No manches

Ford City Mall, Chicago, Illinois

If you ever start to offend a Mexican, they will reply with a remark like, “¡No manches!” In other words, don’t smear my good name.

Well, I was at the Ford City Mall the other day with my sons when I saw this t-shirt stand right there in the middle where you can’t miss it. I immediately saw the t-shirt with the map of Mexico. Underneath the map it read, “United States of Mexico.”

The girl working the stand immediately approached me and handed me a card saying that they had a website. I responded half in English, half in Spanish without really thinking. I assumed that she wasn’t even Mexican because Mexicans, or any Spanish speaker in Chicagolandia, are always happy to meet someone else who speaks Spanish. So, I gathered that she wasn’t a Spanish speaker, or perhaps not even Hispanic. And here she was selling these Mexican-themed t-shirts to–well, actually, no one!

The whole time we were in the mall, I was the only one to approach the stand and actually read the t-shirts. I didn’t even bother to ask the price of the t-shirts. As I read these t-shirts, I was offended. I like to think of myself as very open-minded and I have a high tolerance for political incorrectness and profanity, but I wondered what kind of Mexican would buy a t-shirt that read, “got mica?” and “as seen on immigration”? Maybe I’m missing something here! They seemed more offensive than funny.

If they’re going to be that politically incorrect, they might as well should have named their business, “¡No manches, güey!” Why did they stop short? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not overly sensitive. In fact, I always smile when I see someone wearing the t-shirt that says, “I’m not late. I’m running on Mexican time!”

My favorite Mexican t-shirt.

Look closely at the t-shirt above. I was looking to buy t-shirts as souvenirs from Mexico, but they mostly sold stuff from the U.S.A. Talk about American cultural imperialism! It’s such a good parody of the actual Corona shirt that my cousin and I almost didn’t notice it. I suppose this t-shirt will only be funny for people who know Spanish and Mexicans.

La migra

Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois

Nothing scares an undocumented Mexican more than the words “la migra.” Immigration agents seem to pop up out of nowhere and roundup illegal aliens at their place of employment. As a warning, someone will shout, “¡la migra!” But sometimes, they mistakenly pickup legal aliens and citizens by mistake. This happens all the time.

When I was about ten, I was in charge of making sure that my brothers and I walked home safely after school while my mother was at work. Most days this was an easy task. However, other days, we would walk our separate ways and meet up at home within a half-hour. We were always home together before my mother returned from work. Usually, we did this when we wanted to walk home with friends from our class, or occasionally, when we were mad at each other and didn’t want to talk to each other. My three brothers and I would form different alliances depending on who was mad at whom. One of the most bitter was the one that pitted the Americans against the Mexicans. There were four of us: David Diego, Daniel, Diego Gerardo, and Dick Martin, in order of birth. Guess which brother was born in Mexico! That’s right, Diego Gerardo was born in Mexico. All because my mother insisted on going to Mexico while she was nine months pregnant even though everyone warned her not to do it. And my father Diego finally had a son named after him.

Anyway, when brother Diego would get mad at us, he would exclude himself from us because we were American and he was Mexican. He would proudly remind us that he was born in Mexico during these arguments. It was after one of these arguments after school that he walked off alone away from us. Well, I started to get worried when he didn’t return home within a half-hour. I went out looking for him, but I couldn’t find him at his usual hangouts.  I knew my mother would be furious when she came home.  Well, she came home and Diego still wasn’t home. She didn’t explode like I had expected, but she made me go with her and look for Diego everywhere. We looked for about an hour and still didn’t find him. We returned home to take a little break. While there, we heard a knock on the door. Two immigration agents were at the door with my brother. They had mistakenly picked him up after school. My mother explained to them that he was a legal resident and showed them the documentation to prove it.

Well, it turns out that the agents drove up alongside Diego and asked him where he was born. Of course, he said, “Mexico!” proudly. They scooped him up into their car and took him into their office for further questioning. Of course, Diego was only about six at the time and he didn’t know his address. When no one called for him at immigration, the agents asked my brother to show them where he lived. That’s when we saw him at home again. Would you believe we never the the Mexican-American wars again? In fact, he never again bragged about being born in Mexico.

Immigration, legal or otherwise

Do you really want to live without Mexican food?

America, you better think twice. No Mexicans, no burritos! Next time you’re about to bite into that burrito, will you ask yourself, “Is this burrito here legally?” Of course not! You crave that tasty burrito and you’ll enjoy every bite of it.

Not many people really think about citizenship in their day to day existence, unless of course, they’re not U.S. citizens. No one really thought about how many Mexicans were in the Midwest until the immigration marches last year. Since then, everyone seems obsessed by a person’s state of citizenship, whether or not they’re here legally. It’s an immigration version of the House Un-American Committee, or the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military. Now whenever I read about Mexicans in the news, there’s no doubt if the subject is a citizen because the author will state their citizenship status. Or, if not a citizen, we read something like, “does want to give last name because he/she is not a citizen.”

On the July 4, I read “Squeegee economics” in the Chicago Tribune about Chicago skyscraper window washers from Mexico. For example, Salvador Mariscal of García de la Cadena, México, cleans the windows of the John Hancock Center and he’s a legal immigrant. Juan Ortiz, who worked illegally in Chicago for three years, is mentioned by name because he is now living in México again. Would you believe the Tribune reported that there are illegal immigrants washing skyscraper windows in Chicago?

Maybe we should work on the immigration reform bill a little harder. If we deport all the illegal Mexicans, we won’t have burritos and we’ll have dirty windows to boot.

Gold Cup


Last Sunday, I watched the Gold Cup soccer / fútbol match between the U.S. and Mexico. Okay, I have to admit that my allegiance was divided. Not only could I not decide which team to root for, Mexico or USA, but I was also switching channels so I could watch the White Sox play the Cubs. Talk about mental anguish! No matter which team won, USA or Mexico, I would feel some sort of disappointment. On the other hand, I wanted the White Sox to win since I am a south sider. The Cubs won. 😦  Sniff!

Well, team USA won, much to the disappointment of the Mexico fans who outnumbered the USA fans at Soldier Field. Almost three million households tuned in to watch the game. However, it was broadcast only on Univision, a Spanish-language station. Not enough Americans were interested in watching a soccer game. Ironically, a female announcer interviewed a flagged-draped American from the winning team and he spoke to the announcer in fluent Spanish! Doesn’t this send mixed signals to the general public about American culture? How do we deal with the English only issue when Americans are speaking languages other than English? At least we beat someone at their own game, that is, a non-American sport.

This reminds me of the immigration debate now before President Bush, the senate, and congress. No matter how many amendments are added to the bill, someone is disappointed, particularly the illegal immigrants who seek amnesty. There are too many issues to satisfy everyone. The immigration issue will not soon be resolved.



From Yahoo! News

¡Hola! I love teaching college Spanish! I have taught at several colleges in the Chicago area. I would like to help college students who need help learning Spanish–whether it’s to speak Spanish fluently or to merely pass the foreign language requirement. Hopefully, my teaching will also serve as a cultural exchange where students learn about some Hispanic issues and learn to differentiate them from the negative stereotypes.

However, current events have also stirred my emotions lately, so I will also comment on such cultural issues as the immigration debate, language differences, and xenophobia in the U.S., among other issues. Recent controversies have caused me to recall many incidents from my own life in the U.S. as the son of Mexican immigrants who came to the United States legally. I will explain all that later. As always, I have mixed feelings about immigration and occasionally suffer from identity crisis. I often wonder how Mexican I am. Or for that matter, how American I am.

I was at the immigration marches in Chicago while I was working as a police officer. And, yes, I did have mixed feelings during those marches. On March 10 and May 1, 2006, there were more Mexicans in Chicago than in Cancún. México has come to America! I don’t think most people were prepared to admit that there were that many Mexicans in the Midwest.

Of course, I'm interested in activism! Now pass the nachos.