Swing Low, Sweet Migra
Dear Gabacha: You're right: How dare yaktivists compare Elvira Arellano (an recently deported illegal Mexican immigrant who earned national attention this year by seeking sanctuary in a Chicago church) to Rosa Parks! Besides, everyone knows the better historical counterpart is Jesus. Think about it: Like Jesús, Arellano is a brown-skinned alien who sparked equal parts rage and praise while promoting her movement. Both lived in defiance of authorities who obsessed over laws that ignored the Segundo Coming. Arellano and the Nazarene knew their ultimate martyrdom yet met grim destiny with serenity, asking followers not to react angrily but rather to allow God's will. I already hear the gnashing teeth of Know Nothings: But what about the fake Social Security number? The breaking of federal law? The fact that ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL? Let the record show that no matter how you spin it, Arellano's tale is biblical in its intentions, and she sure as hell ain't Jezebel. Only time will tell if Arellano's efforts will convert the Pharisees or cause the exile of her people to Babylon--err, Mexico.
I'm African American. At our restaurants, nobody comes to your table to sing to you. At your restaurants, this does happen, and I love it. I love picking out a song (usually something from Luis Miguel's Segundo Romance; it's the best I can do with my limited "ballads en español" repertoire). I love listening to the singer and imagining how many times the group has had to play "La Bamba." Mi problema es I haven't the slightest idea what I should be doing while they're playing. I've usually got a plate of hot food in front of me, or as was the case last Friday night, a waiter trying to outwait the song so he could take our order. Is it rude to sing along? Do I tip when they're done? How much? Help me not be a clueless tourist when I want to enjoy a little "La Media Vuelta" with my No. 4 combo.
I Wanta Cantar
Dear Want to Sing Negrita: Tips? Always. How much? Depends on how well the mariachi plays. Rude to sing along? Never. Indeed, it's a time-honored tradition among Mexicans to have the musically inclined members of la familia belt out a couple of corridos at weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms or any other celebration (shout-outs to my Tío Ezequiel and cousin Lety!). The dynamic changes a bit when mariachis perform at restaurants, but don't be afraid. Although the crowd will stare and sneer at any non-Mexicans trying to sing mariachi tunes, all you have to do is shout "¡Viva México, cabrones!" at some point, and the wabs will go wild.
¡ASK A MEXICAN CONTEST!
Want a free, autographed copy of my book? Send a picture to the e-mail below of yourself or an amigo reading the Mexican while standing outside your local Mexican consulate or embassy. One winner per location only, so the first picture from each region gets the book. Gracias, gente of Albuquerque, Houston, Portland, Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix, Prague, Mexico City, Yuma, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Tulsa for sending photos. Everyone else: You're going to let fucking Tulsa beat you? Send your photos--¡ándale, ándale!
See the Mexican when he appears at Antigone Books on Friday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m.