Culture, many facets



Some thoughts in this thread about what I've seen, experienced and sought to understand. Other's personal milage may vary.




 I was 16 when I was first around mexicans (working in a factory with them) rather than the descendants of mexicans with whom I had gone to school with. There was and is a big difference in general between mexicans and groups or types of their descendants, so I don't confuse race with nationality, culture or anything else. A lot of people do.

  The word “mexican” has been used in so many differing and even opposing contexts while bluring several distinctions as to practically lose it's meaning. If I use the word “mexican,” I mean a native of mexico, a mexican national.






  While their numbers grew quickly, particularly after 1982, there weren't many mexicans in the construction trades in the mid 70s where I had grown up and began working, they didn't dominate the trades like they do now. However there was at least one and usually more with the small contractors I worked for.

 Some of the ones I worked with then used to bring in little burritos or rolled tacos and hand them out during lunch. I didn't understand about it then.

 Occasionally over the years two or three coworker descendants would bring something in to share, but not often, not like the mexicans.

 Some years later I got a job on a large project which was almost totally dominated by mexicans, there were literally hundreds of them on that job. Many of them made a daily drive from their home just inside of mexico, crossing the border every day.

  From the first day the crew I was  usually with offered me food during morning break and lunch while exchanging food among themselves. To a certain extent I was confused by it.

  So, I asked my girlfriend, who's parents were born in mexico and she herself had worked among mexicans picking berries during summer break when she was in high school, about it.

 She told me it was because some day someone on the job might come to work without anything to eat, so it is sort of a social net.

  She also told me that to decline  food offered to me would offend and that I needed to bring something to share, because it would be offensive to not reciprocate.

 So I brought food to share plus gave them chiles my girlfriend grew, and someone always brought in fresh salsa the next day.

 They warmed up to me and the ones who spoke even broken english began telling me stories of all sorts along with jokes and the like. As well, the non english speakers treated me well.

  The last day I was on the job I had been working elsewhere with another crew and was driving past them on the way home at the end of the day. I was waved over.

 They were having a carne asada cookout after work and my plate was piled high before it was handed to me.

  To get back to the beginning, they didn't want me there at first because, in my own country, I was taking a job many of them would feel belonged to a relative or friend from mexico, “gavachos” and “pochos” (especially “university mexicans” with all the made in america “cultural” nonsense they carry around with them)  need not apply. Some of them would have run me off if they could, but I had a skill they couldn't do and they wouldn't be working if people like me weren't around. There would have been a horrendous accident if someone got the hairbrain idea to let one of them try.

  But it comes back to sharing food. As much as they originally wanted me out of their sight, it would have been unthinkably rude to not share their food with me.

  The sharing of food among mexicans hasn't been universal in my observations, but I've seen it enough to know it is practiced.

  I have another, second hand story from before my time about it, but that's for another time.







I'm not sure how to write this, it's more an understanding or feel, and I'm not sure how to describe my role in the following.


Once a week the ex girlfriend (the one described above) and I meet and share a meal in a restaurant owned by mexicans from oaxaca. The place is very comfortable to us.

  Along with some standard mexican offerings americans would recognize, the food is of a typical american diner of decent quality. 

 We avoid weekends and holidays to avoid potential crowding, and the place can get quite busy on those days.

  A lot of the regular clientele speak spanish among themselves and many of those appear to be family and friends of the family, with the remainder of regulars generally above retirement age. The family and friends all take turns holding the babies while mingling and visiting with the waitresses and cook when they're not immediately busy.

  One of the co-owners almost exclusively waits on us and is very good to us. The cook takes care of us too.

  One time she told us to show up the next day because she would fix us something special off menu.

  We did, and she even went home to get some items, then went in the restaurant kitchen and made us a couple of tlayudas, the huge oaxacan “mexican pizza.” Super delicious..

  No charge. And she sort of hid us in an obscure corner because she didn't want her “regulars to get any ideas.”


  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact the ex and I visit, often spending two or three hours instead of bursting in, demanding instant attention, inhaling our food, cashing out and charging out the door.

  Although I haven't found this form of the word, I once overheard her say to herself something like “compañando” while looking at us.

  It's very casual for us.

  After we seat ourselves at our usual spot, she brings our coffee and after a bit takes our order, no rush. After we've finished our meal and been there quite a while since being served, I put my wallet on the table with a credit card on top. Eventually she brings the check and after a while she cashes me out. Then we stay a little longer before we leave. And we stack the plates and put the silverware and used napkins on top, setting them to the side for the waitress, we don't leave a mess with trash all over the table to be picked up.

 With the guests who aren't among family and friends she's on it, she works hard.

  The ex and her will speak spanish together. Without getting into depth, I think she appreciates that I know something about and have an interest in mexicans. Also, while the sound is turned low enough to not bug the other customers, I'll stream things for the ex like some old school ranchera and tejano she grew up on, funny stuff in spanish or interesting you tube things about regular people and their doings in mexico. The waitress sees all this.


The ex told me that socializing while eating among mexicans is important, that while the food may be delicious the people who are close to us are the far more important factor in dining together.


I don't suggest this for a restaurant in the US which is busy, the restaurant business is a tough racket with perishible product, fickle clientele and slim profit margins  and the tables need to get turned over. And, some from mexico don't like americans or the americanized, but they'll take your money while resenting your presence.






Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto put a collection of her essays about latin america into a book titled “The heart that bleeds,” which was published around 1990.

 I don't know where my copy is and it's been maybe 20 years since I read it. This is off the top of my head.

  An unforgettable quote from the book having to do with the mexican government screwing up the economy by squandering the pemex oil revenue “with all the glee of jumping into pool full of naked women” is forever burned into my memory.

  If I remember right, the essay with that quote had to do with the mexican economy, modernization and unwelcome change driven by the united states.

  I believe she began the essay with something like “a mexican party isn't successful unless everyone is crying at the end.”

  She then described going to a Juan Gabriel concert where a couple of mexicans wearing cowboy hats had paid good money to get into the show and made their way to the very foot of the stage  for the express purpose of incessantly shouting insults at the singer for being openly gay, which being gay is a big mexican no no.

  This segued into the meat of her essay, which ultimately ended with the two mexicans, who were by then very drunk, unsteadily swaying while singing along with Juan Gabriel and crying.


 “My friend my friend” was a mexican I knew who came from Guerrero about 1976. He called me “my friend” about every sentence he spoke (hence his nickname), and almost non-stop tried to scam me from every angle possible.

  But he was exceedingly obvious. The most preposterous was when he informed me, with the utmost seriousness, that he was going to run for the Mexican presidency and he needed my political donation to help him do so. I laughed in his face.

  Next to the last time I saw him he entered an establishment where I was enjoying an adult beverage. He sat next to me and I bought him a beer while he was telling me about his wife moving out of the house and  divorcing him.

  I bought him another beer and, to the great annoyance of everyone else there, stuffed the internet jukebox full of money and played a long list of old school, tear your heart out ranchera.   After another beer or so he was singing along, belting out the words while throwing out dramatic gestures. By now everyone  in the place was staring at us.

 His eyes began misting up and I figured one more beer and he'd be crying, but he abruptly left before doing so.

  The very last time I saw him I was driving on the road where he lived, he was running uphill alongside the road. As I went by he turned to look back at a fat mexican wearing a floppy hat and carrying a stout stick running not far behind.

  They may have been exersize buddies, but I don't think so.



I just showed the above story about my friend my friend to the ex. She said that if she hadn't known my friend my friend herself she would think I made the story up (for a laugh)… and she was the one who dubbed him “my friend my friend.”

  The man couldn't have been more unintentionally funny if he was 4' tall, had size 15 feet and wore a polkadot bow tie with spats. And, he did try to scam his way through life, and he did make some enemies.


And ranchera mixed with alcohol can provoke great sadness.


