Ask a Mexican

Why American workers need cheap labor, legal or not

Dear Mexican: I am a lifelong resident of Arizona and have worked side by side with illegals for 25 years as a bloquero. In all that time, I never knew one of them to be an aspiring American. In fact, their loyalties remain with their home states, they listen to mariachi and cumbia, and their trucks sport lots of Mexican-flag bumperstickers. Most of all, they have kept our wages below the national average — just ask any construction worker. That's supposed to be okay? Because they work dirt-cheap with no benefits? Wouldn't opening the borders be a further reduction in quality of life for us American citizens who work beside these vatos? If I want to live in the Third World, I'll move to Mexico.

Tucson Timmy

Dear Gabacho: Y'know, that's been the same argument used against immigrant laborers since Samuel Gompers was agitating to keep "Mongolians" from reaching our Pacific shores and railing about hordes of southeast Europeans destroying the gains that his American Federation of Labor made for the American working man. "The workers of America have felt most keenly the pernicious results of the establishment of foreign standards of work, wages and conduct in American industries and commerce," the union pioneer wrote in a 1916 issue of the American Federationist. "Foreign standards of wages do not permit American standards of life. Foreign labor has driven American workers out of many trades, callings and communities, and the influence of those lower standards has permeated widely" — wait a minute, how did Glenn Beck manage to sneak himself back in time? The great irony, of course, is that immigrant labor is the most bountiful spigot in the modern-day labor movement and always has been. Simply put, Timmy: American workers need cheap labor, legal or not, to spur them into class consciousness and better their lot — or do you think Old Man Rockefeller simply allowed the eight-hour work day to happen out of the goodness of his raisin heart? Oh, and your concerns about your unassimilated colleagues? Again, Gompers: "Of course the children of immigrants go to school, and after a few years they become Americanized. But how about the grown-up persons, the adults? Who makes an effort to Americanize them? The labor organization." Instead of whining about non-assimilating illegals, maybe you should help them become Americans. If you don't, then you have no right to chillar.

Dear Mexican: Why do Mexicans seem to always have four different ATM cards and have to use each and every one of them when visiting the machine, despite the fact that there are seven people backed up in line behind them?

All the Merrier

Dear ATM: Just getting ready for the weekend, amigo! One fund to feed the family, otra to wire money back to the motherland, a couple bucks for booze, and the largest pot to use for padrino purposes at multiple weddings, baptisms, First Communions, confirmations and quinceañeras — pinche fecund Mexican loins...

Dear Mexican: I tried to find an article search on the word paisano or paisa. I heard conflicting definitions from two different Mexican co-workers that the word means "homeboy" or "wetback." I was wondering if this is the equivalent to the N-word for Latinos?

Thinking Out Loud

Dear Gabacho: The mean naco? Paisano literally means "countryman," but has a secondary definition referring to country folk (both paisano and peasant ultimately share the same etymological madre: the Latin pagus, for country or rural district). Combine the two meanings, and you have a synonym for "buddy," as one of your co-workers accurately noted. But big mouths long ago warped the rural sentido to turn it into paisa, slang for a wab — in other words, a paisa is a Mexican redneck, a FOB...a wab! Does it carry the same weight as nigger? No, that would be gabacho — but don't tell gabachos that!

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano

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