Q. Dear Mexican: We were in a restaurant the other day eating some refried beans and green chili, when I overheard some gringos in the next booth making fun of Mexicans. One thing they said which really made me mad was, “Why do Mexicans REFRY their beans? Stupid Mexicans! Don’t they know they already fried them once? Why do they have to fry them again?” Then they all started laughing really loud. I got up to tell them off, but then I just stood there frozen and felt like a stupid Mexican because I couldn’t think of an answer to shut them up. It made me sad and ashamed to be a Mexican. As we walked out, I couldn’t even answer my five-year-old daughter’s question: “Daddy, why are those men laughing at us?” And now, I still hear their laughter every night in my dreams. Please, give me a good reason why Mexicans refry their beans so I can have some ammunition next time for these pinche gabachos . —The Magical Fruta
A. Dear Wab: Cabrón, tienes que work through some psychological issues before firing off questions to the Mexican—I suggest Cazadores. Y can you get a Mexican Spanish dictionary while you’re at it? Refrito, when combined with frijoles, doesn’t mean “twice-fried”; it signifies the beans are cooked longer than usual. The mistranslation is common among both wabs and gabachos and originates in the assumption that the prefix re– means the same in ingles for “refried” as it does for frijoles refritos: repetition. It doesn’t; in the Latino legume case, re– indicates an intensification of a situation, the transformation of once-humble beans after a date with tubs of lard into a mashed, delicious wonder—at least that’s what my mother, sisters, and chica caliente tell me, since the most I can cook is pouring Tapatío on some Cup o’ Noodles.
Q. Why do Mexicans sell themselves short? Why are they willing to do jobs other people don’t want to do and for so little? Why are they willing to settle for so little, when they could have much more? Why go through all the trouble of coming to America just to earn minimum wage for the rest of your life? —Eating the Welfare Queso
A. Dear Readers: This is the último time I’m answering a letter that contains more than one pregunta. Too often, I receive rants from Know-Nothings that pack in as many queries into an e-mail as Mexicans into a Chevy trunk and usually end with some boast that I won’t answer their rant because I’m a pussy. No, pendejos: The Mexican answers one question per person per column; to try and sneak in more than your allotment is to act like a Mexican. But the above challenge isn’t one of those: Welfare Queso is relatively polite, and his multiple questions really refry down to the idea that Mexicans can do better than merely come to this country illegally. Of course they can, Welfare Queso, and they are. As tough as the attainable jobs are for illegal and English-deficient Mexicans in the States, as low as the minimum wage is in this country, it’s still mucho better than what’s available in Mexico. The average minimum wage in Mexico (for some bizarre reason, the government sets three separate minimum wages, each corresponding to a particular region—and we wonder why it’s so inept!) is 49.06 pesos per day. That translates into a measly $4.51 in American dollars A DAY. Most Mexicans can make four times more than that in the United States by picking up loose change after a matinee—really, is that such a mystery? And millions of Mexicans would love to earn even the minimum wage in Mexico. There’s a reason why Mexicans continue to pour into the United States—and it ain’t for Lou Dobbs’s love.