Ranchera seems to me to be like our country western “somebody done somebody wrong" songs from the 70's, “Don't play that on my stereo because it'll ruin the speakers with all the  tears coming out of them.”

  I might be very wrong here, but I believe that despite the mexican penchant for humor, there is a background cultural sadness derived from 500 years of tragedy that needs an expression or an outlet from time to time.

  I've known several people who used humor to cope with the unthinkable alternative in their mind. They were the funniest people I've known.

  Someone who interviewed Richard Pryor commented something maybe like despite the tragedy of Pryor's childhood he was a great comedian. Unlike the interviewer's words Pryor's exact reply is burned into my memory: “Comedy is tragedy.” 





  In lesson 5.7 the cultural portion asserted that “the more advanced weapons and the diseases brought by the Spanish led to the collapse of the Aztec Empire by 1521,” which is only partially correct. The commonly stated number of spanish is 500 when they first landed and they suffered casualties before reaching tenochtitlan (mexica city-state, capitol, now mexico city) plus loosing perhaps half of the remaining force on “la noche triste,"  there were millions of Indians in what became new spain. Millions.

   I don't know the numbers off the top of my head, but cortes had almost returned to tenochtitlan from the coast with reinforcements comprised of an expedition originally sent to arrest him for defying the governor of cuba, when pedro de alvarado irreparibly incensed the mexica population with a massacre of a large number of mexica priests and nobles - but the additional spaniards were statistically insignificant compared to millions of indians. (The massacre, in cortes' absence, resulted in la noche triste in cortes' presence after he returned from the coast)

  During a battle on the retreat from tenochtitlan to tlaxcala (after la noche triste), the surrounded spaniards were close to collapsing from exhaustion and a sure collective death when cortes saw the enemy leader and, with another spaniard, mounted a horse, charged, and cut him down. To spanish luck the mexica / aztec force broke and ran away. (Tlaxcala, an indian territory or nation surrounded by aztec empire, not subdued by mexica, allied with cortes, enemies of mexica, tlaxcalans and their descendants favored for centuries by spanish for original role in conquest)

  The aztec empire was loosely organized like a protection racket over conquered tribes, pay the mexica tribute and contribute labor to their projects or “we'll burn your house down with you in it.” (figure of speech, not an actual mexica quote) Otherwise, the mexica didn't meddle in local affairs.

  The “spanish conquest” was as much an outraged indian rebellion sparked and presided over by master manipulator cortés as it was anything else.

  After the conquest a mexica nobleman lamented that the mexica demise was due to growing soft and arrogant while treating other people badly.

  For at least decades after the conquest the bulk of “spanish forces” in new spain were composed of meso american indians, a fact not much mentioned in modern history accounts.  Coronado's circa 1540 expedition through what is now new mexico, texas and kansas consisted of at least twice as many indians as spaniards.

  In the mid 1520's Pedro de Alvarado used indian allies while taking what is now Guatemala, although it was a little more complicated than that brief statement. (de Alvarado was truly a ruthless, evil man even for his time and place)

  It's interesting that the mexica suffered smallpox during their last stand at tlatelolco  is well commented on, I haven't seen one word concerning the same with cortes' indian allies. (Tlatelolco, neighborhood or separate section of tenochtitlan, modern section of mexico city, site of 1968 massacre of students engineered by then future president echevarria)

  I believe that mexica society and governance was something like that of japan during the tokugawa shoganate, a rigidly constructed society with unquestioning loyalty and obedience to one's master, but I could be very wrong.

  However, when the mexica leadership was decapitated the miniscule spanish presence slipped right in and took over - the mexica empire became part of the spanish empire with the power structure in place. The ecomendia and other spanish practices were nothing new to the inhabitants of the former aztec empire of the time. Hence my belief that mexico was originally constructed from the worst of spanish / arab despotism and tyrannical indian empire from which lingering legacy mexico continues to suffer.

