Aside from the fact that Tea-Baggers and conservatives want to deport half of your relatives, being a Mexican-American is pretty damn great. You have at least one Jesus in the family, so you know you’re protected from the wrath of God come judgment day. Also, your family knows how to make the greatest food ever created—Mexican food. You have a huge, supportive family firmly held together by Catholic fear and guilt. Like any culture, we have our little quirks that only those who grew up in a Mexican-American household will understand.
1. Come 7PM On A Weekday, It’s Time For Novelas
“Es tiempo para mis novelas,” your mom will say as she changes the channel to Univision.
The Mexican household is full of workers, and when a person works all day, they need some sort of method to wind down. The men have their nights of drinking themselves to oblivion, while the women have their novelas. Novelas are Mexican soap operas that air each weekday from 7PM to 10PM.
While it isn’t too bad these days with the Internet and cheap televisions, it was pure hell for a young Mexican kid growing up in the 90s when the house only had one television set. Grandmother, mom, and aunts would be glued to the TV as they watched the dashing middle-aged Erik Estrada juggle the complications of having a young girlfriend while dealing with his kids and ex-wife. Or watching the drama unfold as a lowly india marries a big-city lawyer and struggles to be accepted into upscale Mexican society.
Mexicans are a passionate, fiery people, but the reality of the hustle and bustle of everyday life working long hours for low pay leaves them bored. The Mexican psyche needs its daily dose of drama, scandals, and gossip to function properly.
2. You Have At Least Two Family Members Who Are Here Illegally
Here’s a dose of reality for you gringos: Even the most patriotic of us Mexican-Americans has a couple of members in our family who are here illegally. We also think there is nothing wrong with them being here illegally because we know they’re just trying to build a better life for themselves. We’re not going to single them out or tell anyone who doesn’t need to know. It’s tough enough making it in this country without having any documentation, let alone when la migra is coming after your ass.
For Mexican-Americans, immigration is always a touchy issue. Candidates who go on Mexican television get drilled and called out for what they said to appeal to the FOX News-consuming demographic. We’re not as far removed from our roots as those of European descent who aren’t even sure what country their family is from originally.
For us, an illegal immigrant isn’t some random statistic that conservative pundits always seem to bitch about stealing lucrative ’merican jobs like picking strawberries and working as dishwasher at Denny’s. No, he’s our cousin Pepe who works two full-time jobs for minimum wage as he struggles to raise a family of four. Or they’re our uncle Poncho who snuck into the US 25 years ago, worked his ass off, saved his money, got his citizenship, and now owns his own business. Or it’s me, who came here illegally at age five, grew up as an American, got his citizenship, served in the military, and proved he was as much of a fucking American as any of you.
3. Every Little Thing You Do Will Be Gossiped About To The Point That Even Your Relatives In Mexico Will Know
This probably isn’t unique to Mexican-Americans, but it sure is true. The Mexican-American family thrives on gossip. Whatever happens to you or any other family member, no matter how insignificant, will be talked about repeatedly via telephone with each other member of the family. When they’re not discussing what happened in their novelas, you can best bet they’ll be discussing you.
As a kid, I would see this occur: My mom would be talking to her sister Lupe for 30 minutes. At the same time, her two other sisters—Pulga and Debra—would be talking to each other. My mom would finish her call with Lupe. Then she would call Pulga, who’s just finished her phone call with Debra. Lupe would then call Debra. My mom would have the same exact conversation, except Pulga would add details. They’d finish their conversation 30 minutes later. Then my mom would call Debra and begin to gossip with her while Lupe and Pulga called one another. This happened nightly.
That’s only the beginning. If the gossip is extra juicy, they’re going to each be calling their cousins. The gossip network is vicious and has many branches and offshoots. Word will get around, and one day you’ll be hanging out with a second cousin of yours you hadn’t seen in seven years and he’ll say, “Hey wey, I heard you got arrested a while back…”
4. Your Old Clothes Go To Mexico
If there is one thing you’re aren’t allowed to do in a Mexican household, it is throw away your old clothes or shoes. No fucking way. If your old clothes are somewhat serviceable and you don’t want them, they’re going into a box. That box isn’t just a cardboard square used for storage; it’s a lifeline of new goods for your more downtrodden relatives to wear.
Even the most industrious and Americanized of Mexican families has those members who stayed behind in Mexico. Since Mexico doesn’t always offer the best opportunities for advancement, it’s sometimes hard for a man to secure a decent-paying job. Or just like any other family, we have members who suffer from their own demons and vices that prevent them from keeping a job. La Dona of the family always feels it’s her duty that even the lowliest and most undeserving member of the family have the bare essentials: clothing and food.
It’s common practice for the Mexican-American family to go to Costco and stock up on food and other assorted goods to fill the truck up with before visiting Mexico. As much as there is a cliché that everything is cheaper is Mexico, it isn’t true. There are a lot of products that are significantly less costly in the US than they are down there. Food bought in bulk and old clothes are given to our family members who are not living quite as large as we do here. While we know it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, we help out in whatever little way we can. Porque la familia es lo más importante.