Muchas, muchas responses to my March 7 column asking whether I should keep this column's gold-toothed, mustachioed, sombrero-wearing fat Mexican logo and what should I name him. The overwhelming majority of ustedes support amnesty for the wab, but a few folks also made articulate arguments in favor of deportation. Following are pro and con letters from gabachos and wabs alike:
I don't think I'll ever stop hating that image because it makes me think of the countless times I have to counter ignorance and explain and be the voice of brown gente to people who somehow don't get it. On the other hand, well, because you keep this image in my face, you're making me understand that it represents what it actually is: a stereotype of our people made up by people who don't understand our cultura, our raza. And while I may not like it, it is a reality. So I've come to embrace this phony image. It's true that we give it the power it has over some of us. And because I know that, I can't let it get to me or have influence on me. I think this logo is more than appropriate for what it's being used for. You have the power to use humor to educate in such an artistic way that few can get away with. This logo exemplifies exactly what you're trying to do: break through to people who are trying to get it. And for this, I thank you. Let 'em rip.
La Que Sí Sabe
Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. When I lived in San Antonio, I had a T-shirt of Speedy Gonzalez that featured his friendly image. A couple of whacked-out Chicanos told me at an art opening one night, "That shirt is racist." I replied, "Speedy is kind, helpful, smart, energetic, and he always wins. Shit, you guys are right. He ain't a Mexican at all." Fortunately, their switchblades jammed as I did an impersonation of Speedy...¡andele andele!
"Fag," "nigger," and "wetback" have been used in rap and comedy for nearly 20 years. Yet still today, when Ann Coulter uses fag, when Isaiah Washington uses "fag," when Michael Richards uses "nigger"—despite the repetition of these terms, they still sting and are used primarily as insults. What makes us think that using an old stereotype of the drunk, gap-toothed Mexican is going to erase its history and use as a negative? It's not going to happen. These racist terms and images were made for racists to use as racial slurs. To think we have the power to change one word's or image's meaning by using it is unrealistic. WE need to come up with new terms and images that will destroy the old racist ones. For example: "wetback" or "illegal alien" should now be "nuevo pioneers." As Audre Lorde said: We cannot dismantle the master's house using the master's tools. Let start making some new tools, words, and images, ¿simón ese?
Professor of Chicano Studies, Cal State University, Northridge
As for naming the Mexican, the following Denverite put it best:
Whatever we name the Mexican, it won't matter because everyone will call him Chuy.
Gracias to everyone who offered feedback. More responses, critiques, and suggestions are printed below, in no particular order, sense, or rhythm.
I've been around a long time, managed to laugh at Speedy Gonzalez and José Jimenez, could have cared less about the Frito Bandito, and couldn't understand the flap over the Taco Bell Chihuahua, even though it was led by my good friend Mario Obledo. I looked forward to I Love Lucy because Ricky Ricardo had an accent. I loved the Cisco Kid and Pancho too. They were my childhood heroes. They looked and acted a little like me and my family too. I grew up being called a Mexican as if it was a bad thing, a Chicano as if it was a good or bad thing, a Hispanic as if it was a condescending thing, a greaser as if it was a dirty thing, a beaner as if it was a smelly thing, a Mexican-American as if it was an inclusive thing, a spic as if it was a despicable thing, a wetback as if I didn't belong. I was called: cabrón, guay, mijo, pendejo, Viejo, Chulo, Feo, Vendido, Indio, Don y Doctor by my Spanish-speaking friends. The stuff that bothered me? I got over it. I learned to chalk the insults up to ignorance and racism and not stoop to their level. Me, I don't need thought police telling me, or anyone else what to think, how to respond to images, or what images I can use.
¿Sabes Qué? I don't care what picture you use. It cannot insult me or mi raza. People are going to think what they choose to think of me and you, all of us, in accordance with their own frame of reference, no matter what image you try to present. I am proud of the Mexican bandidos like Pancho Villa, who have been similarly characterized. I loved those guys in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre who told Bogie, "Badges!? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!" You know what? You or I don't need no stinkin' badges either. Use whatever pinche cartoon you want, ese. Tell the intellectuals and the homeboys alike: Be all you can be, not what someone else decides is more acceptable.
