Ask a Mexican

Zero Population

Dear Mexican: I'm sad that there aren't more Mexicans here in the Detroit area. We're one of the few areas in the country that is predominantly Catholic. We've welcomed wave after wave of Catholic immigrants for well over a hundred years, and they've intermingled and blended into our local society and culture. In the past, we've accepted the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, the Ukrainians and the Chaldeans — all Catholic — and they've been welcomed into a local society that shares the same beliefs and underlying cultural values. Despite all this, our metro area has the lowest population of Mexican-Americans in the entire Estados Unidos. Where's the love?
El Pulimento Irlandés Católico

Dear Polack-Mick Papist: Appreciate the amor, but gotta get your facts correcto. Though metro Detroit's Mexican community is tiny (about 5 percent, according to the latest Census), it's not the smallest such enclave of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The St. Louis (2 percent), Pittsburgh (1.3 percent), Cincinnati (1.28 percent) and Baltimore (2.2 percent) areas all have smaller populations. But your point is well taken, and prompted an epiphany. Gentle readers: Consider the history of our great Republic. Think of the most notorious immigrant groups, the ones whom gabachos ridiculed for big families, booze binges and propensity to commit crimes: Irish, Poles, Italians, Hungarians, Czechs and Mexicans. The common thread? Catholicism. Refry this hypothesis: Most of the anti-Mexican sentiment is actually anti-Catholic sentiment, and it's a carryover from the still-unfinished war between Elizabethan England (white, English, Protestant) and Imperial Spain (Hispanic, Latin, Catholic) that rages for supremacy of the Americas. Manifest Destiny was just one volley in the battle, and Mexican mass migration is a logical flank maneuver in response. Call me crazy, but it's a much more plausible conspiracy theory than, say, the NAFTA superhighway. And don't worry: Mexicans are working their way to Detroit, one reconquista-ed town at a time.

Dear Mexican: I teach in Spanish and English to migrant students (young adults, mostly). We were talking about the concept of fairies — or rather, I was, because my Mexican/Dominican/Guatemalan/Ecuadorian students had never heard of the concept. In Northern European folklore, there are small magical folk who might help good people (children, specifically) with their chores and might make it very difficult for bad people to get their work done. Is there anything similar in Mexican folklore?
La Maestra

Dear Gabacha Teacher: Mexican folklore is vast, varies by region, and is a bit too dependent on the Devil and wailing women, but fairies and other non-midget phantasmagorical little people do enchant the Mexican mind. In the 1932 classic The Magic and Mysteries of Mexico: Arcane Secrets and Occult Lore of the Ancient Mexicans and Maya, famed folklorist Lewis Spence noted in hilariously antiquated fashion, "The fairy and her kind were as familiar to the Red man as to the White, for the excellent reason that throughout all his geographical ventures and peregrinations, man has always been accompanied by these invisible playmates as well as by his gods and other more exalted tribal patrons."

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano