You’re going to get your curse words wrong
After a year in Spain, I speak more-than-decent Spanish, and I want to get a job in the nonprofit field where I can put it to use and pursue social justice and all that. Thing is, my Spanish is pretty peninsular. I maintained my seseo, thank God, but I may let loose an “¿os vais ahora?” every so often, and people have told me I have un acento andaluz (¡mentira!). Are the Mexicans gonna laugh at me? Is this a totally neurotic fear? Love your column, by the way.
Dear Galician Gabacha:
Going to Spain to learn to speak Spanish is like going to Mexico to learn good-government practices. Don’t believe all the Barça and Real Madrid jerseys worn by hipsters, or their sudden love for Jarabe de Palo: The number of Spaniards in the United States is minuscule—91,285, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, and a bunch of them are undoubtedly Basques and Catalans who despise their adopted tongue. It’ll all be fine, but Mexis will forever make fun of your lisp, your use of “vosotros,” and more importantly, you’re going to get your curse words wrong, as will be evident in the following respuesta.
I and mi familia live in a mobile-home community, and it does seem to have its fair share of Mexis, along with Latino/a residents. Mi problema is this: For roughly all of last week up to and including today, some Mexican kids have been taking shortcuts through other people’s yards (including mine), and since our next-door neighbors (who are also Mexicans) have two perros, the little hijos de putas love to get their jollies off by pestering the hell out of them! And after they’ve been chased out of the yard, they’ll stand just outside the yard and torment the neighbors’ dogs! And (if that weren’t enough) they have the nerve to pretend not to understand what’s being said to them (both in Spanish and English). Mi pregunta: While we’ve already considered notifying the office about their pain-in-the-ass antics/tactics, I’m already well-aware they won’t do anything about it, since I checked with the management just to make sure. So, is calling la policia (and possibly threatening to alert la migra) my only course of action? What steps can be taken to ensure that these kids’ lazy parents actually give a rat’s culo to keep their children in line (including being fully aware of what their children are doing when not under parental supervision)? In my opinion, as far as respeto is concerned, I believe people (all types/races/ethnic backgrounds, not just Mexicans) should have to show that they actually deserve it instead of simply expecting or demanding it, simply because they exist. If you’re too lazy to prove yourself to be worthy of respect, you sure as hell won’t get it from me, at the very least.
—A Know Nothing in Need of Wisdom
“Hijos de puta”? Methinks someone is spending too much time with Argies. The correct disparaging term in Mexican Spanish is “hijos de la chingada” (“sons of the fucked one,” literally, but actually referring to Malinche, Cortés’ translator who’s forever hated in Mexico as a whore—a puta—so you’re technically correct, but still! You need to know your Mexican Spanish!). And while you call yourself a Know Nothing, you’re obviously not—you care enough about your Mexi neighbors to watch out for their dogs, you understand the primacy of respeto in the Mexican psyche and you seem to know more Spanish than some Chicano politicians. No need to call the police or la migra on this one (and besides, the kids are most likely what your supposed ilk would call “anchor babies” but the Constitution calls “American citizens”). Instead, you and your Mexi neighbor should approach the parents and tell them what their chamacos are doing. If they don’t care, then time to get nuclear: Bust out the chancla.