“Heyyy, what’s up, half-Mexican?” Gustavo Arellano answers his office phone, happy as a clam, probably because he’s not washing a white person’s car or running through Compton with a hubcap—a successful Chicano brother, indeed. Of course, my Mexican half is proud, but my resentful white half wants to call immigration right away.
Anyway, our editor Matt Coker used to work with Arellano down at OC Weekly and thought we should plug his appearance here in Sacramento.
“Matt’s a funny, funny fucker,” Arellano says. He’s right about that, and, it turns out, he’s right about a lot of other things, too.
Well, I know you’re not, but do you ever feel half-Mexican, like I am?
I think any child of Mexican immigrants in the United States is always going to feel that he’s not Mexican enough—usually because his parents tell him he’s not Mexican enough. For instance, my dad wanted me to wear a Tejana [a Stetson], and I wouldn’t do it because I’d look like an idiot. I wear glasses, and when was the last time you saw a cowboy with glasses? Because I wouldn’t do that, it pained my father to no end. I had it even [worse] than most Mexicans because I’m also a nerd. Apparently, there was no such thing as Mexican nerds.
Were you a nerd throughout high school?
Dude, I was a nerd from the day I was born. I was reading in kindergarten. I got humungous glasses that covered half of my face in second grade. I’ve been living the nerd life ever since. And it’s doubly tough when you’re a Mexican nerd.
Do you ever cringe when white people pronounce Spanish words correctly?
Yeah. Now the white people are turning Mexican. They’re going to be more Mexican than us, and they’re going to take us over again.
Is it irony that everything in California is named in Spanish, yet we’re trying very hard to keep Mexicans out?
Absolutely. Down here, in the ritziest part of the OC, all the street names are in Spanish—and that’s where the most virulent anti-Mexican sentiment in the county exists. If anything, it just proves that God has a delicious sense of humor.
Who would win in a fight, you or Cheech?
I wouldn’t fight him. He’s a god of all Mexican-Americans. Every Mexican kid in this country grew up watching [Born in East L.A.] and loving it because it had the Dodgers, and it had an orange fight. It was the standard.
I don’t feel Mexican most of the time. Is there anything I can do to feel more connected to La Raza?
If you get [Chuck Taylors], almost immediately your Mexican points go up tenfold. And … oh, offer amnesty to someone. Yeah, get an illegal-immigrant Mexican woman [and] say, “Hey, I’m a citizen. I’ll marry you,” and you will be a god in the Mexican community.