even pools) as African-Americans, but they were also at the forefront of the legal battle to overturn such pendejo laws — especially in Southern California. For instance, a Mexican-American from Fullerton named Alex Bernal was sued by his gabacho neighbors in Orange County Superior Court when he moved into an all-white neighborhood; the case, Doss v. Bernal, set legal precedent against housing covenants, as Bernal won his case against those idiots. 1944's Lopez v. Seccombe took on the issue of segregated swimming pools in San Bernardino; a federal judge found such discriminatory policies illegal. And Mendez, et al. v. Westminster, et al. found five OC Mexican familias taking on school districts that made their children attend all-Mexican schools; that case went all the way up to a federal court of appeals, with an amicus curae brief from the NAACP (which, of course, would go on to argue the far-more-famous Brown v. Board of Education). Add in all the legal desmadre waged in Texas during the 1950s (especially the efforts of the brilliant Tejano legal team behind Hernandez v. Texas, a 1954 Supreme Court case that found Mexis were humans under the 14th Amendment), plus the current effort by folks today to fight for undocumented folks, and you'll see that not only have we Mexicans suffered from discrimination — but we fight back for everyone's rights, as our legal precedents benefit todos.

Dear Mexican: I'm a U.S.-born Latina whose family has lived in Colorado for generations. Over the past few years, I've noticed that more Latinos from the Caribbean and Central and South America are moving to our beautiful state. I've also noticed how pendante many of these newcomers are. One Puerto Rican executive is giving presentations to public-relations firms in Denver, telling Anglos that not all Latinos are "poor or brown or Mexican." Why is it okay for every new group that moves to this state to use Mexicans as scapegoats?
Colfax Chica (But Not the Streetwalking Kind)

Dear Wabette: Because that's the American way, chula. Gentle readers: If you take anything away from this column, refry that if there's one thing new immigrants learn quickly, after bus routes and how to get on welfare, it's to hate Mexicans. It gets particularly heated with Latinos, though, because many of them want to assert their own ethnic identity in a country that, outside of Washington, D.C., Florida, and other parts of the East Coast, is almost exclusively Mexican when it comes to Latinos. Then again, while I don't blame the boricua for wanting to let people know he's not Mexican but rather Puerto Rican, I must also wonder why he wants people to know he's Puerto Rican in the first place.

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