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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mexicans Don't Do That Cabron

Growing up I don't know if anyone had a similar experience but there were always things that my family basically said Mexicans don't do.
Getting braces?-"Aye si cabron, crees que somos pinches hueros?"
Getting a decent haircut or the "in" style (at the time a fade or gq) or as they say in spanish andar a la moda-"Aye si cabron, quieres andar a la moda con un corte de pelo que te deja ver como camello."
Cable?-"Aye si cabron, nos crees ricos como los pinches gringos!"
A playstation, cd player, dvd player or any other up to date electronic device not consisting of cassettes or two digital blocks on the screen you move back and forth to hit a little square back and forth?-Well see the above. (I think that's why George Lopez's "aye si, muy chingon" bit resonates with myself and with the wider Mexican-American/Chican@ audience).

I remember needing my teeth fixed, and an uncle, a brother of my mom offered to give her the information for the orthondotist he used to get his kids teeth fixed. But my mom turned him down because in her own words-"No thanks, no somos gringos."

For the majority of my life eating at "nice restaurants" were all gringo/Americano/gabacho/bolillo/huero places to eat. We stuck to the fast food joints, mainly McDonald's Burger King and maybe Taco Bell if we wanted shitty Mexican food on Sundays. Apparently the Foster's Freeze and Wendy's were to uppity for us, and were labeled another place only frequented by hueros. Sushi? No mames, that was one of the most gringo things you could eat.

I saw a few things happening here. First that although working class poor, my family still had their pride, and they didn't want to do anything that they felt was assimilating to white American culture. As I reflect now though, I know that part of it was also an economic thing, because they felt that fast food places like Foster's or even Wendy's might be too pricey for them, where as McDonald's and Burger King felt a bit more affordable, plus it helped that the majority of the raza in town also attended both of those places too. We would eventually frequent Carl's Jr. usually at Capitola Mall, but even then I could tell there was discomfort there because the majority clientele was white, and the place was "too classy" for us. But there also seemed to be something internalized there.

Recently my mom disapproved of her sister eating at a sushi restaurant with another lady. Saying something along the lines, of "Ya estas creida now because you went to eat at the Sushi place con aquella cabrona." It had to do with more than the Sushi, there were problems with the other lady too though, who my mom considered to be creida, therefore her eating sushi wasn't surprising. I know for a fact though, that my mom isn't very comfortable eating in "nice restaurants" such as Olive Garden. For the longest time I followed my parents lead and didn't eat sushi nor at Olive Garden, because I adopted their philosophy, that it was too white. I later used that philosophy when a drunk friend was trying to trash talk me and asked "why don't you wear a belt?" My response: "Because I'm not white." It was a direct dig toward him, he'd grown up in a majority white town with white friends, and would regularly wear khaki shorts, hawaiian shirts, and flip flops, something that for those of us from the barrio was different, not the Mexican/Chicano style, and therefore white. I could tell my comment offended him, but it was a reaction based on his quickness to try to trash talk to me.

What my parents indirectly internalized in me was not only their pride for their Mexicanidad, their class humbleness, but also an insecurity about us being lesser than the white people. I consider my family very humble, you would probably never catch my mother wearing a bunch of jewelry, actually never, and my similarly has never worn any types of chains/necklaces, nor even a wedding ring. Maybe a watch occasionally, but now the only thing my dad accessorizes with is a cell phone, that's it. But what seems to be internalized is a shame of not being good enough to frequent those places they consider to be "white" places only. They basically segregated themselves, yes, because of their orgullo, because they didn't want to assimilate and become the enemy, but it was also a sense of pride that possibly resulted from a sense of inferiority around white people and their establishments. And to a certain extent that was passed down to me, because it wasn't until around 2008 that I went to a sushi restaurant with a friend, and where I let her know it was my first time ever eating sushi. I relayed my story to her as well. She was a bit surprised, she's Latina, but she had been a bit more open-minded about where she could go, but she was also light-skinned, and could almost pass for Americana. It's interesting to me how my family and many other Mexican families in our hometown seemed to segregate themselves based on race but also class. Of course I was eventually able to get over some of those things that my family instilled in me about what it generically means to be a Mexican, but it wasn't college, because in college I had a major distrust of white people and where I could go or should go. It was friends, who essentially dragged to such places, and while there in that space I would analyze and try ignore the looks, and come to the realization that maybe it's not them, it's just me. And even if it is them, fuck them, because my money is just as good as theirs. But what made me feel better, would be going to "nice" restaurants, with friends or on dates, and noticing a variety of ethniticies, not dressed up in "proper attire" for these restaurants. There would be men in there wearing sweats, baseball caps, and stained undersize t-shirts, and if they raised their hand to get the attention of a waiter/ess, their shirt would lift enough for you to catch some hairy belly button action. Women would have hair disheveled or looking like they had just gotten laid in a bathroom stall earlier and just said fuck it, and showed up at the restaurant. This made me feel better, because at the end of the day, whether they were dressed or class enough for the "nice" restaurants or not, it didn't matter, because their money was green.

I'm not trying to admonish my parents and say that they are wrong for their outlook, because I think we're all more comfortable with "our own." To this day, if I'm going out with friends, and they mention certain locations, I might feel uncomfortable if I know they're "white establishments" or "nicer/classier places." Yeah, don't ask me what makes a place nice or classy, but it probably has to do with how many white people attend it. However newer generations of Chican@s are overcoming this insecurity, or they just don't think about it, because they weren't raised like me, possibly helping close the racial divide, but maybe not the class divide. Doubtful, I know. I even remember only playing soccer/futbol, because football was for gringos, until I got to high school and played football, instead of futbol. I think aside from the racial, ethnic, economic pride and the internalized inferiority complex, it's also "othering" those who "other" us. "Other" the enemy, make yourself better than them, by pointing out their differences and how them considering themselves better than us, makes them inferior to us, because "we" (and use that broadly) are more humble, and don't want to assimilate, nor do we have a need to be showoffs by spending ridiculous amounts of money on those locations. But as much as "othering" might occur, I know that it was just as much about the economic situation in my family. The working class just have enough to get by, and therefore not affording certain things my family might have excused it by saying no somos white/Americano/gringo/gabacho/huero. Oh yeah, thick t-bone or ground top sirloin steaks were also pinche gringo things too. Mexicans only eat carne asada, cabrones/as. ¡Ajua!   

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