  It is worth noting that from 700 years of warring to expel the muslim moor / arab presence during the reconquest of spain, there was a warrior mentality in spanish society which had no outlet after the fall of grenada and the first voyage of columbus, both in 1492. (Grenada, the last muslim / moor enclave in spain to be taken  by the spanish, southern tip of spain)

  The spanish thrust into the new world has been described as the last crusade, which was for God and gold - and not necesarily in that order.

   It must be understood that the spaniards and later mexicans meaningfully controlled only territory comprised of sedentary, agricultural indians. It was a different story with nomadic indians, with comanches raiding and leaving scorched earth almost to mexico city and into jalisco while the apaches were doing much the same in sonora and chihuahua. Meanwhile the land route to california was often blocked by hostile tribes along the colorado river with most contact between new spain / mexico and california by sea.

  Only a tiny fraction of the spanish / mexican territorial claim north of the present border was actually possessed or had any semblance of control by anyone who was either spanish or mexican.

  The new mexicans in santa fe cut a separate deal with the comanches, and served as a buffer between the comanches and the apaches, who the comanches had pushed out of texas after they migrated out of the wind river area of what is now wyoming.

  I believe las cruces new mexico is named for all the travelers the apaches killed on that segment of the royal road from mexico city to santa fe.

  We make the mistake of selectively judging the past by modern values rather than learning from it.

  If we condemn cortes and his spaniards as rapacious murderers and rapists of indians, we must also condemn the mexica for what they were: practitioners of state sponsored mass murder by daily bending captives over a stone on a towering temple, cutting out their still beating hearts and throwing the bodies down the stairs in a perpetual reinactment of huitzilopochtli killing his sister on a hill. And, the original protein in posole may have been human.


History is what it is whether religion is composed of the one time blood sacrifice of the christ, the son of God, to redeem those who believe or the perpetual, daily blood sacrifice of men to repay the sacrifice of the gods so the sun will continue to rise every day.





I unintentionally mischaracterized the mexica reason for human sacrifice above.

  Without getting into a lot of detail the sacrifices were to huitzilopochtli, the sun god who was nourished by human blood to give him strength to journey across the sky every day.

  He has a number of other roles, such as a war god, apparently a mexica version of moses and a great warrior. Supposedly when he was vanquished it would be the downfall of the mexica.

  He was said to have been born fully grown and fully armed and sprang into lethal action immediately after his mother was killed.

  I'm not sure how all this fits together. I haven't studied the legends enough to make any sense of it, I barely scratched the surface of it years ago and didn't continue.

  Or, maybe making sense of the whole thing wasn't the original point.



¡Hola Al22!


Thanks for contributing all of these discussion points!


Feel free to create multiple new threads here on the forum as you explore new topics - this will make it easier for your fellow forum members to respond to your posts and chime in on the discussions!


As for your comment about the statement in the Culture portion of Lesson 5.7, I'll pass this on to our Spanish team for them to look into.  







The following  has so many different things tied in that it could be a mini summary of several topics.


I was working with a mexican from guadalajara in the san fernando valley, where he introduced me to a restaurant where mexicans (from mexico, of course) went to eat, we ate lunch there quite a bit - almost every day. The food itself, always flavorful, had a slightly different taste and texture from day to day which told me they were doing bulk cooking by feel rather than recipes. There was always a woman in back hand patting corn tortillas, no tortilla press for her. They were delicious.

  There was a juke box I never saw anyone put money into or even stand in front of to select songs, it would periodically burst forth music at aproximately 9000 decibles, no one payed any attention to the jukebox.

  There were quite often people floating into the restaurant to sell desserts and sweets illegaly made in someone's private home kitchen, there's no doubt the restaurant manager got a cut of the action.

  There was a never ending stream all day long of different groups with acoustic guitars showing up to play and sing in the hope someone would toss them some money, which I only saw happen once. They would keep playing whenever the jukebox suddenly blasted on like it wasn't there, and nobody paid attention.

  The mexican customers were sometimes  a very noisy verbal bunch with normal, but loud conversation.

 T he first time I entered the restaurant, it was like the proverbial phonograph needle scratching across an old 45 vinyl record while it got quiet, and almost like everyone froze in place while looking at me. While I'm not for sure why, I have my guesses. There's not a lot of white people in that part of town, I'm oddly reminded of the los lonely boys song “guero in the barrio.” Forgiven album.

  The same waitress tended to us every time. While there was something about her that made me think she could speak english, she always asked my mexican coworker, in spanish, what I would eat, never addressed me personally much less look at me.
  It was rude, and I could have straightened it out in the beginning, but I was trying to let it slide and it festered instead.
  The mexican was getting a swelled head from being the go between, which didn't help.
  So, after quite a while of this, one day it was my turn to pay and I was at the register when the waitress walked by. God help me, I shamefully blew up at her and yelled "si quieres saber qué quiero comer preguntame Y NADIA OTRO!" in her face while poking her right collar bone with my right index finger. The mexican and the woman at the register fell over laughing while the waitress was wincing.


  I didn't go back for a long time because I've never been fond of spit in my food and wasn't going to take the chance.


  When I finally returned, the waitress spoke to me in good english, fact was she was the only one there that could communicate more than five english words garnished with hand gestures.
  I told her why my mexican coworker wouldn't be coming back with me, that he had needed to learn english well enough to fulfill his work obligations so our employer let him leave work early and even paid him regular wages to attend an english as a second language class. He screwed it off by blowing off the class and going home early instead, and was eventually fired for doing so.
 The waitress looked stunned. I'm not sure, but from situational context maybe she thought him to be an idiot for it.





I'm going through my posts in this thread and editing out the names of the people who can be identified by names and circumstances.


I met (edited) more than twenty years ago, before she could speak even rudimentary english. She's a sweet woman and has always been good to me. I would stop by to get breakfast where she is employed if I was working in the area or passing through.

  Yesterday I was at the drive through window of the rapid fire, cook to order restaurant she's worked at for a couple decades three towns over from where I live. I saw her at the counter about 15 feet away and yelled her name, she looked, smiled delightedly and came over to talk.

  She commented on how long it's been since she's seen me (at least 3 years) and asked me how the (ex) girlfriend is doing (she used the word “wife,” (edited) saw us together for about a decade and half.) I replied the obligatory “good” and left it at that.

 Then she verbalized two words that were both a question and a statement concerning the ex:  “she's” and “jealous.”

 I replied “la mexicana” and (edited) knew exactly what I meant. She nodded and said “I'm (a) jealous (woman) too”.

  I might be wrong, but I believe most women with latin american ancestry are more than average jealous, some insanely so.

  (Edited) must have felt a disturbance in the force one or more times when the ex and I were there and (edited) came to the table to briefly chat with us. God knows I have on other occasions in other circumstances.

  I got my breakfast burrito, (edited) and I said goodbye and she told me to tell the “wife” hi, which I did today when the ex and I met for breakfast at the restaurant described in the above story titled “THE SOCIAL IMPORTANCE OF MEALS.”

   Years ago I asked (edited) why she came to the US. She told me that her oaxacan family was poor and she was uneducated, they didn't have money. She came here and has been sending money to her mother ever since (has never said anything about her father, might have died or abandoned the family). Knowing she had young children (I don't know what her husband does) I asked how she was able to do that. She replied “lots of beans and rice.”

   Recently I've been viewing video of poverty stricken people in oaxaca and the wanna be shacks with dirt floors they live in. Outside of the cities where tourists spend money mexican poverty makes what we call poverty in the united states look positively upper middle class. There is no such thing as welfare in mexico, if you don't work you don't eat, there's no money “trickling down” in mexico and wages are generally bottom basement.

  Probably 12 years after I met (edited) I was eating breakfast when she exitedly rushed to my table gushing over with pride and joy: she finaly got her green card. At the time I was wishing she hadn't told me, because I didn't want to know either way.

  I might load up the ex in a couple weeks or so, if she's willing, and hit the restaurant where (edited) works. (Edited) will still think we're married, no one will tell her any different, we will all briefly visit, and maybe the force will be ripple free. Ojala!