Me gusta mucho el retrato de tu papá. Me pone risa y me da vergüenza los dos al mismo tiempo. Creo que tienes razón en usarlo. El Viejo atrae la atención de gente mientras tus palabras destruyan los estereotipos negativos. Sigue tu trabajo bueno, eres mi mexicano preferido, aunque todavía no eres guatemalteco. Creo que su nombre debería ser Paco
A few of us here in Tucson are quite fond of the equestrian statue of the "overweight dirty revolutionary," given to us by the (usually) friendly gobierno of Mexico. It seems an appropriate counterweight to that statue on the other side given to the nation by the (usually) gabacho gouvernement of France. Still, calling the logo Pancho would be too trite. How about "papi huitlacoche" for his leer like a cob of maiz with a rotten kernel?
Ol' Pueblo Cocinero
Profe: I see your point, but I also see Tavo's motivation for the logo. The question is, how high does Tavo want to take this column? If Tavo expects a respected or mainstream magazine/newspaper to pick it up with that logo, it's not going to happen. Personally, I don't want him to sell out. I like the fat, lazy, greedy, happy Mexican logo. I know it's not true. Every true Mexican know it's not true. It's perfect example showing these gabachos that they took our land, they took our women, but they will never take our humor. Viva la Raza!!!
I Love the Logo
Name the fucker Jesus. But being Mexican, he'd require a full name: first, middle, father's family name, and mother's family name. How about Jesus de Guadalupe Anacleta Sanchez? It would be very much in keeping with what I perceive as the spirit of your column, and best of all, it would REALLY piss off a lot of gabacho evangelicals. Who knows, maybe one of these days we'll see Jesus making an occasional appearance on the random tortilla, sandwich, or oil-stained driveway.
I think you should keep the picture, since the questions are very playful, much like the picture. Being a Mexican myself, I don't find it offensive. On the contrary, I like it. It sort of deceives first-time readers, how when they read the oftentimes simple-minded question and then BAM are hit with your intelligent answers...it's great
I'm a gabacho pendejo living in Darkest Alaska. Not only that, but I'm a pale-skinned green-eyed natural blonde of Irish and Scots-Irish descent. As this past weekend wraps up, with my kinsmen and kinswomen celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I say there's a strange power that comes from embracing and celebrating silly stereotypes, whether it's wearing green plastic derbies and drinking Guinness Stout, or posting a picture of a bandito at the head of your advice column. I say keep the bandit, if for no other reason than to annoy the twits and the terminally earnest among us. If we can sell candied cereal with a leprechaun on the box as Lucky Charms, and it doesn't bother the English professors at community colleges around the nation as yet another egregious example of ethnic stereotyping, you can have your bandito.
Please change it! Your argument that the logo is a "portrait of your father," is weak—unless, of course, your father was a cartoon character. The current logo is the Mexican equivalent of Little Black Sambo. History, eventually, will look back on the current logo like Amos and Andy posters—with disappointment and shame. Although your intention to "lessen the sting" of images such as these is admirable, your efforts fall wildly short of the goal. I assume that the majority of your wab readership will vote to keep it. Those same cabrones don't see what's wrong with the Cleveland Indians logo, the Washington Redskins, or, for that matter, Little Black Sambo. I say you hold a logo-designing contest. The logo should say what your article really is, carnal. Something like: "I'm a Mexican, and I'm here to answer your questions regarding other Mexicans." Like an informal cultural consulate or ambassador. A helping hand. Not a clown.
Change Is Good
The logo reminds me of an "Uncle Sam Wants You" poster but for Mexicans. Most Mexicans don't take offense to these type of things or don't see it in any kind of negative way. The only thing I thought was, "Damn, if I keep eating all these tortas I will look like that fucking cartoon." What the hell does that Profe want, a Che Guevara–looking logo? Fuck Che, and all of the pendejos who are down with communism but support capitalism by buying those dumb-ass shirts at the mall. Profesor de Yuma should watch some sexicomedias and read some "Condorito" comics and chill.
I, too, found your articles through the advent of high technology, and would like to give you my two peso's regarding your papi's very nice disposition. The portrait of your papi is very becoming; it has bling, which is not only important, factual, and impressive, but it is the most practical way to hide tooth decay. I feel his name must be Paco. And it is very obvious that he has recently overheard some very important news! And he is here to share it with the world. So I say, let it be, as it is a great representation of the stereotyping that has long since hampered relations between white American males and the handsome Latino community. However, it will continue to have no effect on the relationships and wife-swapping activities of the Salt Lake City, Utah, females and their insatiable appetite for the dark meat.
Well, I think you're a genius for coming up with this logo, stereotype or not, and it does make me laugh! You should keep it. Why not use a stereotype name such as Pancho or Pablo?
Your logo doesn't make me laugh, it doesn't make me cry. It saddens me. You're far from being a "genius" for printing it. I think you're a fool. Your silly column with its absurd logo serves no other purpose but to perpetuate bigotry and hatred.
Pure genius! I love the column's logo—keep it. It's part of our culture to make fun of ourselves. People already have a misinterpretation of Mexicans embedded in their mind, why not embrace it and turn it into something positive. The way I see it, yes, my ancestors picked fruit and had to wear sombreros to keep the sun out of their eyes; yes, we are overweight because our mamas cook with manteca; yes, this is a representation of who I am, or at least a reminder of what I came from. I don't see why that's such a bad thing. When I look at that logo, I see a hardworking, struggling individual who is happy, not for what he has or looks like, but for the joy and simplicity of being someone, even if Profe thinks the logo is just some dirty wab. Besides, the logo reminds me of my late great abuelito Pancho. Let's name the logo Don Francisco Villasenor.
A few years ago, I was working for a small Mexican owned architecture firm in downtown Los Angeles. The firm partners included one Honduran, one Mexican-American, and one gay gringo from Minnesota. (I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it's true.) This firm is the only architecture office in the entire U.S. that honors César Chávez Day as a holiday. So I figured these guys would be pretty hip to appreciate the ¡Ask a Mexican! humor. I put up an enlarged copy of your ¡Ask A Mexican! logo on the office refrigerator door. I then got comments similar to the ones you get about how insulting the image is. One of the architects on staff is a 65-year-old veteran of the Chicano experience during the 1960s in East L.A. He took dead serious umbrage at the image. A few other younger staffers, Berkeley, UCLA Mechista types, also took insult by the image. I had to defend the logo, saying that in fact the caricature is a spitting image of one of my uncles from Mexico, who always believed that he was born 30 years too late, since he would have been a dead ringer for one of Pancho Villa's soldados. Worst still, the image actually looked like one of the firm partners, the Honduran guy, who grew up in the Pico-Union area of L.A. and loves Mexican burritos. He's a big guy. I still believe this image is pure genius. The image distills the worst stereotypes of a lazy Mexican bandido as viewed by the gringo, which is why it is offensive to some Chicanos. To those with ties to the homeland south of the border, who cringe with horror while we listen to Villaraigosa or Huizar butcher Castilian Spanish, we can appreciate the humor. The ¡Ask A Mexican! image reminds us of our fathers, uncles, cousins, or benignly corrupt happy politicians from our small towns where we all come from (me, from a small town in Los Altos de Jalisco). I would say that if a crime was committed in that small town and you walked in with the ¡Ask a Mexican! logo, at least 30 men could easily fit the profile. I would bet a carreta load of tequila that all these men would not be offended, either, and would probably be honored that their likeness is viewed by thousands of Internet readers worldwide. So depending what kind of Mexican one is, a born and bred U.S. one or one that was sneaked in across the border inside a large canasta of pan dulce when he was 4 years old in 1968 (Border Patrol agent: "That's a lot of pan dulce"; my dad: "Sí, señor, I have a big family to feed"), you would certainly get different reactions to the logo.
El Rayo de Jalisco
Keep the drawing—he looks like my gardener. His name is Antonio, so your character should also be Antonio. (BTW, Antonio is actually a tycoon here in the barrio—he owns several properties here and in his dirt!)
KEEP THE MEXICAN AS IS! The only way you could defile your work is to bow to the politically correct. I'm only sorry the Profe wasn't more upset.
