I’m watching the World Series even though neither the White Sox nor the Cubs are playing. “World Series” is a misnomer because it’s not really a world competition at all. However, there are many players from many countries such Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Japan among others.
When I read Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow years ago, he described a professional baseball game in the early 1900s. He noted that the ethnicity of the baseball players was representative of the immigration pattern of the period. Here’s the passage from Chapter 30 of Ragtime:
On the Giant side were Merkle, Doyle, Meyers, Snodgrass and Herzog, among others. The Boston team boasted a player named Rabbit Maranville, a shortstop who [sic] he noted roamed his position bent over with his hands at the end of his long arms grazing the grass in a manner that would more properly be called simian. There was a first baseman named Butch Schmidt, and others with the names Cocrehan, Moran, Hess, Rudolph, which led inevitably to the conclusion that professional baseball was played by immigrants.
If you look at the players of today’s Major League Baseball, you will see many Spanish last names. Of course, those, too, are representative of the migration patterns of Spanish speakers from Latin America to the U.S.
When I was in Mexico last July, I watched the All-Star Game with my cousin and her family. We laughed every time the announcer mispronounced a Spanish last name. Both announcers consistently mispronounced Evan Longoria. Well, tonight, I had to laugh when Jason Bartlett stole second base and the announcer let everyone know that Taco Bell had a promotion: Steal a Base, Steal a Taco for every stolen base. So next Tuesday, we can go to Taco Bell for a free taco. They even interviewed Taco Bell president Greg Creed who personally invited everyone to go to Taco Bell to get their free taco!
When I was growing up, in an age before everyone tried to be politically correct, everyone told ethnic jokes. They were always insulting and mean-spirited to the whatever group was targeted. Sure, some people were offended by these jokes, which only led to them being the target of more ethnic jokes. However, these jokes also brought a lot of joy and laughter among friends. For example, I worked in a peanut butter factory, named Derby Foods, with the ethnic groups who lived in Back of the Yards. In general, we all got along together very well. Shirley, one of my Polish coworkers, loved to hear any kind of joke because she loved to laugh. Her real name was Ursula, but she preferred to be called Shirley. Anyway, she especially loved to hear Polish jokes. She always insisted that I tell her any new Polish joke that I heard. And when I didn’t learn any new jokes, she insisted that I retell her the old ones. Whenever I told her Mexican jokes, she told me she liked the Polish ones better. In this age of political correctness, I will not tell any Polish jokes lest I offend anyone. But, I suppose it would be okay if I told some of the Mexican jokes that I still remember. I’m not doing this to propagate any negative stereotypes about Mexicans, but merely as a scientific exercise to preserve our humorous past. Now, I’m not saying that these jokes are actually funny anymore, but once upon a time, people actually laughed at these jokes. Some of them are actually quite dated. Okay, you have been forewarned!
Why can’t Mexicans be fireman? They don’t know the difference between José and Hose B.
Mexican weather report: Chili today. Hot tamale.
Why do Mexicans wear pointy shoes? To kill cockroaches in the corner.
What is the name of the Mexican telephone company? Taco Bell.
Why don’t Mexicans have barbecues? The beans keep falling through the grille.
How can you tell if you’re at a Mexican birthday party? There are more adults than children.
What do you call a Mexican basketball game? Juan on Juan.
What do you get when you cross a Mexican with an octopus? I don’t know, but boy can it pick lettuce!
Why doesn’t Mexico have an Olympic team? Because every Mexican who can run, jump, or swim is already in the U.S.
What do you call a Mexican in a BMW? A valet.
Upon further reflection, I retract the above listed jokes because they are in extremely bad taste. With apologies to Ursula, I mean, Shirley!
Americans take English for granted. They also accept all foreign borrowings into the English language without any qualms, which is the reason that English has the largest vocabulary of any language on Earth. There are many words of Spanish origin and actual Spanish words in our English vocabulary and everyone uses them without realizing it.
For example, on the news they’ll talk of military juntas. For years, people have been going to rodeos and watching cowboys lasso calves. Let’s not forget about the countless times we went to the plaza with gusto. Of course, many people eat tortilla chips with salsa. Let’s not forget about our famous politicians who use Spanish phrases to court the Hispanic vote. President Bush has said good-bye by saying, “¡Adiós, amigos!” and Arnold Schwarzenegger by saying, “¡Hasta la vista, baby!” In the office, we occasionally need something done ASAP! But sometimes, we need it “¡Pronto!”
Those tasty avocados come from the Aztec word for testicles. I hope I didn’t cause you to drop your tortilla chip full of guacamole! That reminds me. When we’re hungry, we often eat tacos, tamales, quesadillas, bocadas, and eat flan for dessert. When someone asks you a stupid question, you may say, “Does chili come with con carne?” Sometimes we want to be moderate and not go all the way, but other times we want the whole enchilada! If we really love something, we become an aficionado of the thing we truly love. Occasionally, we stray from the path to eternal salvation and commit pecadilloes. And if anyone disagrees with me about these words of Spanish origin, I will take you on mano a mano. Because I know how to take care of número uno! Sayonara!
Hot dogs, chop suey, pizza, and burritos. What do all of these apparently different ethnic foods have in common? They are all American foods! As American as Mom, apple pie, and the Fourth of July. And while we’re on the topic of American foods: just how Italian is spaghetti? Marco Polo brought the noodles to Italy from China and there were no tomatoes in the tomato sauce until Columbus sailed to the New World.
My friend once returned from a vacation to Mexico and complained to me that Mexican restaurants in Mexico didn’t sell burritos. “I thought burritos were Mexican food!” he complained. Actually, burritos are just another American popular fast food that you can order to go and eat while you drive. Because real Mexican food is extremely messy to eat and must be eaten with your fingers at a table. Just try to imagine someone attempting to eat a chicken tostada while driving. It’s not a pretty sight, is it? By the way, if you ask for a burrito in Mexico, you will get some strange looks. A “burrito” is a small donkey and they’ll wonder what you plan on doing to that burrito. My point is that you won’t get a burrito in Mexico. So don’t order a burrito unless you really want a small donkey.
When I teach my college Spanish classes, students are amazed by the photograph of the Mexican dinner table in the Spanish textbook. They are shocked! “Where is the basket of tortilla chips?” they ask. Well, mis amigos, you will only see a basket of tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant in the U.S. The last time I went to Mexico to visit mi familia, no one ate tortilla chips, Tostitos, Fritos, or Doritos! When mi familia visits me from Mexico, I never say, “You must be hungry for some real Mexican food. Let’s go to Taco Bell!” Because Taco Bell does not really sell Mexican food. However, Taco Bell has opened restaurants in Mexico and is planning on expanding there. I just wonder if they claim to sell authentic Mexican food in Mexico?