Opinion: One man’s take on his culture’s stereotypes
¡Ask a Mexican!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Dear Armo: Now, ¡Ay, caramba! might not be as popular or as peculiarly Mexican a swear as the many epithets derived from the word mamá (mother), but Mexicans do say it – but nowadays not as often as gabachos would love to believe, Bart Simpson catchphrase notwithstanding. Caramba is a euphemism for carajo, which means “penis” and is a preferred curse word for those fey South Americans and Spaniards, and the bowdlerized ¡Ay, caramba! roughly translates as “Darn it!” But how it became the most-cited Spanish oath in American literature (you can find citations in newspapers dating back to the 1850s) is an academic research paper waiting to be written; the Mexican will theorize thusly: since caramba doubles for a vulgarity but was uttered much more frequently in genteel days, since it’s a printable expletive, and since gabachos have always wanted their documented Mexicans spicy and foul-mouthed, writers published the interjection as often as possible (an 1889 New York Sun story ridiculously quoted the Italian patriot Garibaldi as mouthing it) until it became a saying inextricably linked with Mexicans in the gabacho imagination for decades a la “Vaya con Diós” and “Poor Mexico – so far from God, so close to the United States.” Ah, for the days when gabachos merely thought we took siestas under cactuses and used funny catchphrases instead of our present-day status as illegal alien savages!I live in Houston and find it depressing to see beggars in the middle of most busy intersections. I’m equally irritated when I am accosted for change when I leave a drug store. (I always fish the receipt out of the bag and call the store from the car to report the panhandler). Why is it I never see a homeless Mexican or a Mexican panhandler? --Bring Back Warren Moon!
Dear Gabacho: Because Mexicans all get free benefits, welfare, subsidized housing and health care – don’t you pay attention to Lou Dobbs?