Don't get rid of my tio. or should I say tios! I've got so many familia that look like the bandito that it's ridiculous! Even some of my cousins are starting to look like your logo también. As for names: Tio Tito, Beto, or Julio Iglesias (older one, since the real Julio looks like a really tanned gabacho from Miami...).
Let me tell you that the logo of your stereotypical father is priceless! Even some of my teenage esquintles wanted to steal him for their Spanish-class' T-shirt. I say go ahead and appear to be a stereotype—you know, like a blond cheerleader, or a nerd, or idiot, or lo que sea—and then, bam! You act up and kill the icon with your actions and intellect and whim. I had a teacher who taught feminist women's history and literature, and she looked like a Latina Betty Boop. BAM!
Coño, that's your papi? Then you must be related to Cheech Marin...because if that's not him in the drawing, it has to be his twin bro. If you are going to name him, I'll vote for El Chulo because the look on him seems to be saying, "Ay mi chulita como me vas a negar un cariñito" or El Chulo de Putas for the same reason. Como siempre, continua entreteniendo a las masas y educando a los ignorantes.
The cartoon? Who cares. . . . No matter what you pick, someone will hate it. But...what's with the sexist angle? Why not include cartoons of hot Mexican chicas, or mariposos guapos, or tortilleras? Or draw the lovely Mexican family all Americans think we come from. With the wab dad, the saintly mother, the hot sister, and the mariposo brother. The name? Mariano Azuela, in Los de Abajo, named every third-rate character (that is, truly los de abajo) Juan and María, to highlight both the anonymity and the common nature of los de abajo. (I think all this is right, but it's been 20 years....) I think you should resurrect that idea (and make yourself sound smarter by referring to Azuela) by naming the happy wab José or Juan, of course. Jesús would work, too, but the gabachos might not find it as amusing as the vatos. And for the women in the (future) cartoons? María, naturally.
Gerardo, Un Mariposo Más
Honestly, Mr. Mexican, when I first saw the picture, I laughed in an "Oh, no, he didn't really, did he?" sorta way. It seems like it could be very insulting. I am not Latina (that I know of), but I do share in the realm of being a mujer de color, thus in la historia of insulting archetypes. But on the other hand, este dibujo has been out there a long time, and you are a Mexican, so I guess it's one of those "I'm that, so I can do what I want with that." You take your chances. If you haven't received complaints 'til now...I guess the readers don't have too much of a problem with it, no?
Your Neighborhood Black/White
DO NOT GET RID OF YOUR PAPA LOGO! It will be an injustice to mankind.
Keep the logo. The illustration represents a happy-go-lucky guy who just might rip you off given the opportunity. I am not good with names, but I will suggest El Pappacita!
Growing up gringa in the orangest depths of Orange County (i.e., the City of Orange)—not far from the Plaza, not the Circle—I was surrounded by grown-ups who viewed Mexicans as wetbacks, day laborers, and Frito Banditos. With that in mind, your little comic avatar is just el hombre for este column—or, to quote a mantra from my childhood, he's "practically perfect in every way." So I say he stays, and we should call him Norm for Never Obfuscate Raunchy Mexicans.
Let's Abolish Dickheaded Yahoos
His name is definitely Pancho. How much more Mexican can you get than that...he even looks like a Pancho. As for how it makes me feel...it's a very stereotypical drawing, but you're right: This is how gabachos (and possibly other cultures) see us. Let's use it, and embrace it, because we know we don't look like that, and that is all that matters. So let's laugh at ourselves and use the logo with pride.
Do NOT get rid of your logo. He's beautiful. Only uptight liberal gabachos and loudmouth MEChA members would be offended by him. You should call him what he is: PAPI CHULO.
Puro Pocho de Sacramento
I would have to agree with El Profe on his plegaria for you to stop using the logo you currently have for your column. I completely understand that it represents your dad, and I give you a high five for bringing one of the most important things in a mexicano's life (the parents) into your world-famous column. But here's my point of view: If you will add a little to the image of your father and make it cartoonish, why not change it a little in the opposite way, in a way that is going to make him look cleaner and more handsome. Make him look like you actually respect and love him. Maybe you'll get more gabachas to fall for the Mex-lover, that could even help the rest of us mexicanos out.
