Refried Elvis

How the King was redeemed for Mexico

Dear Mexican: What's the fascination Mexicans have with Elvis? —Good Roceando Tonight

Dear Gabacho: Your question is spot-on, but it's taken a while for Elvis to achieve icon status with Mexicans. As recounted in Eric Zolov's 1999 book, Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture, the King largely sparked the roots of rock en español by inspiring groups like Los Locos del Ritmo and Los Teen Tops to pirate his style beat for beat, pompadour for pompadour. This initial love affair ended in 1957, when Mexican newspapers published (without proof) an alleged quote from Presley: "I'd rather kiss three black girls than a Mexican girl." Seeing an opportunity to crack down on a burgeoning youth movement, Mexico's civic fathers denounced Presley as a maricón and negrito-lover and organized Elvis-memorabilia burnings. Mexicans, being Mexicans, most dutifully followed instructions. Elvis wouldn't receive a fair shake from the country—not even after Fun in Acapulco—until the 1970s, when his visage became the backbone of the borderlands' burgeoning black-velvet-painting industry. Wabs have largely loved the King ever since, as they came to realize that he was more Mexican than an eagle on a cactus. Consider Elvis and his similarity with Mexicans: skinny as a youngster, obese by the end but still caliente; a hard-working country boy corrupted by the big city's excesses; a taste for big belts and shimmering suits; a propensity for unhealthy food and bedding underage girls. And have you heard his versions of the ranchera standards "Guadalajara" and "Allá en el Rancho Grande"? No gabacho can sing those songs that good—and I'm even including Charles Bronson.

I hope the Mexicans in other parts of the United States are more productive than where I'm from: The surge of illegals in Topeka 20 years ago produced a worthless bunch of dropouts. —What's the Matter with Kansas?

Dear Gabacho: Is it Mexican culture? I say it's Topeka.

Why do white people go to tanning salons to get our skin shade if they hate us so much? —Prieto but Perplexed

Dear Dark Pero: I usually answer questions about Mexicans, not gabachos, but I'll make an exception for you porque it leads to a great anecdote. All the gabachos to whom I asked your pregunta said tanning makes them look good. When I asked them how burning one's skin makes one more attractive, they replied because it makes them darker. See how circular the logic of most gabachos is? But smart people know the reason: Gabachos lie under cancer-causing rays as a last-ditch effort to become Mexican. I frequently receive letters from gabachos wondering how they can receive benefits à la illegal Mexicans, drive without a license or auto insurance, have as many babies as Mexican families, get government documents translated into their language, and live a carefree mañana life. When I tell them they have to undergo exploitation, harassment, and a couple of days walking through the Arizona desert, those gabachos usually shut up. Nevertheless, these people tan—if they can't live like a Mexican, might as well look like one and not suffer the consequences.

 
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