¡Ask a Mexican! Hold the Grease


Why are Mexicans known as greasers? Is it because they spread rancid lard from their dirty kitchens all over themselves after bathing, instead of baby oil or cologne the way clean, civilized Anglos do? —Anonymous LBCer

Dear Gabacho: Mira, güey, the only grease we put on ourselves is the Three Flowers brilliantine Mexican men use to lacquer up their hair to a shine so intense that astronomers frequently mistake the reflection off their heads for the Andromeda Galaxy. That puts us in brotherhood with the 1950s gabacho rebels whom mainstream society also denigrated as greasers.

But the reason “greaser” maintains such staying power as an epithet against Mexicans—etymologists date its origins to the 1830s—is because it refers to, as you correctly imply, our diet. Sociologist Irving Lewis Allen devotes a chapter in his 1990 compendium of linguistic essays, Unkind Words: Ethnic Labeling From Redskin to WASP to the predominance of foodstuffs that double as ethnic slurs in American English. “All these slurs in American slang,” writes Allen, “indicate a great historical awareness of alien ethnic food, its preparation, and the eating of it—another case of dislike for the unlike.” Allen also notes that gabachos have called Italians, Greeks, and Puerto Ricans “greasers” at other times during the American experience. But the food hate goes both ways, LBCer—bolillos (French rolls) and mayonesa (mayonnaise) are what we call gabachos, and in the larger scheme of things, I’d rather people call me something tasteful like grease or beans than a condiment that always smells like urine.

My question is two parts: Why do Hispanic women pluck out every eyebrow hair and then shade it in like a kiddie coloring book, and why is that attractive to the guys? —Simply Doesn’t Get It

Dear Gabacho: Eyebrow plucking is as old as civilization itself—archaeologists excavating Abraham’s hometown of Ur found tweezers in a tomb carbon-dated to about 3500 B.C. Sexologists link male attraction to thin eyebrows and other depilated female regions to an obsession with the younger female form. But seriously, Simply: Be glad Mexican women trim their eyebrows so finely. If they didn’t, the natural hirsuteness of our mujeres would sprout forth, and all would resemble Frida Kahlo, whose unibrow and light mustache remain a Mexican hombre‘s ultimate cold shower.

Who is Carlos Slim Helú? —Guillermo Verjas

Dear Gabacho: Mexico’s answer to Bill Gates, except fatter, less charitable by nine-tenths, and with a monopoly on Mexico’s telecommunications that would have made Rockefeller seem like a rag picker. Should focus on buying California instead of the New York Times to make the Reconquista legit.

¡ASK A MEXICAN BOOK CONTEST! In 25 words or less, tell me your favorite local Mexican restaurant and what makes it so bueno. I’ll soon be traveling ’round los Estados Unidos in my trusty burro to research my upcoming book on the history of Mexican food in the United States, and I need places to haunt and cacti to sleep under. One entry per person, one winner per paper, five winners total for areas that don’t carry my column, and contest ends when I say so!

Ask the Mexican at,, or facebook/garellano, find him on Twitter, or write via snail mail to: Gustavo Arellano, P.O. Box 1433, Anaheim, CA 92815-1433!

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