I'm pretty tired of people thinking that the mexicano is this lazy, dirty person whose first nature is to fight. I do believe that it's been hard to make it where we are today, and yes, revolution and revolutionaries are part of our culture and history. But times have changed. I, and many people I know, fight the current-day revolution with weapons other than guns. We use books, computers, cell phones, but most of all, we use the brains and knowledge we've been able to gain through our hard work in school and in the workforce preparing ourselves to fight the current-day revolution. Is the image funny?? Yes! When you see it, does it bring your mind to think of a Mexican? Yes! Do the people who don't know any better think all mexicanos are "overweight, dirty revolutionaries"? I believe so. Can you and/or your team of experts in advertising come up with a logo that talks better about the honest, trustworthy, hardworking Mexicans who live and struggle here in the U.S. and Mexico? I'm most sure it can happen! Please take this into consideration, and help us out, don't knock us down.
Keep the portrait...it attracts readers like nothing else would. Name? I'll say it HAS to be Pancho...or Paco or Sanchez I love it! The people who seem to be most offended by it are white guilt-ridden liberals and the militant separatist Chicano types who are looking for any excuse to display their fake manufactured outrage.
KEEP THE LOGO!!!
Okay, you wanted opinions. Here's mine. I recognized from the start your purpose in using the dirty, overweight, bandito as the column's logo. It does, as you say, over time take the sting out of the stereotype. It's integral to the column and is serving its purpose, so leave it be. As for his name? "Pancho," of course !!!
Gabacho in Place
Please, don't get rid of your papi. Here's some name ideas to give nuestro amigo:
Jose—conjures up mucho. Jose Cuervo, Jose & Jos"B," [Hoser], Jose Can You See?!?! (I hear it sung at the ballpark before every baseball game—I'm sure Jose doesn't have a very good seat), Jose and the PussyCats.
Manuel—manual labor. One thing us gringitos do not appreciate—when we need to do it. We pay mojaditos chump change to do that and then complain that they're here in our country.
Roberto—drop the "O" and you're no longer a wetback!
Federico—my ex-brother-in-law. Who was a pinche culero. No, let's drop that one. California-born Mexican-Americans don't count.
Naco—too occupied making money to go to school and learn something.
Zumbo—damn! Mexicans make some god awfully great tequila!
Since you are asking your readers to suggest a new logo for your column, here's mine. Salma Hayek. Yes, she looks nothing like you, but I suspect your current logo doesn't look like you either. Readership on your column would go through the roof!
It's pretty funny but at the same time el profe tiene razón. It's like an African American using those racist Memím Pingüín images. Still, it doesn't help our cause. Who knows? I'm just a Mexican.
I question your logic in, for lack of a better word, "owning" a derogatory stereotype. Has African Americans' use (overuse?) of "nigger" lessened the power of that word to hurt or enrage? I appreciate the juxtaposition of the overused, stereotypical image paired side by side with your witty, biting, and often erudite responses. Still, I get the feeling that I'm not the one who needs to get it. Regardless of how well you write or how thoughtful your responses, some who come across your image likely will just have their biases reinforced—"Hah. Stupid Spic, probably just writing about how gringos are bad, Mexican men are hung like ponies, and all Mexican women are good in bed." There's always going to be a Minuteman jackass out there pissed off because he's sure you're taking 7 cents per word and screwing a white writer out of a 10-cent-per-word job, and that image will be the one he holds on to as representative of all Mexicans. Then again, close-minded jackasses will think what they want to think, regardless of the art you choose for your column. I guess it comes down to: your column, your rules.
