Ask a Mexican

Why do people scoff at pregnant Mexican girls?

Dear Mexican: I'm not Mexican (or from a Spanish-speaking country), but I get mad when the gabachos in my town say that all Mexican girls do is take drugs and get pregnant, drop out of school and end up on welfare. I know a lot of Mexican women who haven't done any of these things, who have gone to college and gotten high-paying jobs. And the thing that bothers me most is that when gabacho girls do drugs or get pregnant, no one gets on their case. Everyone is willing to help them, and they're just referred to as victims of society. Why is it that if a Mexican girl gets pregnant, people just scoff at her and blame her Latino heritage, but if a gabacha gets pregnant, people automatically sympathize with her?

Annoyed with Gabacho Hypocrites

Dear Gabacho: The same reason mentally deranged gabachos who go on murderous sprees get classified as "disturbed," while mentally deranged brown folks, whether Mexican or Muslim, get their killings attributed to race or religion. Same reason that neo-Nazis get their idiocies dismissed as the mere ramblings of meth heads, while Chicano Studies majors get their discipline savaged as teachings on par with those of Goebbels. Same reason that class divisions in this country don't exist, while class divisions in Mexico get attributed to our inherent Darwinian tendencies. I know I sound a bit whiny right now — or, rather, more so than usual — but you're right to be annoyed. As I continually argue, culture isn't the sole determinant of all the pathologies of an ethnic group, or even the most important one, which leads me to...

Dear Mexican: I work in the education field and have a serious concern about the performance of Hispanic children in our school district. There seems to be a misguided approach to bringing back bilingual education for Hispanic children. The poor performance of these children and other minority groups has been ongoing. The group of children that bucks this trend is Asian students. Now, there are exceptions to this general breakdown, but the numbers are undeniable. As I look at the ethnic breakdown at the major universities in California, the numbers are more shocking. As we hear more and more sound bites about how Hispanics/Latinos are the new force, where will they fall in the future?

Not of the Asian Persuasion

Dear Pocho: Two separate issues here — the virtues versus detriments of bilingual education, and educational achievement of Mexicans vis-à-vis chinitos. I can cite stats that show bilingual education holds down Mexis or creates little Einsteins out of them, so I'll limit my remarks to note that most people who oppose bilingual education tend to lean right. If parents want their chamacos in dual-immersion classes, why don't you let them have that option — you know, that whole parental-choice thing? On the issue of chinito superiority, sure, a chingo more of them go onto higher education, but not all of them. The National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Island Research in Education published a 2010 report that found Cambodians, Hmongs, Laotians and most Pacific Islander groups had the same abysmal college graduation rates as Latinos, rates that lagged far behind other Asian-American groups. But rather than dwell on culture, the report noted that many factors contributed to the low numbers, the same factors that affect Mexican students. I'm not offering excuses — far from it. This Mexican tries to speak at least once a month to high school students about the necessity of finishing la prepa and beyond, but I don't dwell on the achievement gap, and neither should you.

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano