Q. Dear Mexican: How do I go to the Mexican grocery store and bakery to buy supplies for our Día de los Muertos
party without looking like I’m doing the kitschy-goofy thing I’m doing? I walk up to the register and smile ingratiatingly, saying “Gracias” as usual— but a basketful of sugar skulls and other themed items hefted to the register in my Irish-mutt arms isn’t subtle. I don’t really mind looking stupid, but I don’t want to offend anyone. —Lost Me Lucky Charms
A. Dear Mickette: Chicano yak-tivists will cry holy Aztlán because you’re appropriating Mexico’s holiday for revering the dead, but screw ’em. Go ahead and miss the point of Día de los Muertos, Lucky Charms: You know better than anyone else that America doesn’t truly accept its immigrants until ethnic cultural feasts get warped into besotted celebrations attended by opportunistic politicos and people forget the original meaning behind the occasion. (Wasn’t St. Patrick the guy who drove the Jews out of Amsterdam?) Similarly, Día de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—is fast becoming corporatized, with do-it-yourself sugar-skull kits available at craft stores and hipsters building altares not to honor the souls who rest with God, but because they read about it in Lonely Planet. Enter the Mexican grocery stores and bakeries with pride, Lucky Charms: You’re multicultural! You’re having a fiesta! You don’t know que chingada you’re doing! Really, the Mexican isn’t too bitter about your cultural imperialism—you’re just fulfilling the prophecy that is the “Irish I were Mexican” T-shirt.
Q. Why do your people often hold a car wash after one of your homies gets killed? What’s the connection between having a clean ride and death? Do the neighbors’ cars need to be clean in order for your amigo to get into Heaven? —Pinche Cabrón Gringo
A. Dear Gabacho: Better that destitute Mexicans raise funds through suds for the funerals than stick a gun in your rib cage, ¿qué no?
Q. I work as a physical therapist, and I’ve encountered Latinos from different parts of the world in my work. Whenever I hurt myself as a child, my mother would always tell me, “Sana, sana, colita de rana. Si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.” I always thought that the saying was indigenous to my homeland of northern New Mexico. However, I’ve met people from Cuba, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and Mexico that are familiar with “Sana, sana.” What’s up with this? It sounds like an incantation from a bruja or curandera. —Lupita la Brujita
A. Dear Lupita the Wabby Little Witch: While my gentle readers are a sharp bunch of wabs, gabachos, chinitos, and negritos, I use them only for cheap labor and contraband smuggling. Besides, I doubt many of them are familiar with the origins of the refrán (saying) you cited, which translates as, “Heal, heal, tail of frog. If you don’t heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow” (alternate versions substitute culito—anus—for colita). You’re right in noting its popularity throughout Latin America. What’s obvious is the refrán‘s theme of curanderismo, the use of folk remedies to cure for pesos what modern-day medicine charges an arm and a leg for in HMOs.
COLUMN DEDICATION! To the real ghouls of the season, the Know Nothing senators who helped defeat the DREAM Act. This bill would have legalized the country’s most productive Americans: the undocumented kids (Mexicans and otherwise) who pursue a higher education despite the specter of deportation hanging over themselves and their families. Guys and chavas: Keep the faith. Senators: May your grandchildren marry Mexicans and birth beautiful half-wabs.