I don't know why, but I have always called him Don Pancho. Maybe it is because he reminds me of a bastardized version of Don Francisco—who, with his nicely coiffed hair and three-piece suits, offers a more contemporary representation of the Mexican hombre. I have always found the logo offensive, inappropriate, and hilarious. It is, for all intents and purposes, ironic use of a stereotype. The dreaded "S" word applies to general characteristics, and this one is completely outdated. Your wettest of the wetbacks would never try to look so wabby, with the exception of the mustache and gold tooth, that's just estilo! It is important to point out the image does not work alone. Coupled with the column, it challenges our perceptions, and we begin to realize that the logo is there for irony, but not without some truth; after all, the column is about explaining Mexican behaviors. The text completely challenges what the image represents and subverts its power as a stereotype. If the Profe thinks that the image diminishes the work, then he has clearly missed the point of the column. But what do I know, I'm just a Mexican.
Shame to El Profe de Yuma for not recognizing an artistic gem. I fell in love with this column a few weeks ago, and the illustration of your papi is a very flavorful way to introduce it. As for a name, why not simply "Papi"? If that is what the portrait is, no more and no less, then let's name it such. May he be forever embedded in the minds and hearts of your readers, and yourself with him.
In the same way that I have found Mexico and Mexicans to be deserving of my respect, so have I found the image of the broad-brimmed-hat figure sleeping under a cactus offensive. I think, as well, that portraying a person from Mexico as a fat-faced grinning figure does dishonor to Mexico and Mexicans. How about using an image of a family in your column? Or a group of children? Or grandparents? After all, family is the most important aspect of Mexico that challenges all the self-important promoters of "family values" among hateful conservatives in the U.S. Mexico represents family and community in ways that many folks in the U.S. cannot comprehend. Te felicito por tu intento de socavar los estereotipos y suminsitrar información verídica acerca de lo que es el verdadero México. Eapero que mi comentario sirva para mejorar tu labor.
I think the picture is perfect. The name should be El Guapo. Why? Because I am El Guapo in my office. (Three Amigos character). And he looks like me, muy chulo.
I, too, enjoy reading your column, but to echo El Profe from Yuma's comment, your present logo does present our culture in a...somewhat less than attractive form. I'm putting it mildly, because, as a paisano (de Michoacan), I grew up reading some of the typical Mexican comics—Memin Pinguin, Borolas, and such—and I understand what you are trying to convey. But some of your local readers might not relate to it in the same manner, or even see any humor in it—or worse, if viewed by someone with an already discriminatory attitude towards Mexicans. Rather than using your papa's caricature, why don't you just post a photo of yourself, like most columnists do? You most probably look ethnic enough...to achieve the desired effect! (smile)
I enjoy your humor. My suggestion for name the logo is " Tortilla Fats," muy gracias.
Your column's mascot has my vote. As you stated yourself, being Latino and using it drains its racist power. African Americans strive to do the same thing with the "N" word, and though it is still not wholly benign (and probably never will be), the epithet's many years of circulation in the community has markedly weakened its impact as a racial slur. Of course, no matter how successfully these insults are co-opted by their erstwhile targets, their ugly history must never be forgotten. OK, that's enough sociological analysis! Call me a fake or tell me I am in denial, but my first impression of the cartoon honestly was not "fat, dirty Mexican." I perceived a friendly guy beaming over his love of life—and perhaps a shot or two of mezcal. He embodies the clichéd infectious smile, with the disarming touch of a single gold tooth. To me, he looks like a grandfather or uncle who has just caught a glimpse of children unawares at play. That leads me to my suggestion for your logo's name. I think Tío César (as in Chávez) would be a perfect name. I know this is a caricature of your father, but Padre sounds intimidating, and Papá only works in North America when followed by "Bear"; or, in this case, Oso. Tío is a nice term of endearment for any male elder—blood relative or not—and as you know, César Chávez was a contemporary revolutionary. Good luck!
Aliada Judía de La Raza
This gabacho insists you keep the logo. The contrast between the image and your writing is what caught my eye and made me an immediate fan. As a frequent reader, I think I can speak for other intelligent knowledge-seeking gabachos when I say, "We get it." Any risk of perpetuating a stereotype is certainly worth it, considering how many readers like myself have been attracted to and enlightened by your column. P.S. If it's truly a drawing of your papi, I would think it a dishonor to give him any other name.
Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those of you who do submit questions: They will be edited for clarity, cabrones. And include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we'll make one up for you! También, a glossary deciphering some of the Mexican's more popular catchphrases can be found at www.seattleweekly.com.