by Rudy Ch. Garcia
Since every Tomás, dick and harried--mexicanos, gabachos, racistas, pochos, and quién-sabe-qué--are always asking Gustavo Arellano questions that he answers in his distinguished column Ask a Mexican, I decided to try one. And, qué milagro!--he answered mine this past Thursday.
Pero había un problema--something I didn't anticipate. Seems that written words can be a fickle thing. Or maybe it's that writers are fickle things. Or maybe it was just that my question-writing was somewhat vague. In any event, The Mexican Arellano addressed his response to me with a, "Dear Gabacho." Last time I looked--right after I showered--I was nowhere near being gabacho, but that's how he addressed me.
So, to determine how sorry the text of my question actually was, I also sent it to a few Chicanos I know to see how their answers compared to Arellano's. I told them it was a challenge, and three took the bait. First below is my question and then Gustavo's answer. That's followed by three others who answered the challenge. Hopefully Arellano won't turn a deaf ear to my next one after he reads this, something I'm already thinking about.
This appeared in the OC Weekly on Thursday and is reprinted with Arellano's permission:
DEAR MEXICAN, Cada día, my perro Manchas and I go for an afternoon walk in this North Denver parque. We often pass the gringo gentry who are temporarily "improving" the neighborhood, as an investment. You know how the gentry are—they move into the barrio, but send their precious güeritos to the charter schools so they won't get piojos from our kids or wind up pregnant with half-brown babies.
Anyway, I swear, every time Manchas and I pass one of these purebred, hyper-trained gentry dogs, the owners pull their pinches perros away from mine so they can't sniff cola or . . . you know. I guess my question is: How can the gentry know that Manchas is Spanish-surnamed, bilingual and mestizo, since they've never even talked to us? And is there anything I can do so Manchas doesn't grow up with a pocho complex and think he's inferior to a gringo's dog?
Yankee Hipsters Go home! [not my original closing--swear!]
Gotta pay our respect to our veteranos—they can ramble as awesomely as any gabacho at a retirement home! I think what you're complaining about is the gentrification of historically Mexican neighborhoods by hipsters, a phenomenon happening everywhere from Denver to Los Angeles, SanTana to Chicago and beyond. It's important to fight the encroachment of pendejos with no ties to the area who start demanding changes—get rid of quinceañera shops, crowing roosters, cars parked on lawns, or corn grown in the back yard and nopales in the front.
At the mismo time, though, raza really angry with gentrification should practice gente-fication, the process of young locals getting over their pocho complex and opening their own businesses to pump enough money back into the area so city bureaucrats don't have any excuse to use the ruse of redevelopment on raza. Think of that strategy as our economic Mexican-American War—and if there are hipsters who are respectful of the old guard, such as the San Patricios that joined our side against the invading Yankees so long ago, then I say embrace their ranks, pound a PBR with them and teach them the secrets of scaring insufferable hipsters away from the barrio by blasting Banda El Recodo at all hours of the noche.
Okay, so Arellano thought I was not so bronze and a rambling old fart; I can live with that. He might have guessed that from my La Bloga pic, a self-portrait, one of those attempts at art attempting to mimic life, and maybe I don't mimic so well. 'Tá bien.
Next, Michael Sedano, La Bloga's Tuesday contributor answered my same question. "Ask a Chicano" contestó:
"Orale, carnal. First off you have to drop the language of the oppressor. "Gentry"? Híjole, as if your worldview buys into their class systems. "Gentry," so what are your gente, chopped liver? Another thing, oh my droog--why do you want them to talk to you? If it's their women who ignore you, la cultura has the ways and the means: work on your piropos. "As for the question of your dog, it's not the amount of pocho in the dog but the dog in the pocho.
Then comes Ernest Hogan, Wednesday's La Bloga contributor and sci-fi author:
"Okay, here's for the AskAMexican Challenge:
We used to have a lot of poodles and such in my neighborhood. They seem to be moving out, along with their “traditional” Arizona owners. Their grandmothers are afraid to walk the streets after dark, which is muy raro, because it's one of the quietest places I've ever lived. Yeah, there's this vato who wears a Santo T-shirt when he walks his pit bull. Man and beast strut with pride. I recommend that. Maybe sing or whistle an old ranchera, but no narcocorridos. I would stop short of a program of intimidation. I'm careful where I wear my ¡VIVA MÉXICO, CABRÓNES! shirt.
"Besides the canine mestizos--we adopted one who was abandoned by someone who felt they had to move out fast--it's mostly either pit bulls or Chihuahuas around here. And the Chihuahuas are taking over. The City of Glendale is even offering a deal on the license fees for the perrititos. This Chihuahua encouragement makes me nervous. I sense a diabolical ethnic-cleansing plot. But, then maybe I've lived in Arizona too long.
Ay, ay, ay,
'N [aka Ernesto Hogan]
Last comes an answer from a Houston Chicano, entitled, Gentle with the Gentry:
"Well, it didn't help things that you gave your perro a Spanish name, Manchas. That's a dead giveaway. The Gentry are always suspicious and full of trickery--they wrote the book. Your history tells you that it started with Columbus, the other immigrants, and has never stopped. They came, made new rules and took the land. Urban gentry is just a smaller scale of it.
"Had you named you're dog Fido or Pluto or Snoopy or some other distinctly white dog name, perhaps you would have been received with half-open arms in your own barrio. The whole idea with being white is money related. Move into a poor neighborhood, fix up the old house, declare it historic and increase its value to sell it for a profit. But the Gentry have more elaborate tricks like hold on to the house, live there for two years and move on, getting a great tax break and thus more profit.
"Anyway, back to Manchas. Dogs don't know more than what you teach them, but they do have instinct. A dog is already bilingual. They speak "dog" and then they speak the basic language the owner teaches them. This all goes way back before civil rights and equality stuff. And the dogs don't care. When a dog is chasing a burglar, the burglar does care what language the dog speaks or understands. And dogs have a more effective way of communicating, thus the saying, "His bite is much more worse than his bark." So, a gentry person can sit there and talk to your dog but no matter if they speak in English or Spanish, the dog only obeys you and the words that come from your mouth.
"When the gentry sees a Chicano with a pure-bred, they are in cultural shock, wondering, "Why don't this vato have a Chihuahua?" Now you are imitating them, meaning you're keeping up with or outdoing the Jones. You've assimilated too well in their eyes. Besides, their dogs don't even like them. A dog is nothing but an extension of their insecurity. It's a status symbol, meaning they care, but then there's the dog side. Imagine being left at home indoors alone all day, not being able to go do your dog do-do, not having children around, having to bathe and smell like a human That's a lot of dog stress.
"So dogs will snarl, and bark and chase each other. That's natural among all species. And they either will or will not get along. But they don't plot and connive like Gringos or Gentry. The exception to this is if the owner specifically teaches the dog to hate and attack. But this is a whole 'nother area of dog psychiatry and therapy.
I did like Arellano's answer, as far as he elaborated on Gente-fication, the only problem being that our combined Gente financial base gets drowned under the development money that builds Gentry bars, eateries and mota shops.
Anyway, after these four different takes on my question, I doubt there's any great lessons to be learned, other than maybe I shouldn't ask strange questions in my strange way. However, I will be more careful on how I phrase whatever future questions I do have. And, I know I won't get a Chihuahua, except maybe to vary my dog's diet. But if any readers out there have better takes on what transpired above, please leave comments.