¡ASK A MEXICAN!
Published: September 14, 2011
Dear Mexican: I live in Upstate New York (that’s any part of the state north of the city, for you West Coasters), and while we have a relatively small Mexican population, we have a large number of Puerto Ricans, especially in the community I live in. Here’s my question: a number of times I’ve overheard my PR friends accuse each other of being “lazy Mexicans” as a good-humored insult. I’m wondering if on the West Coast, where I expect that there are more Mexicans than Puerto Ricans, if you ever accuse each other of being “lazy Puerto Ricans?” I’ve asked my PR friends this question, but they think it’s crazy. I’m of Irish heritage, and I was surprised one day to find out that all of the Polish jokes I grew up with were Irish jokes in England. I’m curious if maybe it’s the same thing here. Basically, I see my friends as being Latino, and they don’t have a problem with that until someone calls them a Mexican. Kind of like someone saying I’m Irish, but accusing me of being Protestant when I’m Catholic.
— Son of Erin
Dear Mick: Ah, another opportunity to trot out my all-time favorite joke: Why aren’t there any Puerto Ricans on Star Trek? Because they don’t work in the future, either. Silly chiste, but that’s the point. As brilliantly put forth by Christie Davies in his examination of ethnic humor, The Mirth of Nations, mere jokes by one ethnic group against another signifies latent hostility toward the joked-upon, but nothing serious. Ethnic insults, on the other hand, suggest a deeper-rooted hatred between the groups. In other words, Mexicans don’t really care about Puerto Ricans, because we always kick their ass in boxing and aren’t as colonized as boricuas, so any tweaking of them is relegated to jokes — and even then, I can’t think of a single Puerto Rican joke with roots in Mexico. But Puerto Ricans throwing around slurs like “lazy Mexicans” show they’re as American as they come, because while Mexican jokes do exist in the American humor realm, bona fide slurs — wetback, chili belly, taco bender, wab, and many, many more — are as numerous as beans in a burrito. “The number and nature of nicknames, and particularly derogatory nicknames for particular ethnic groups in America,” wrote Davies, “is a reflection of the strengths of the ethnic conflicts in which they have been involved and the kinds of ill-feeling that such conflicts generate.” Diós bless America!
My fiancé and I were debating this the other night: where did the idea of La Matanzas come from? How did they start? I’m of the belief that they were to provide food for an entire village during long, hard winters and have become a reason to party outside in the middle of winter. He says he doesn’t think so. He said they are probably a local thing (we’re from New Mexico) and other self-respecting Mexicans would never have fiestas like this. Can you clarify?
> Email Gustavo Arellano