I’m a pan blanco and my wife is puertorriqueña. Our son looks basically white, while a casual observer might admit that there is some Latin going on there. I’m not sure how this pertains to my question—it may or may not be worth mentioning. Our son is a high-functioning autistic 12-year old. The way he looks and behaves makes him a target for bullies. He is sweet and innocent. He doesn’t understand sarcasm or how to be cool. He studies hard and gets good grades. He is a classic four-eyed Harry Potter dork. He doesn’t bother anyone, but he gets teased and bullied by cruel classmates. It breaks my heart and makes me furious.
Today a bigger kid came up and twisted his arm behind him, causing him pain. After he told me about it and as I fought back tears of rage (and yes, I tell the authorities and they do what they can, but they can’t be everywhere at once), he asked me, “Daddy, why is it that every time I’m bullied, it’s by a Mexican?”
I’m wondering the same thing. Every time, and I mean every single time, that he’s been bullied and tormented since we moved to California three years ago, it’s been a Mexican kid. Oh, and the Mexican students are in the minority in his school. A large minority, but a minority nonetheless. It’s not like he’s the only white kid in the yard. I’m truly at a loss as to why this seems to be so. Are all of these kids beaten by their fathers so they have to take it out on what they might perceive to be a pampered gringo? Other than teach my kid how to defend himself, I don’t see what can be done about it.
I wonder if you could suggest what I might say to my son to prevent him from hating Mexicans by the time he reaches adulthood, if not before. Or what I might say to myself, for that matter. Why is it always a Mexican kid tormenting my son? I don’t like the dark place my mind is going to. Can you help me?
—A Good Papi
The more I think about this question, the more it saddens me—about the bullied kid, of course, but also about the father’s thought process. The dad’s not a racist pig—just an understandably upset papi. But pendejos exist in every ethnicity, and there’s no reason to use those fuck-ups to smear a group as a whole. It’s a natural inclination to do so, but a wrong one. To the dad: My best advice is to get on the school administration’s ass to protect your beautiful son. And trust me: At some point in his life, there’ll be a good Mexican kid who’ll kick the asses of those bullies like any good person would.
Whenever I read something of Mexican history, I’m always amazed at the variety of first names that apparently have no English equivalent. I’m only 40 pages into a book about Pancho Villa, and already I’ve seen such beauties as Indalecio, Fidencio, Maclovio, Nemesio and Belisario. I’ve tried Google but can’t seem to find a place where the origins of these names and their meanings can be found. Any suggestions?
—Flummoxed in Flagstaff
Try Google again. All the names you mentioned are the Hispanicized nombres of Catholic saints (respectively, Indalecio, Fidelis, Maclou, and Nemesius) with the exception of Belisario, which refers to the great Roman general Belisarius. Mexicans traditionally pulled their names from the Bible and the papist calendar. This resulted in two separate celebrations for someone’s birth—the cumpleaños (the actual birthday) and the día de santo, the feast day of the saint corresponding to the person’s name; sometimes the twain did meet and knocked back Herradura. Those traditions and esoteric names are unfortunately disappearing, because American culture devours all. But you know what’s the weirdest male name I’ve heard? Susano. Etymology? From Susanna, obviously, but pinche clue how it became accepted for hombres.