UTW: Hola, Gustavo! Gracias for taking the time to speak with UTW about your new book ¡Ask a Mexican! Our readers probably won't read it because they don't seem to like you very much -- we've received a lot of hatemail on your behalf -- but we can't wait to get our hands on it!
GA: The fact that ustedes get so much nasty mail about me means Urban Tulsa readers love the Mexican! Hola, haters!
UTW: What can we expect from the book?
GA: The book is a compilation of my favorite ¡Ask a Mexican! columns over the past two years. UTW readers will be familiar with some but not all of the entries, as ustedes only started running the Mexican last year. The book also contains new questions exclusive to the libro, funny illustrations, longer essays and tastes like tequila if you soak it in water overnight.
UTW: Why do you think people are so uptight when it comes to the content of your column and of this book?
GA: Americans are uptight about race and ethnicity in general--witness what happened to Don Imus recently. But this country has always reserved a special malice toward Mexicans. In a way, I don't blame Mexican-haters: the two countries share a long border, have gone to war with each other (officially and unofficially) many times, and are culturally dissimilar. Stereotypes breed as a result. When you try to deconstruct them, anger and hilarity ensues.
UTW: What is the worst hate mail you have ever received?
GA: I actually love hate mail--shows that I burrowed under someone's skin so badly that they had to itch. I've received it all--from "Go back to Mexico" to any number of familial and racial insults. But probably the worst--and by "worst," I mean "the one I enjoyed the most"--was the mini-scandal that erupted when ustedes first ran me. According to the Tulsa bilingual paper, La Semana del Sur, I offended some Tulsa Latino "leaders" so badly that demanded a meeting with your publisher. They told the Semana del Sur reporter that my column was "trash" without bothering to tell me over the phone or via e-mail! I hope those pendejos now get the column, and that your publisher finally met with them.
UTW: Why do you think people (American people) hate you so much? For that matter, why do they hate Mexicans so much?
GA: As I said before, there's an inborn suspicion of Mexicans in the American psyche.
And when one of us doesn't adhere to those classical Mexican stereotypes--meek, dumb, sleeping under a cactus all day--gabachos go nuts.
UTW: Where did the inspiration for the first column come from?
GA: I've been with OC Weekly since 2001, and one of my main beats was immigration--especially the loonies I call the Anti-Immigrant All-Stars, the folks who claim Mexicans are ruining this country. In November 2004, my editor told me about a billboard he saw that featured a cross-eyed Mexican radio DJ wearing a Viking helmet. He said the man seemed as if he could answer any question about Mexicans, so why don't I start a column like that? I took him up on the offer, and the madness began.
UTW: What's the biggest misconception Gringos have about Mexicans?
GA: That we don't assimilate. Spanish was my first language, and I assimilated. And take the case of my father. He came to this country in the trunk of a Chevy in 1968 along with three other illegal immigrants. My father eventually became a citizen doesn't speak much English yet now hates illegal immigrants--says they're ruining this country. If that's not assimilation, I don't know what is.
UTW: What was it like for you growing up in Mexico? Did you experience a culture shock when you moved to the States?
GA: Actually, I was born in Anaheim, California. But I might as well been born in Mexico. Mostly Mexicans lived in my neighborhood, and I only spoke Spanish when I entered kindergarten. So I never really experienced culture shock--at least not until I saw Weekend at Bernies II.
UTW: What question do you get asked most often?
GA: "Why do Mexicans swim with their clothes on?" At first, I thought I received this question a lot because Orange County is next to the Pacific. But I've even received this question from a couple of Tulsans! As for the answer...buy the book!
UTW: What's your favorite question you've been asked?
GA: All of them. The fact that this column exists fascinates me--I view it as a sociological experiment. That said, I particularly loved the question about Pancho Villa's missing head that I answered a couple of weeks ago. Any question that allows me to use my investigative skills will get answered sooner rather than later.
UTW: What question do you absolutely hate?
GA: All of them. Really: are we so backward as a country that people have to ask someone questions about Mexicans just to understand them? But rather than belabor the subject, I just answer. That said, I don't like questions that are longer than a paragraph--if you can't be succinct, you're probably a rambling yahoo.
UTW: Why do Mexican guys like fat girls so much?
GA: That's in the book--buy it and find out!
UTW: Do you think if your column were called "Ask a Korean" or "Ask a German" it would be nearly as funny?
GA: There is a blog called Ask a Korean, along with Ask a Jew, Ask a Cuban-American, Ask a Muslim and many others which claim direct inspiration from me. I've read some of them, and most are rather funny. But they won't inspire as much attention as ¡Ask a Mexican! To pull off a column like mine, you have to have an academic background, possess investigative reporting chops, be fun, wear a skin of steel and produce top-notch work week in, week out. More importantly, though, Mexicans are the last ethnic group in this country that can inspire so much simultaneous curiosity, disgust and allure. Well, us and Lindsay Lohan.
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