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I'm a Mexican and These Are My Pet Peeves

Apropos of nothing, I just started thinking about things that rub me the wrong way. They're mostly comments (some innocent, some not so much) and misconceptions about my cultural heritage and language. I guess you could also call this, "Shit Non-Mexicans Say to Mexicans."

1. "I just can't do Mexican food. It'll give me the runs for days!" — Granted, some Mexican food can be very spicy, but not all Mexican food is spicy. Look around. Mexican cuisine is quite extensive. I'm sure you'll find something to suit your palate.


2. The singular of the word "tamales" is NOT "tamale." — It's actually "tamal." Can you non-Spanish speakers please start using the word "tamal"? Please? You have no idea how much hearing the word "tamale" (which does not exist) bugs me.

3. If by "hot" you mean "spicy," not all tamales are hot. — In fact, some tamales are not even savory. There are sweet tamales in different colors (white, pink, and yellow) made with fruit, sugar, and cinnamon. They are quite good.

4. "Oh man, these burritos are SO TASTY. I betcha they taste just like your mother's recipe." — Before we came to this country, my mother (and I, for that matter) had NO IDEA that a burrito was a fast food dish. To her (and to me), a burrito was what her grandmother used for transportation. Great-grandma had a modest farm in a rural area with a few animals, including said burro, and some crops. That land now belongs to my mother's brother.

5. "What kind of olives do you put in your tacos? Black or green?" — Again, this is one those things I didn't hear about until I came here. It's not that Mexicans don't eat olives. We just don't put them in tacos. And the dishes that do have olives as an ingredient aren't usually accompanied by tortillas.


6. "So you *don't* put cheddar on your enchiladas?" — Sorry, no. Mexico, well my area of Mexico at least, just isn't big on the cheddar cheese.

7. "You're so pretty! It must be all those beans and tortillas you eat." — Honest to blog, this is actually something this old lady once said to my sister. She was all, "Umm, thanks?"


8. "I fucking LOVE 'Ask a Mexican'! Do you read it? OMG, you *don't* read 'Ask a Mexican'?! That's crazy!" — I'm actually not a fan of Gustavo Arellano. In fact, I find him offensive. I appreciate that he's enthusiastic about his roots and that he *thinks* he's an authority on all things Mexican that can educate "the gringos/gavachos/yanquis," but, yeah, no. First off, Mexico is an incredibly diverse place, and as much as he and I come from (or have parents who come from) the same country, that doesn't mean he and I have had the same experiences, and I really don't appreciate anyone attempting to speak on behalf of all Mexicans. Contrary to popular belief, we are not a monolith. Imagine a Californian or an Arizonan who has never even set foot in New England attempting to speak about the cultural experiences of the average Bostonian or New Canaanite. Yeah, it's like that.

Second, his pieces often make Mexicans the butt of the joke instead of laughing with Mexicans. The vibe I get from his work is, "You're absolutely right! Mexicans really *are* smelly/dirty/weird/backwards/stupid/etc."


9. "Ugh, Rick Bayless. Blah blah blah cultural appropriation blah blah blah." — So many complex feels about this.

Food is the primary way my culture is exported to other people and I just want it done right. Granted, there are numerous variations and local twists on things, but for the most part, there are *authentic* flavors, *authentic* ingredients (hint: fucking pepper jack and cheddar cheeses are not authentic), and *authentic* techniques. In my humble experience, lots of places get these things wrong. Rick Bayless understands this. He's studied up and knows his shit.


Second, I love it when non-Mexicans develop an affinity for Mexican culture. These are the non-Mexicans who travel beyond Ensenada, beyond the touristy places (like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun), and just soak up the local color for the hell of it, or because something about it just speaks to them. Rick Bayless is one of those people and it gets me all verklempt. No, seriously, I'm getting chills here.

Third, I'm betting dollars to donuts that Bayless has actually traveled far more extensively throughout Mexico, and speaks better fucking Spanish, than most of the bratty, 3rd, 4th, 5th generation Mexican-American hipsters who talk shit about him. Like that pendejo Gustavo Arellano.


Fourth, Mexican cuisine doesn't just belong to the Mexican people. It is for the entire world to enjoy. That's why it's on UNESCO's World Heritage lists.



10. "Heh, you sound like a white girl." — First of all, like many Mexicans, I'm actually mixed race, so I technically am a white girl. Sort of. Second, thanks moron. I had no idea Mexicans were supposed to sound like a character in a Speedy Gonzales cartoon. Jerk.

11. "You identify as Chicano, right? You don't?!" — Nope. Not Chicana. That's just not my experience. Sure, I've lived long enough in the States to be more "Americanized" than your average person from my hometown in Mexico, but I'm not a Chicana.


12. "Gravity is not a good movie. It's kind of boring." — Shut up. Gravity was fucking awesome and Alfonso Cuaron is a national fucking treasure.

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