Dear Gabacho: You know it!
Dear Mexican: While waiting for radiation treatment, I noticed a sign on wall: “If you are pregnant or may become pregnant …” The Spanish translation used the word embarazada. Why “embarrassed” to be pregnant for these fecund people? —Old Fart from Vegas
Dear Gabacho: You know what they say when you assume—it makes a culero out of you and you! Embarazada doesn’t mean “embarrassed” in Spanish; it means “pregnant.” But how two words that come from the same root took on such dissimilar meanings is one of those great etymological stories that makes this columna so pinche nerdy when it’s not shockingly vulgar. The English “embarrass” came from the French word embarrasser, itself deriving from the Spanish embarazar, which still has an alternate mean of “to impede.” That word came from the Portuguese embaracar, and the Royal Spanish Academy theorizes that word originated from Celtic because its root palabra existed before the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula. Why a word that signifies a blockage came to represent pregnancy is unknown to etymologists, but the Mexican theorizes it’s just a pre-Christian pun for a cock block—there’s that vulgarity of mine!
I work in a white-collar computer job, so when the weekend rolls around, I like to do my own yardwork. Weeding, planting, pulling out stumps, trimming—you name it. When I do it, though, there are usually Mexican workers in the neighborhood, and they always look at me strangely. Are they thinking, “Hey, we could do that work for you, buddy”? Or “How about that: a white guy who can actually do manual labor!” Or maybe something else I haven’t thought of? —I Can Trim More Than One Kind of Bush
Dear Gabacho: You know it!
Good Mexicans of the Week
For those of you looking for Mexican curios or ironic T-shirts with a Mexican theme (like the Star Wars logo spelled “Estar Guars”), Calacas, Inc. (CalacasInc.com) is for you! It’s based in the Mexican’s home base of SanTana but has an online store and co-sponsors one of the biggest Día de los Muertos celebrations in Southern California. Best of all? The people who run it are Jackie (the gabacha) and Rudy (the Mexi) Cordova, proving that not only does the Reconquista take over all white women, it’ll also produce cute, smart kiddies!
Dear Mexican: I
work at a large hotel where 80 percent of the employees are Latin
American, primarily Mexican. I love all of them and enjoy working with
them. However, the one thing that bothers me is that when they are
speaking to each other, they only speak in Spanish. They do it in front
of our customers, and we have had some complaints about it. To me, it’s
equivalent to whispering in front of someone. In addition, we have a
break room with a television, and they will always have it on the
Spanish channel. Some of them will offer to change it when a non-Spanish
speaking employee comes in, but for the most part, they don’t even
offer and seem annoyed if we ask to change it to a show we can all
understand. I’m a supervisor and feel that I should bring it to their
attention how rude it can be what they are doing, but do not want to
offend them or their culture. Is it rude for me to ask, or do you
believe I have a right to ask them to only speak English at work? —The
English Only Speaking Employee
Dear Gabacho: Two separate concerns here: the public and private workplace. As a supervisor, you can make your employees hablar English while in front of customers and not risk a discrimination complaint (although I would tell your customers that the Mexicans aren’t whispering about them. Probably discussing Chivas soccer). But ask them to switch off the Univisión for ESPN, and beware of federal precedent. A 2008 consent decree by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts allowed the Salvation Army to require workers to speak English in front of customers but also allowed foreign-language workers to use their native tongue while on break. You can always play the gabacho card and ask the TV tlatoani to switch the channel out of courtesy. But other than that, you’re caca out of luck. Enjoy Sábado Gigante!
Dear Mexican: It seems like a large number of Mexican-Americans trace their ancestry back to west-central Mexico—Jalisco, Michoacán and nearby. Well, these areas were never controlled by the Aztecs! The Indian blood in people from that part of Mexico comes from Tarascan or other nations. So, how do Mexicans of other-than-Aztec ancestry feel about the constant Aztec symbolism in the national iconography?! —Conozco Demasiado
Dear Know-A-Lot: Gracias for reminding gabachos that Mexican indigenous society isn’t just of Aztec ancestry. That said, we’re so far removed from the initial contact between the Aztecs and Spaniards that most non-Nahua Mexicans don’t give a segunda thought to the subsequent appropriation, integration, and propagation of Aztec imagery. Another history lesson, gabachos: That Mexican flag image of the eagle perched upon a cactus upon a stone in a lake, with a snake gripped in its beak came from the Aztec myth that they were to build Tenochtitlán in the area where they found such an image. Nahuatl loan words in Mexican Spanish? Nearly all that end with the suffix –te—tomate, zopilote, cacahuate, mayate—and hundreds of others. The actual name, Mexico? From Mexica, what the Aztecs actually called themselves. And the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s ultimate symbol? A syncretism of the Spanish black Madonna by the same name and the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. There still is resistance to such ideology among certain indigenous, but the struggles of the Mixtecos and Zapatistas at this point is more against the current ruling class than the direct descendants of Cuauhtémoc at this point.
Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org, MySpace.com/OCWab, Facebook.com/Garellano, YouTube.com/AskeAMexicano, find him on Twitter, or write via snail mail at: Gustavo Arellano, P.O. Box 1433, Anaheim, CA 92815-1433!