I feel I need to clarify the points in the last two stories, while being evident to me it might not be so to someone else.

  These are my personal experiences, other's personal milage in these matters may vary.

  There are really nice people and abject jerks everywhere, and prejudice and racism isn't just a white man's disease.

  It will be another installment to further explain, and there are historical reasons for it, but I believe it is in the mexican cultural conciousness to resent, reject and sometimes obstruct the culturally american and americanized, which I believe is more of an unconscious thing, that few go around actively thinking this. My thought about it refers to the umbrella culture and not so much to individuals, quite a few mexican nationals have been very good to me and don't fit into the following.

  I have seen quite a bit in the past where I was on a crew which had one to three hispanic kids who couldn't speak spanish. There were times we would have lunch in any of any number of restaurants patronized almost exclusively by mexican nationals.   The fully culturally mexican waitresses would often expect the brown kids with spanish last names to order for the white guys in spanish. When the brown kid gave the waitress a blank look or otherwise failed to speak spanish, the waitress would usually get visibly angry or disgusted.

  I've seen the same thing on job sites. Often when a mexican national from another trade or who was just there for whatever reason would try to talk to a descendant of mexicans or a north american indian in spanish and the brown americans couldn't communicate in spanish they'd get pissed and walk off.

  A lot of mexicans don't want to learn english, some who do know english will pretend not to know and want to have everything done in spanish, then there are those who do want to speak english and who genuinely have tremendous difficulty learning the language.

  There are a few who will butter you up in english and talk trash about you in spanish right in front of you if they think you don't understand spanish.

  Every genuinely mexican restaurant I've been to that had a juke box would invariably result in the juke box randomly coming on with ear splitting volume and I never, ever saw anyone put any money into it. Maybe the jukebox is for the night time drinking crowd and it never occurs to anyone employed at those places to at least turn the volume down during the day. I can see that scenario happening.

  The manager taking a cut to let people sell food cooked elsewhere in the restaurant, I can see that one. Another trick any manager of any place might play is with the tip jar which is supposed to be split among the waitresses. The manager takes half or more and distributes the rest acording to whim. I don't know how common it is, but there have been mexican foremen of entirely mexican crews on construction jobs who demand a kickback in cash of a percentage of employee paychecks. If the employee doesn't comply he's looking for another job.

  If you understand mexican history you understand the above paragraph. After all, pemex executives consider what we call embezzlement to be a tip, politicians and government employees tend to extort the public they come in contact with by demanding bribes or kickbacks, and the car driving portion of the mexican public makes sure to have some go away money on their person in case a cop pulls them over for no other reason than to shake them down for cash. Otherwise one might go to jail until someone shows up with a bribe to secure their release, and if no one comes forth with cash...

  I believe latin american women tend to be very jealous, and that extends to american descendants of mexicans. It may have to do with another thing the spanish gifted the americas with, the cultural notion that the more women a man impregnates the more of a real man he is. And, when the relationship is over "hell has no fury like a woman scorned" is a rather meek and mild introductory phrase as to what is about to happen when that hispanic woman comes uncorked, from vicious slander spread all over town when fact can be bad enough on its own to much, much, much more.

   Of course that could be so much hyperboly on my part, but I've seen it first hand.

   And the last point concerning mexican poverty, most americans fail to appreciate what we have. After all, we have “safety zones” or “safe spaces” on university campuses where the perpetually aggrieved can go to suck their thumbs while pouting about some “micro agression” or other while in other countries there are people living in shacks improvised from whatever is available and don't have enough to eat.





I'm going through my posts in this thread and editing out the names of the people who can be identified by names and circumstances.


