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DEAR MEXICAN: WHAT IS ¡ASK A MEXICAN!? Questions and answers about our spiciest Americans. I explore the clichés of lowriders, busboys, and housekeepers; drunks and scoundrels; heroes and celebrities; and most important, millions upon millions of law-abiding, patriotic American citizens and their illegal-immigrant cousins who represent some $600 billion in economic power. WHY SHOULD I READ¡ASK A MEXICAN!? At 37 million strong (or 13 percent of the U. S. population), Latinos have become America's largest minority -- and beaners make up some two-thirds of that number. I confront the bogeymen of racism, xenophobia, and ignorance prompted by such demographic changes through answering questions put to me by readers of my ¡Ask a Mexican! column in California's OC Weekly. I challenge you to find a more entertaining way to immerse yourself in Mexican culture that doesn't involve a taco-and-enchilada combo. OKAY, WHY DO MEXICANS PARK THEIR CARS ON THE FRONT LAWN? Where do you want us to park them? The garage we rent out to a family of five? The backyard where we put up our recently immigrated cousins in tool-shack-cum-homes? The street with the red curbs recently approved by city planners? The driveway covered with construction materials for the latest expansion of la casa? The nearby school parking lot frequented by cholos on the prowl for a new radio? The lawn is the only spot Mexicans can park their cars without fear of break-ins, drunken crashes, or an unfortunate keying. Besides, what do you think protects us from drive-bys? The cops?
The story began in 1918, when Gustavo Arellano's great-grandfather and grandfather arrived in the United States, only to be met with flying potatoes. They ran, and hid, and then went to work in Orange County's citrus groves, where, eventually, thousands of fellow Mexican villagers joined them. Gustavo was born sixty years later, the son of a tomato canner who dropped out of school in the ninth grade and an illegal immigrant who snuck into this country in the trunk of a Chevy. Meanwhile, Orange County changed radically, from a bucolic paradise of orange groves to the land where good Republicans go to die, American Christianity blossoms, and way too many bad television shows are green-lit. Part personal narrative, part cultural history, Orange County is the outrageous and true story of the man behind the wildly popular and controversial column ¡Ask a Mexican! and the locale that spawned him. It is a tale of growing up in an immigrant enclave in a crime-ridden neighborhood, but also in a promised land, a place that has nourished America's soul and Gustavo's family, both in this country and back in Mexico, for a century. Nationally bestselling author, syndicated columnist, and the spiciest voice of the Mexican-American community, Gustavo Arellano delivers the hilarious and poignant follow-up to ¡Ask a Mexican!, his critically acclaimed debut. Orange County not only weaves Gustavo's family story with the history of Orange County and the modern Mexican-immigrant experience but also offers sharp, caliente insights into a wide range of political, cultural, and social issues.
Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents an entertaining, tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine's tremendous popularity in el Norte. In the tradition of Bill Buford's Heat and Calvin Trillin's The Tummy Trilogy, Arellano's fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and Jesus on a tortilla. When salsa overtook ketchup as this country's favorite condiment in the 1990s, America's century-long love affair with Mexican food reached yet another milestone. In seemingly every decade since the 1880s, America has tried new food trends from south of the border--chili, tamales, tacos, enchiladas, tequila, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and so many more--loved them, and demanded the next great thing. As a result, Mexican food dominates American palates to the tune of billions of dollars in sales per year, from canned refried beans to frozen margaritas and ballpark nachos. It's a little-known history, one that's crept up on this country like your Mexican neighbors--and left us better for it. Now, Taco USA addresses the all-important questions: What exactly constitutes "Mexican" food in the United States? How did it get here? What's "authentic" and what's "Taco Bell," and does it matter? What's so cosmic about a burrito? And why do Americans love Mexican food so darn much? Tacos, alas, sold separately.