Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mexicans Are Us: How We Perpetuate What Everyone Else Thinks They Know About Us

Pic fo the Mexican Barbie from the Blog cited below

Mrs. X was expressing her discontent over the phone about a Mexican-themed Barbie she'd come across online (see above image). She was annoyed at the depiction of the Mexican culture via the colorful dress, and the Chihuhua underneath her arm. She rightly questioned the use of a Chihuahua to represent the cultural significance of Mexicans. The best point that Mrs. X made though, was in reference to the fact that unfortunately, there would probably be many Mexicans/raza that would purchase the Barbie for their children, due to the fact that it is a Mexican-themed Barbie, which would in turn make it seem okay, or as if it were not a big deal. 

That was a great point that led me down memory lane. I thought back to my time back in California, when a group of friends had a Cholo-themed party. I wasn't interested in participating, even though it was being held at the house I lived at with my other roommates. I had gotten out of night class and the Cholo party was already in full swing. My friends were dressed in varying degrees of Cholo attire. An oversized basketball jersey here, a pendelton buttoned only at the top there, mock tattoos, or someone wearing dark shades, typically locz. This was a mixer, so it included women as well. And the craziet thing that might surprise the readers, is that the participants were all Mexican-American students. I got out of class late, and went upstairs to hang out with one of my friends who was busy working away on a paper or project; this was my way of protesting the festivities taking place downstairs. Eventually as the party wound down, I headed downstairs because I needed a beer, so I became guilty by association. Later a friend asked me why I hadn't participated? I gave him my reasons, and he simply shrugged his shoulders guiltily. There was one other party that consisted of a Cholo theme, that involved other people, but I'd just heard about it. One other such party consisted of friends dressing up as "Paisas." Paisas being a deragatory way to refer to someone that looks extra-Mexican, or who had just crossed the border, or really a Mexican that hasn't assimilated. At the Paisa party some of those guys sported mullets, wore extra tight jeans, or oversized belt buckles, from what I can cull from my memory. 

I guess I wasn't too surprised when this group of friends organized the party, because although they thought they embraced their Mexicaness, in reality it always seemed that they thought they were better than the rest of us Paisas, and they came off as self-hating folk, now that I think back on it some more. 

I bring this up, because my friends buying into and perpetuating stereotypes of ourselves, is similar to what Mrs. X said about the Mexicans/raza that would probably buy the Mexican-Themed Barbie, and that is that they would perpetuate the "it's okay because Mexicans do it or buy into it"-perspective. My friends by perpetuating the stereotype were making it easy for all the other racists who had portrayed us in a negative light, for the sake of humor or a good time (See my post on Normal St. Bar and Cesar Chavez Day). I think there seems to be a sense amongst us, that because we're Mexican, it's okay for us to poke fun at ourselves in this way. But the more I've thought about this, it comes off as self-hate or inner group oppression. We as Mexicans on campuses are already given looks or sideways glances by the white student body. When there was an assault on a college student by a group of Hispanic Male Suspects, I'd walk into class feeling as if some of the students were wondering if I was possibly involved in it. But maybe I was just being paranoid, because I don't think I'm that special. Anyhow when my friends held these two parties, it's hard not to stop and think, that maybe they picked a group to ridicule, a minority group, within our minority group, in order to mock and ridicule them through the representations. My friends dressed up as what they were already viewed as, by the white student body, a bunch of gangbangers and beanerspics. Its as if we accepted the oppressive misrepresentation, and we chose to participate in dragging ourselves through the shit infused mud. 

Along the same lines I had a Xicana professor who mentioned that her son had once dressed up as a Cholo for a Halloween party. At the pachanga another party-goer had made a derragtory comment about us Mexican beanerspics, and her son became angered and wanted to get into a fist fight to defend our honor. I had a "What the Fuck?!"-look on my face. My "what the fuck"-look was mainly directed toward her, because I was thinking waitaminute, your son dresses up as a cholo to mock us, or at least a group within our group, he is then insulted by someone for being from that group, and then wants to fight to defend our honor? He never should have worn the costume to begin with. He should have gone to the party as himself, which in turn would have allowed him to be insulted for being the Mexican that he is, as oppossed to represeting a type of Mexican. 
This is my WHAT THE FUCK?!-look.

There is something to be said, for the things that we tend not to think twice about such as my friends and the misrepresenative portrayals that are perpetrated by us. Raza gets up in arms and raises hell when a white student ogranization has a Mexican-themed party, which have been common in California universities. The worst of it is hearing about some of the women that dress up as Mexicanas. How do they choose to represent Mexicanas? They exaggerate their make-up, apply a large amount of it, and in one situation I heard they even smear it intentionally, because as we all know, all Mexicanas wear a ton of make-up and smear their lipstick outside their lips. Just as bad though, is that some of these women respresenting Mexicanas, show up with a pillow underneath a t-shirt, portraying a pregnant Mexicana, because as we all know, Mexicanas are forever pregnant. I'd like to say that most of my friends upon hearing or reading about such situations, become offended, even though they don't shake their head like me, and utter the word "motherfuckers," or my spanish translation "hijos de su puta madre," like I do. So then what happens, when all of sudden you have a group of Mexican-American students that are similarly portraying a certain portion of Mexicans in a negative manner? Isn't the intent just as racist, ignorant, and bigotted as that done by the white men and women who portray Mexicanas/os negatively? 

I hear white students say, "Well I have my friend Jose, and he's okay with it," because apparently Jose speaks for all of us. Or I've heard students say they dressed up as Mexican for Halloween, and they say "well, some "real Mexicans" that were working saw me they laughed when they saw my costume." It is possible that those Mexicans laughed at him, or maybe they found the humor in his portrayal of themselves and didn't mind it, but ultimately does that make it okay? Is the line really that blurred between George Lopez telling jokes about growing up Mexican, and a group of college students (be it white or Mexican-American) dressing up as Cholos/as and/or Paisas? Or does it make it okay, because we Mexicans laughed. Mexicans go watch a film like Nacho Libre, and find the humor in this, but they do laugh, so is that okay? Mexicans watch a portrayal of ourselves in a comedic skit, and they laugh, is that okay? Does our laughter, and even the purchase of a ticket for a film, reinforce to the rest of society, that it's okay, because other Mexicans laughed and bought into it. 

As Mrs. X argued, everyone is probably going to think that this Mexican-themed Barbie is okay, there isn't a problem with it, because Mexicans are going to buy it, therefore reinforcing to the rest of the public, that yes that is our culture, Chihuahua and all. People won't stop to analyze what they're really purchasing, and that is an ideology of self-hate and self-ridicule; becoming happy, willing participants in the cycle of ignorance. But what do I know, I'm just a self-righteous Mexican; I wonder what that would look like as a costume? Maybe it'd consist of Hipster glasses, a guayabera, or t-shirt with some kinda righteous message, like "By Raza, For Raza" or something that says I'm rebellious n'stuff, yet could care less like, "Me Vale Madre."

Anyhow, thanks to my constant muse, Mrs. X for inspiring this post while she expressed her annoyance with the Mexican Barbie.  


How long before we see a link here for: "Racist Mexican-Themed Party Planned By Mexicans . . . Wait What?! . . . No Seriously, What The Fuck?!"  

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