Q. Dear Mexican: I’m a minority, and I know we can be overly sensitive sometimes, but I just can’t stand Carlos Mencia. Not only are his jokes asinine, but I feel they are actually racist. Whereas Dave Chappelle tried to make fun of society’s racist thought, Mencia seems to promote it. I know black folk liked Chappelle, but how do Mexicans feel about Mencia? I mean, he has almost single-handedly brought back the word “beaner.” What an asshole. —Tehrangelino Tim
A. Dear Persian Gabacho: Does the bean dare call the beaner brown? I suppose I could, especially after Mencia appeared on the September 16 edition of Good Morning America and trashed the Mexican by stating, “When you say, ‘I’m a Mexican—ask me a question and I’m going to answer for all Mexicans,’ that scares me. That legitimizes whatever answer that person gives, whether it’s good or bad.” Interesting critique, except I’ve never made such a claim, at least not while sober. And Mencia’s one to scold, especially in light of accusations by other comedians (including Chicano icon George Lopez) of plagiarizing their jokes—way to perpetuate stereotypes, Carlos! But I digress: Only highfalutin Mexicans get offended by Menstealia’s abrasive, occasionally funny routine. You can slam the half-Mexican, half-Honduran for his politically incorrect approach, but then you’re walking into his trap—and that’s what makes Menstealia a wabby genius. A comedian’s raison d’être is to agitate and entertain—nothing more, nothing less. Menstealia succeeds brilliantly—ratings for Comedy Central’s Mind of Mencia remain high, and I’ve already called him Menstealia four times and will do it once more. Carlos has the potential to become a political jester à la Chappelle or Pryor—in an interview I did with him for Latina magazine, Menstealia said our illegal immigration problem “will take care of itself . . . we had the same thing with the micks and wops and guineas. It always solves itself”—but he’s currently happy playing the screaming fool, not César Chávez. Let the pendejo mug, I say—if you don’t like him and want gentle, polite Latino laughs, tune in to Ugly Betty.
Q. Why is it predominantly Mexicans who choose graffiti as a form of social protest/territory marker/sport? Is there an antecedent in Latin cultural history?—Blighted Gabacho
A. Dear Gabacho: Por supuesto. Graffiti is as old as the wheel but reached its classical apex during the age of Caesar. Archeologists have documented Latin graffiti everywhere from Pompeii to the Catacombs to latrines, the Coliseum, and Nero’s estate. The lack of aerosol or freeway overpasses didn’t stop the Romans from etching a fascinating array of drawings and rants: Great examples include caricatures of politicians, eloquent love letters, and the mysterious Miximus in lecto. Fateor, peccavimus, hospes. Si dices: Quare? Nulla fuit matella. (Google away!) For a historical analysis, consult Raffaele Garrucci’s mid-19th-century classics, Il Crocifisso Graffito Nella Casa dei Cesari and Graffiti di Pompei. But if you just want to laugh, check out the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum for thousands of random rambles (typical entry: “Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!”). As for Mexicans using graffiti more than other ethnic groups—go ask Kilroy.