About a Mexican


Favorite Mexican beer?
I don’t drink beer, I’m pure tequila. It would be a tie between Cazadores and Corralejo.

Favorite Mexican dish?
Aguachile. It’s a seafood dish from the state of Sinaloa. It’s basically ceviche, but 30 times more spicy and sour.

Favorite Mexican song?
“Carabina 30-30.” That is an old corrido probably made most famous by Francisco “Charro” Avitia and Los Alegres de Teran.

Favorite Mexican movie?
Los Olvidados by Luis Buñuel.

Favorite Mexican dicho?
I don’t know it in Spanish, but it basically says that the rich man is never happy.

Favorite Mexican pastime?

Favorite curse word in Spanish?
Pinche puto pendejo baboso.
It began as a joke between writer and editor, but two and a half years later more readers pick up Gustavo Arellano’s ¡Ask a Mexican! column than Westside San Antonians attend lowrider shows at Camargo Park. ¡Ask a Mexican!, which first appeared in the OC Weekly in late 2004, now runs in 21 publications across the U.S.

Arellano fields questions about Mexicans emailed to him by readers — “Why do Mexicans park their cars on the front lawn?” “What is it about the word
illegal that Mexicans don’t understand?” — attempting to break down stereotypes and enlighten truth-seekers on immigration, food, sex, and more by answering with sincerity, humor, and good ol’ fashioned facts.

On May 1, Arellano’s first book, a compilation of ¡Ask a Mexican! columns, will hit stores. From his desk at the OC Weekly, he spoke to the Current via phone.

The book gives a good idea of the different types of questions that are sent to you each week. Some are sarcastic, silly, serious, and some, of course, are racist. Do the more xenophobic ones still surprise you with how hateful they are?

They honestly don’t surprise me as much only because of my background. I work out here in Orange County, California, the home to so many anti-immigrant measures and movements. So as a reporter I am used to dealing with it. If anything, some of the more serious questions are the ones that surprise me. You don’t always expect  the thoughful ones.

Explain why you call yourself the “authority on all things Mexican.” Is it because you are the only Latino on staff at the OC Weekly?

It’s all part of the shtick. If you’re going to have a column as bold as ¡Ask a Mexican! then you better write and act with a certain swagger. No one really gave me the authority. I just put it upon myself. To really make the column succeed, you need an equal part of humor, investigative, and academic chops and, of course, you need to know the history of the culture itself and what makes Mexican Mexican.

Would you be satisfied if, at the end of the day, your column is viewed as light editorial humor rather than something that offers an important viewpoint? I mean, wouldn’t your time be better spent actually talking about the issues facing Mexicans instead of exchanging jabs with people like Stephen Colbert?

I can easily be a serious pundit but I think most people are really sick of punditry. If people want to talk about the serious issues, I can duke it out with the best of them. But I think one way you can get people to listen more closely to what you have to say is if you cloak it with humor and wit. In doing such interviews `as the The Colbert Report`, I view myself going on there as a Trojan Horse. I’ll play their game, but at the same time I feel that I speak with enough authority on the issues so that people won’t be able to brush me aside lightly.

What is the most macho thing about you?

Probably that I expect my younger siblings to stay at home and not move out until they are married. I think family is very strong and Mexicans cannot weaken those family binds or we will become American.

My last name is Martinez, but I really can’t grow facial hair, I don’t like menudo, and my Spanish is mediocre at best. Can I still call myself a Mexican?

Of course you can! That’s the great thing about mexicanismo. National identity is fluid. It’s always changing. Anyone that thinks that it’s going to be static is more disillusioned than the Minutemen. 


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