Dear Readers: Siempre, the wisest words that appear in this column come from ustedes, y the following two cartas prove this maxim. The first one addresses my year-end column, in which a working-class gabacho insisted his people apapachan a Mexicans mucho:
Dear Mexican: Half-Mexican here. I was fortunate enough to catch your column while I was visiting for the holidays. I have a comment in regard to [the gabacho who wrote the letter] Sick of All of You. He said, "No other country babysits Americans the way Americans babysit Mexicans." I would have to disagree. I've been living in Spain for the past seven months as an English teacher, and he is greatly mistaken. All of Europe and practically the entire world caters to Americans. The international business language is English. Almost all signs are posted in the native language of the country and English. I'm ashamed that our country sees it as a burden to learn or tolerate another language. A majority of the world speaks English as their second language in order to cater to the American tourists and business industry. I just wanted to share this, from my foreign living experience. The world caters to us, the U.S.; I think we can spare a few bus stop translations.
Life in the Afternoon
The following letter is a bit more critical, concerning a Best of Mexican letter I reran for the Jan. 7 edición of my column concerning a white woman trying to calm down her wab paramour:
Dear Mexican: I couldn't believe the advice you gave Enamorada Gabacha: "Nothing says I love you, nothing says 'Welcome to America' like an old-school blow job." Maybe so, but "an old-school blow job" also an excellent way of spreading STDs. To be sure, transmitting HIV through oral sex is rather rare — but it has been known to happen. However, syphilis and gonorrhea are different stories. Gonorrhea, I might add, is particularly worrisome because certain strains of this bacteria are becoming increasingly immune to all known antibiotics. It's extremely irresponsible to advise an "old-school blow job" without also advising "old school" protection, like condoms.
Dear TT: Well, DUH. But Enamorada Gabacha was already seriously involved with her hombre — this wasn't a one-night stand, or a midnight run to the border. I'd assume and hope that anyone who gets intimately involved with someone will first have a discussion about each other's sex life before doing the deed, up to and including sharing STD test results — but if I put in a public-service announcement like that, I'd be treading the terrain of Savage Love. And I don't want that mariposa messing with my pesos...
And now, a question:
Dear Mexican: I was under the impression that Mexico actually had a LARGER middle class than most Latin American nations, consisting of doctors and lawyers, among all sorts of other professions. Mexico may have a far greater problem with poverty than the U.S., but compared to its southern neighbors, it's relatively bourgeois. Do you know if there is any truth to my supposition?
Dear Gabacho: No, you're correcto — in a way. The World Bank's 2008 country rankings on gross national income per capita lists Mexico as tops in Latin America, but an IMD International survey puts Mexico as the país with the largest percentage of its population (22.1 percent) below the median income line, which suggests rampant social stratification (número three on that list? Los Estados Unidos, with 17 percent of nosotros making less than the middle class — so much for our superiority!). A 2006 BusinessWeek article estimated 40 percent of Mexicans were in the middle class, and that really isn't surprising. "All sorts of other professions"? Raza, repeat after me: MEXICO IS A NORMAL COUNTRY. Too many narco-killings, for sure, and too little social mobility, but it's firmly on the bottom rungs of the First World — and definitely no Guatemala.