   In about 2005-07 I worked with a younger man from  the mexican state of colima. He was a good kid, good worker, intelligent and I enjoyed working with him. I disremember his name, but (edited) seems to come up.
    (Edited) told me his family formerly had a ranch in colima and he seemed to have a knowlege about reining horses.
     There began to be paths traversing their property, then a marijuana grow popped up. About that time someone came to the door asking about renting the property. (Edited) said that if one were to say "no" under those circumstances "they" would say nothing at the time, leave, then return another time with others to kill the whole family and anyone else present.
    So they sold the ranch, I assume to the would be “renters," and left the country.
     Settling in the southern san joaquin valley in california  they established a small trucking company. I don't know which niche of the industry they occupied, but when other newly arrived mexicans saw that the family was apparently successful all sorts of the others figured the trucking gig was easy money and went to cash in by copycatting the business. This led to a glut in trucking services in which the niche shoestring competition drove prices down to where no one was making any money.
   So, (edited) family sold their trucks to some eager late comers and went on to other ways of making money, which was how I met (edited)
    The above scenario is a variation of a general theme I have seen ever since mexican president Lopez Portillo, holding the bag he created as president Luis Echevarria's  finance minister, necessarily devalued the peso about 1982 after vowing to defend the peso like a guard dog. For many years Lopez Portillo couldn't go out in public without someone barking at him while many of his newly or even  further impoverished countrymen flooded across the border in search of an income. American employers used the mexican proclivity to undercut others and the growth of the labor pool to drive down american wage rates.
    One day (edited) told me a story about when he was a kid, 

 he and his buddies would torment each other and more others by rubbing their own finger into a cut habanero chile and further rub the finger behind someone else's ear in a variation of "my ears are burning."
     After the next time I made it home for the weekend (I often worked away from home) I brought (edited) a big bag of habaneros the ex had grown. (Edited) was about as delighted as a grown man could be and was going to have his wife make him some salsa that very night.
       It was (edited) habit to drive home every night at a one way distance of at least 120 miles, and it was his further habit to show up early and catch a nap in his car before going to work.
        Next day I parked next to (edited) car, didn't see him crashed out in the reclined driver's seat as usual. A little later I was walking up to the trucks when he came out of the porti-john with a mixed expression of distress and regret and said to me two words - "fundillo colorado."





Jorge Castañeda, former mexican diplomat, politician and academic, wrote a book titled “Mañana forever? Mexico and the Mexicans."

    I found it to be a fascinating and and enlightening read, chock full of statistics.

     Although I haven't read it in years, I can see it in my book case as I write this.

     In the book Castañeda relates a medium winded mexican joke which he said describes the relationship between mexico and the united states. It goes like the following, which, writing from memory (I'm not going to the trouble of opening the book and look it up) is close to Castañeda's rendition.


One fine day during duck season, there were a texan and a mexican hunting ducks on opposite banks of the rio grande.

  Both sighted a duck flying directly over the international line, raised their shotguns, fired and hit the duck at the same time. The duck spiraled down and landed directly on the international line on an island in the middle of the river.

   Casting their shotguns to the side, they leaped in the river and swam to the island.

     Grabbing the duck at the same time they pulled it back and forth. Noticing they were ruining the duck, the mexican said “lets put the duck down and negotiate this," which the texan agreed to do.

   “What do you propose?”asked the texan. The mexican replied “That we settle this in a manly and dignified manner. We kick each other in the nuts, and whoever takes it best is the better man and gets the duck." ”You're on!" The texan exuberantly exclaimed.

      The mexican continued: “I'm short so I'm at a disadvantage, I get to go first.” Agreeing to the terms, the texan eagerly splayed out his legs.

       Giving it his best chivas futbol team effort, the mexican got a short running start and smashed the texan's pelotas.

       The texan bent over, gasping for breath, sweating profusely, puked a little, and almost went down. Then he suddenly straightened up and with a vindictive grin said “now it's MY turn.” Without hesitation the mexican said “you can have the duck.”




And the Guatemalteca


I'm going through my posts in this thread and editing out the names of the people who can be identified by names and circumstances.


    I went back to the restaurant to see (edited), described in the above story "(edited)."
  She happily talked to me about the poverty in which she grew up, the shack with walls of corrugated steel on one side and sticks tied together on the others.
  The dirt floor, a fire pit with a comal above, she used the word "brasero", which could be a pit or metal fireplace with a comal or grill above. The smoke vented into the living space.
   We talked about her coming to the united states using a coyote and having to pay back the money she borrowed.
  I told her of my understanding that if a woman owed the coyote money, the traffickers would first say (in mexico) that they had a job lined up in the US for the woman to get her on board with the trip then forcible prostitute her out (sex slave) after getting her across the border.
  (Edited)told me it was different when she came over all those years ago, besides the money she borrowed was from relatives, not human traffickers, and she paid back the relatives.


  (I understand that more than 60% of the women and children are raped by the coyotes on the trip over. Knowing this, the travelers are often given birth control pills by relatives for the trip. However, besides the fact it's more an evil than a wrong, think of the humiliation suffered by the women and children along with stds - including aids - and single mother pregnancies brought with them).


 We only had a short time to talk, but I was glad to visit with (edited).


   There was a young woman busing tables while the ex and I were there. She wasn't fluent with english, but could get by decently.
     I asked her where she was from, it was guatemala.
     I just happened to have a small bottle of ground chile cobanero with me to sprinkle some on my breakfast and showed it to her. She got enthused and told me where the chile was from (around coban, guatemala), described the physical characteristics of the chile (size, shape …), how it was processed and so on.
  There was a quarter bottle of chile cobanero left, which I gave her.
   I think I made a friend.




And the grito


Some years ago some tickets fell to the ex and I to go see Paquita, that man hating scold of mexican ranchera music.
   A nurse in one of my doctor's practice told me that whenever she got into a certain mood she would put Paquita on the stereo and wallow in it. Wow.
   The tickets included back stage access to have your picture taken with Paquita.
   So, the ex and I posed with Paquita with the ex to Paquita's left and me to the right, my arm was draped over Paquita's shoulders with my left hand dangling from her left shoulder.
   It was like I was resting my arm on a sculpted boulder. No give, no softness.
    We never got the pictures either.
    While the concert was in full swing, the ex was yelling "ay yai heea ay aha ee hahaha ei ah ei...." almost continuously while standing up. Much of the crowd was doing likewise.
    I wasn't quite into the thought mode of "who in the hell is this woman I'm sitting next to" but close, never saw it before or since from her.
     The other day I asked her why mexicans do the grito. She succintly replied "because they do."
  That reminded me of when I took her to death valley almost a quarter century ago. I noticed that the foreign language signs and notes at furnace creek inn were in italian, german and chinese but not in spanish like virtually everywhere else. I pointed it out to her and she replied "Mexicans don't go to death valley. They go to the park on sunday."
   Hard to go against that reasoning.


   However, the grito seems to be an expression of emotion. Without getting into a potentially huge discussion of it: the grito at the beginning of chente fernandez' ranchera rendition of "volver volver" sounds like sadness, whereas the grito at the beginning of "margarita / borrachera" by tejano band "little joe y la familia" is packed full of exuberance, "lets party!!!"
   By contrast, the trademark "ahooa" by el piporro / lalo gonzalez seems to be more of a catch phrase.



    From now on I'm not going to úse real names anymore which, combined with events in the stories I relate, can result in identifying any person or persons.

    I believe that, due to historical reasons, mexicans don't have a lot of trust outside of family and very close friends.

    To be identified in matters of immigration status or methods of entering the country, or any number of other issues, may be interpreted as a betrayal of trust to people who would rather remain lost in the crowd.

    My commentary is that of an outsider seeking to understand.

    One can't ask too many questions  because it can raise suspicion as to one's intentions. Likewise, one has to filter from diversion of fact, or someone who, in the interest of getting along, will tell one what they think one wants to hear. So, it is a little from here and there that adds up to a larger picture.

     If one loses trust from an individual who previously trusted, it will never be regained, all future learning of any and all kinds from that person will be lost.

    And, aside from not learning small pieces about the big picture, to lose trust is  a mournful and interpersonal tragedy.

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