By Amy Cazares
1. They Don’t Speak English
For real. Anyone who has studied the English language knows there are a billion ways to say “the cheese is old and moldy”, and only one certified prick English teacher to tell you how many ways you can say the same thing and still produce different meanings. You try changing that shit into Spanish and it just doesn’t translate. It just doesn’t. That’s because Spanish is a romance language and there is nothing romantic about old and moldy cheese.
There’s no way to produce the same kind of faceless, vague, and cynical English humor in a language that is more direct with the flowing verbs and rhythmic nouns of Spanish. Doesn’t give a classless, crass person a whole lot of space for ambiguity or suggestive bully-ing because you have to take responsibility for what you’re saying when you say it in Spanish. French, too. In fact, probably all other languages that are not English.
2. They Know How To Laugh At Their Own Expense.
In fact, they take pride in being able to laugh at their own follies because they know how to not take life so seriously. Mucho years before the economic crash, they were already passing around hand-me-down clothes, eating rice and beans, having family get-togethers and potlucks, and generally covering each other’s backs.
Random strangers covering each other's backs in the mid-90s.
My cousin, Carmela, helping get my uncle's car out of the ditch.
Friends, family, friends AND family. They are so damned happy that they take their life-celebrating selves to the cemeteries and share that love and support with their deceased loved ones on the Day of the Dead. They know it’s important to remember everyone, lest their loved ones suffer the “second death,” or be forgotten. Comfort and joy is much easier to come by because they are always together, working together, supporting each other. Life is centered around the kitchen, as a matter of fact. Working together produces a warmer environment. A warm environment produces the feeling of safety. Safety therefore produces a lighter, uplifted feeling of overall reduced life burden because they are sharing and relating; and that produces laughter, because they are predisposed to an accepting environment no matter how much they fuck up. And they’re not speaking English. Awkward, nuance-riddled English.
3. They Are The Awesomest Kind of Family To Have
They are warm, accepting, non-judgmental, forgiving people. Period. End of story. Case in point...
"One of these things is doing its own thing, one of these just isn't the same..."
One of these things grew up in the States.
Nobody said a thing about the inappropriateness of my screwing around.
4. They Are Not Pretensious
It doesn’t matter where you come from, where you’re going, or where you’ve been. There is absolutely no status. Not because it’s a way of deflecting American attitudes about their country off of them, but because they just do. not. care. They don’t give the least fuck about preconceived ideas because they have no preconceived ideas.
"What was that? Sorry I was too busy being badass and sexy to
give the least fuck about what you think of me."
They are too busy taking care of their families, making kickass food, having parties, enjoying mariachi music, celebrating their culture, and speaking romantic languages to care. They are too busy being accepting and loving or at least being concerned with their own responsibilities to worry about things they cannot control.
Unless you are messing with family.
Mexicans are very warm, welcoming people, whether from Guadalajara, Oaxaca, toward the northern states or southern peninsula; so it’s not that they don’t have room to be pricks or can’t be pricks, it’s just that it’s a far harder concept for them to grasp than, to say, your average fifteen-year-old-emo-minded, this-side-of-the-border 32-year old. Status cannot exist where it does not exist.
5. They Make Kick-Ass Food and They Do Food RIGHT
I’m NOT just talking about huevos rancheros and bean burritos. Chalupas, pozole, chile con carne, tamales, steaming hot corn cobs wrapped in hot sauce and lime at the vender stands (or elotes), and friggin' guacamole! Also most interesting are their candy. Tamarindo, cajeta. My brothers and I loved the novelties of tamarindo (think spicy Fruit Roll-Up being squeezed out of a Mop Top Hairshop Playdough head) and cajeta (cararmel/honey/peanut-buttery-type concoction) which came lined in wax paper inside a long, wooden oval-shaped coffin-looking containers.
(Clockwise from top left: tamarindo, elote, bean burrito, cajeta, guacamole, cajeta agian, tamales, pozole, and chile con carne.)
Traditional breakfasts kick some major cuisine butt with their stack of beans and a pile of rice alongside some eggs, shredded pork in mole sauce, and some steaming-hot, rolled up corn tortillas. Imagine if every kid in the States and Canada ate that before their big MAT6 test—we’d be ace-ing the crap out of standardized testing!
Point is, the importance of breakfast is not lost on Mexicans. They do it right. The big-ass meal of the day is breakfast followed by mid-sized lunches and dinners, and finally a small bedtime snack. For example: sweet bread with warm milk. That sure is ass-backwards! Dwindling calorie intake just before hibernating, rather than huge nightly feats? Preposterous!
6. Never At A Loss For Words.
A giant nebula of sayings, parental wisdom, life-is-hard anecdotes, superstitions, and really, super good advice—which does for the soul what warm milk and sweet-bread at bedtime does for the tummy—have come from using absurd or comical imagery to make a point, in lieu of the more direct Nouns and Verbs.
“Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos” (“Breed crows and they will take out your eyes”) is a far more interesting way to say that actions will have consequences.
Not only is this a more colorful and easily-relatable way of expressing a classic truth, opinion, or mindset, but it really hits the memory record button in your brain. That shit is used by psychologists, counselors, and therapists to broaden the overall, perceived problems of a patient when basic, fundamental explanations don’t do enough to empower them. It makes a self-evident truth reachable.
7. They Have Aztec Ancestry
Before the Spanish came and conquered them by siding with the enemy, bringing over unwitting weapons of biological destruction (small pox), and shackin’ up with Aztec women, the Aztec empire was one to quite arguably rival that of the Byzantines.
Not only was their influence and power far reaching through most of what is current-day Mexico but they built aqueduct, civil, and agricultural systems that ensured a productive cycle of commerce and trade, opting for negotiation-style rule over military-enforced control. Their pyramids at their capital Tenochtitlan were ginormous and beautiful.
And, as the blend of European Spanish and Aztec cultures combined to give way to the race of people Mexicans are so proud to be, they took the pejorative “mestizo” (coined by the Spanish to indicate who was not of noble rank --- part native and part European) and instead harnessed it as a proud, national identity.
"In YO’ face! Trying to demoralize us, Spain--eat shit and die!"
Showin' some Mestizo pride.
An identity so sweet and so evident in pride of their Aztec ancestry that it can be seen splattered across the canvas of Mexican culture even today—“El Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) is derived from Aztec superstitions and the eagle on the cactus eating a snake in the middle of the Mexican flag comes straight from Aztec mythology.
8. They Owned A Goooooood Chunk of the U.S. Back In the Day.
Before American politicians manifest-destiny-ed their way across to the Pacific Ocean, Mexican territory lay considerably further north than the Rio Grande. By ‘good chunk’ I mean Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, up past Colorado, and into a southern strip of Wyoming. That is approximately over 1 million square miles of land*.
To put it in comparison, the current-day United States stands at 3.79 million square miles in total. That means Mexicans owned one-THIRD of what is now the United States of America, on top of what is now Mexico. So maybe we need to rethink our definitions of legal and illegal aliens. Maybe if they wouldn’t have been so fresh off fighting for their independence from Spain and fighting off the French, they could have withstood the massacre coming from the States. Maybe the section of states which used to belong to Mexico would have stayed Mexico. Maybe a lot of things. Maybe they are just trying to go home!