Dear Readers: In between your 15th tamale and sixth spiked cup of ponche, you're going to need to buy regalos for Christmas or whatever pinche holiday you celebrate. OK, you don't need to, but you should, to support all those great indie businesses suffering during this Great Recession.
Behold, then, your ¡Ask a Mexican! Xmas shopping list, a Mexican-approved cavalcade of chingones that will teach your kith and kin about Mexis, whether via literature, music, art or other mediums. Enjoy!
Lalo Alcaraz: The great Chicano cartoonista is back with his annual calendar, and he promises the 2012 edition is a "RECONQUISTAPOCALYPSE" edition, simultaneously celebrating the takeover of Aztlán and the Mayan prophecy proclaiming the end of the world. And did any of your local Occupy protests feature a poster of a mob taking down a statue of Monopoly's Rich Uncle Pennybags? That was Lalo. www.laloalcaraz.com.
La Santa Cecilia: This group of hepcats was my house band back when I had a radio show, and they've gone on to bigger and better things since. Their music has made appearances on Weeds and Entourage; it is a wonderful mestizaje of klezmer, Django Reinhardt, funk, samba, conjunto norteño and all of the great music that makes the modern Mexican-American experience—plus, the band is politically conscious! Best of all: Each CD cover is handmade by the band, a wonderful combination of DIY ethics and rascuache. www.lasantacecilia.com.
Sam Quinones: The Los Angeles Times staff writer is the greatest chronicler of post-1970 Mexico EVER. Buy all of his books; read all of his articles—and he's one of the people you can blame for getting me into journalism. www.samquinones.com.
Carey McWilliams: Anything by the great progressive historian is worth buying, of course, but specifically North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States.
Calacas: A great Chicano shop in my 'hood that has everything from beautiful artesania imported from Mexico to hilarious Chicano-themed T-shirts ("Estar Guars" instead of "Star Wars," anyone?), plus an impressive collection of Día de los Muertos statues—plus the managers there are tireless supporters of DREAM Act students. Pinche mensches all the way. www.calacasinc.com.
Ethnic Studies: How do you gift a discipline? Easy: Monitor the battlegrounds in which Know Nothings are trying to ban it. First Arizona (specifically here in the Tucson Unified School District), next the United States—you've been warned. Sit in on a class at your local community college or university—or, better yet, buy all of the books of Chicano Studies pioneer Rudy Acuña, a Korean War vet who's never met a pendejo chickenhawk politician he can't dress down with a few choice historical anecdotes.
Me!: This is totally shameless self-promotion, but still: Give the gift of the Mexican! Turn people on to my columna; like me on Facebook; or—better yet—save your pesos for April 10, 2012, when my long-promised Taco U.S.A.: How Mexican Food Conquered America finally gets published. Felíz Navidad, and, as always: ¡A LA CHINGADA CON ARPAYASO!