June 8, 2007

‘Ask A Mexican’ Should It Stay or Go?

La Prensa San Diego has been publishing the syndicated column “Ask A Mexican” for eight months now. Gustavo Arellano has gained quite a reputation with his syndicated column where he often fields racist questions about Mexicans with answers that are colorful to say the least. Based in Orange County and publishing with the OC Weekly for the past three year, Arellano has seen his star rising ever since, appearing on television, radio, and contributing to newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and La Prensa San Diego.

But what has made Arellano a success, his caustic, racist responses, to caustic, racist questions, puts him in the category of either you love him or you hate him. He has his supporters and he has raised the eyebrows of some of our readers who do not agree with his writing style.

Recently, in discussion with Professor David Avalos at Cal State San Marcos about this column, it was decided to put the question to his students and get their feedback on the question: “If you were the editor of this newspaper, would you publish the column ‘Ask A Mexican’, and what is the relevance to you as a column?”

The premise being that if this targeted audience overwhelming opposed it, perhaps, we should rethink publishing it.

Herein is a sampling of the responses received in response:

If I was the editor of your paper, I would definitively publish the column ‘Ask A Mexican’. In my opinion, ‘Ask A Mexican’ has a contribution to the community of Mexican ancestry because it describes, in a creative and sophisticated way, the different levels, actions, situations, characteristics, and stereotypes. Furthermore, this column carries out the reality of the political, social and cultural values of the Chicano movement by presenting a wide variety of questions and answers where topics such as discrimination, indigenous heritage, government corruption, protests, anti-immigration movements, strikes and traditional family attachment are reflected. Also, the column presents the concept of rasqua-chismo because I can personally see that there is an invention of new conceptual ideas made out of old stereotypes, and common characteristics about the community of Mexican ancestry. In other words, ‘Ask A Mexican’ is an innovation of something that was already there.
Rigoberto Reyes

I have read the columns of “Ask a Mexican,” and enjoyed reading them many times. At first I did feel angry because as a Mexican myself, I felt as if the column was only making us look bad. Although, as I read more of them, I understood that we have got to empower the stereotypes society draws upon Mexicans. Gustavo Arellano not only makes this happen with his columns, but he also lets other ethnicities know issues Mexicans are going through in this country. If one really wants to get to know a Mexican, I think that reading this is a great way. It is also interesting to read because many of the “dichos” (sayings) or jokes I am not familiar with and it is an excellent way to learn them since many Mexican families tend to use them in ordinary conversations. The article is helpful for our community of Mexican ancestry and others in many ways. It works for those that feel intimidated and uncomfortable being around Mexicans, now they will have an idea of their background and struggles. I love the title for these columns because it serves as an affirmative phrase and changes the view of what a Mexican really is. Also, it reflects social values of the Chicano Movement by enabling it to turn something that may be seen as an embarrassment into a way of teaching society the qualities Mexicans can bring to our community. To conclude, this column is significant to me because it reminds me of something “rasquache”. Those who know the real meaning of this word understand how many may view this column as trash, others take it in and form it into something beautiful and apply it in their daily lives.
Irasema Tellez-Velarde


If I were the editor of La Prensa San Diego, I would publish the column ‘Ask A Mexican’. I would publish [it] because it’s really funny and you learn a lot about the Mexican and Mexican American community. I also, like the way Gustavo Arrellano educatedly responds to the “gabachos.” I think the column would not mean so much if Gustavo was not using research to back up his responses. Although he uses a lot of bad words and insults, which I do not like because I do not like profanity, I get the importance of what he is trying to say.

I also feel that ‘Ask A Mexican’ is a contribution to the community of Mexican decent because in a lot of the columns he talks about the discrimination, prejudice, and racism that the Mexican people suffer in the United States. Gustavo also informs the “gabachos” about some of the things Mexicans consider important in their lives. For example, tortillas de maíz, maria-chi, banda, y cerveza. ‘Ask A Mexican’ reflects the political, social, and cultural values of the Chicano movement because in his own way Gustavo seems to be fighting for our people by putting gabachos en su lugar. ‘Ask a Mexican’ is consistent with the Chicano attitude of rasquachismo because sometimes the ways he answers questions makes no sense. Sometimes I felt that he’s talking about too many things at once, yet he answers with solidarity.

The column has a particular meaning to me personally because every time I read it, I become more aware of all the problems that my people suffer in this country, which really upsets me.
Guadalupe C. Arreola

What can I say! I really enjoy reading your column. If I was the editor for La Prensa (which I would probably never be because I’m not into that kind of work! No offense!) I would publish it. Not only is this column remarkably funny but it is also very informative about the Mexican culture and ancestry. I find it hilarious how so many gabachos have so much to say about our culture. They think they can out smart a Mexican but yet you always have a way to put those white folks in their place (Along side of everyone else, not above all). This column provides facts that anyone can look up in a book or google on the internet. It isn’t all opinionated like some columns tend to be. Hey, I’ve learned a few things about my own culture that I never learned in school! I also like that it is written in Spanglish! It’s a bit rasquache! Overall this column is well put together.

I think this column not only benefits the gabachos who need to know a little more about what being a Mexican really is, but it also helps the Chicano’s learn something new that they never new about their own culture.

You can always learn something new everyday! So you keep up the good work because it’s definitely doing its’ job!

Shelly Torres

I would have been hesitant to publish ‘Ask A Mexican’ if I were the editor of the La Prensa but that is because I get very angry and offensive when it comes to stereotypes.

Arellano handles the column as civil as possible. In order to get the questions answered it is essential to answer back with the same language. He uses the motto “You ask a stupid question you get a stupid answer,” and I don’t mean that literally. This column is a great way for people to ask their questions without being labeled. The ability to say anything and be unidentified creates a sudden honesty in the community. Arellano contributes to the Mexican community by providing education about the Mexican ancestry. When I began reading the column I said to my self, “I don’t want to read these ignorant questions.” After five months of reading the column, I have come to realize that it is through the ignorant questions that Arellano can use his sarcasm to educate. I have concluded that, like me, the people that try to avoid questions that make them uncomfortable creates a false image of the community issues. Arellano reflects the political values more than the social and cultural values of the Chicano Movement. This is a reflection of the community issues that have ascended regarding immigration. Arellano’s courageousness and wit spices up ‘Ask A Mexican’ with ras-quachismo. His use of ras-quache language is shown when Arellano has to explain Chicano slang. I especially enjoy the column because of its simple reality.
Irene Macedo

I am a Mexican myself and I don’t appreciate some of the derogatory words that are used to describe Mexicans and other ethnic groups. I don’t know if you use those words to feel better for yourself or because they might feel empowering to you. I don’t know about you, but I would not feel empowered if I called you a Pendejo, con “P” mayúscula. What I do appreciate from some of your responses is that you give a well researched and educated answer to questions that are posted; so that people might get a better understanding about recurring social issues such as immigration, that are happening today in the Chicano communities. I also find that your column has a sense of Ras-quachismo, because it has an educated learning experience to it and on the other side the style is ghetto. It is like putting something clean with something dirty. Clean referring to the learning experience and dirty because of the derogatory that is used. The column itself is not bad at all. I think it could have more meaning to me and other Mexicans if it were cleaned up. We would feel more part of it, instead of against it.
Señorita Wendolin Vargas

Of the thirty-three responses received, the overwhelming majority were in favor of the column, which means ‘Ask A Mexican’ will stay.

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