¡Ask A Mexican! for Nov 20, 2008
One man's take on his culture's stereotypes
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Dear Wab: Man, the locuras some people believe and repeat. I’ve seen mentions of Hendrix’s Mexican heritage everywhere from the aforementioned Ronnie: The Autobiography to mainstream American newspapers to the BBC. But don’t believe what you find on the Internet. I have no idea why or when people began believing Hendrix was part-wab, but the rumor’s been around since at least the late ‘90s. The closest I can peg him to possessing any Mexican roots is gracias to Charles R. Cross’ book, Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix, which cites an interview Hendrix gave in which he remembered how one grandmother gave him a “little Mexican jacket with tassels” as a child. Cross’ bio gives a thorough genealogy of Hendrix’s family – the guitarist did in deed possess gabacho, negrito, Canadian and Cherokee blood, but no Mexican sangre whatsoever.
Mexicans claiming a major historical figure as one of their own is nothing nuevo. I’ve read that Thomas Alva Edison was from Zacatecas, that Walt Disney was the bastard child of a Mexican, and that Jessica Alba wants her baby to be Mexican. Wishful thinking all of it, just like the many gabachos who insist a Cherokee princess is in their family tree (never mind that the Cherokees had no such royalty). The only crypto-Mexican that’s ever panned out is also the most unlikely – Ted Williams. Yep, America: Teddy Ballgame’s mami was May Veznor of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.My coworker Maria and I are having a disagreement about the meaning of the word gringo. Would you be able to tell us the true meaning? –Veritas vos Liberabit
Dear Gabacho: I think Mary and you are having the wrong discussion. Even the dumbest gabacho knows gringo is a pejorative Mexicans use against Americans, one nowadays so harmless even gabachos call themselves gringos. What ustedes are probably trying to determine is the word’s origins. The Mexican usually consults the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary for such queries, but even the world’s foremost body of Español has no clue – its entry describes the etymology as “disputed.”
Here’s what we know: gringo did not originate during the Mexican-American War as a result of – take your pick – the invading Yankees wearing green coats and the terrified Mexicans shouting “Green, go!” at them, or because said soldiers sang either “Green Grows the Lilacs” or “O Green Grow the Rushes” while trampling through Santa Ana’s armies. Both explanations are self-serving urban legends repeated by gabachos who get a perverse pleasure out of dominating all aspects of Mexican life. Whatever its genesis, the Mexican recommends not using gringo, as it’s an antiquated term like greaser, and one should always be up on their Rolodex of racism.