Strength in adversity
Ask a Mexican
Dear Mexican: I was sitting around with my daughter and her Mexican husband the other day talking about her past. Jokingly, I mentioned that when she was a teenager (30 years ago), lots of boys came by the house to see her. Her husband flew into a rage and said that Mexicans consider such a comment extremely discourteous. Since his anger seemed out of proportion to my comment, and most men are even a bit flattered to hear that their wives are or were attractive to other men, I’m wondering whether his anger is his problem or whether he was right about Mexican customs and I unwittingly had been discourteous.
Dear Gabacho: You were being rude according to Mexican standards. That said, fuck your son-in-law. You’ve stumbled onto one of the great hypocrisies in Mexican society—while men boast about their previous conquests with the fervor usually reserved for tales of midnight runs across the border, women are expected to stay mum about any past chorizos they might’ve stuffed. This double standard is a tool of power—not to squash female sexuality, mind you, but to placate the pussy egos of the seemingly macho Mexican hombre, which can’t comprehend a mujer who exists outside the Madonna/whore duality. All this might change, though, if Alicia Elena Perez Duarte gets her way. She’s Mexico’s special prosecutor for crimes against women and is trying to pass a law that would punish overly jealous husbands. I can already hear the snickers from the Dobbsians out there: See? Mexico is so backwards it needs to appoint someone to protect women! And we want to give these savages who booed Miss USA amnesty?! But refry this: The fact Mexico created Duarte’s position, along with a recent proposal in Mexico’s Congress to grant amnesty to its Guatemalan invaders, shows that the country is willing to right its wrongs. Are you listening, Dubya?
Why do we always think Mexican men drink tequila and sing mariachi tunes, while the women are pretty señoritas?
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 the Second World War, 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 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—while always 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 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.