Tuesday, June 19, 2007

¡Ask a Mexican! June 20 at Latitude 33 at 7 p.m.

Gustavo Arellano is my dream drinking buddy, but I bet even borracho, he's way too smart for me. OC WEEKLY's hilarious yet erudite "Ask a Mexican" columnist held his own when he was on The Colbert Report - not an easy task, and even Stephen seemed impressed. Arellano is swimming in previously umplumbed depths with his column and new book by the same name, patiently explaining Mexican culture to ignorant gabachos (btw only gringos call each other gringos, he informs us).

Where else can you ask such a dumb question and get as complete an answer as this:
Why do we always think Mexican men drink tequila and sing mariachi tunes, while the women are pretty señoritas?
- Viva Mexico

Dear Gabacho: Mexicans frequently blame ustedes for perpetuating various stereotypes about nosotros over the centuries, but a big part of the blame also falls on us. During World War II, a time when Mexico’s film industry experienced a renaissance that scholars refer to as La Época de Oro (The Golden Age), Mexican movie studios produced great social tales, comedies and horror films, but the ones that received the most acclaim were the comedias rancheras. They starred matinee idols such as Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete, who meted out frontier justice and wooed the chicas guapas from underneath sombreros—always while guzzling tequila and riding on horseback. The image came from the state of Jalisco, birthplace of mariachi and tequila. “Needing a people who could personify hispanismo,” wrote Joanne Hirschfield in “Race and Class in the Classical Cinema,” an essay in the anthology Mexico’s Cinema: A Century of Film and Filmmakers, “its proponents found them in Los Altos de Jalisco. The mythology of Los Altos created a horse-riding people who were devoutly Catholic and capitalistic, had never intermarried with Indians, and played Mariachi music.” Mexico thought Americans would think better of beaners as singing caballeros, but Hollywood didn’t care—they inverted the Jaliscan tropes and created the fat, drunk, gold-toothed greaseball archetype who sleeps under the shade of a cactus and gets up only to booze it up or write columns about America’s most caliente minority. As for Mexican women being sultry and spicy—that’s all documentary, baby.

Gustavo Arellano will be at Latitude 33 Bookstore on Ocean Avenue at 7 p.m. Wednesday June 20. Mexican food will be served.
That Colbert Report clip: