Ask a Mexican

Colbert Rapport

I caught your appearance on the June 19 edition of The Colbert Report. I admire your insight and cultural references, but I noticed you mispronounced the Spanish word "patience." You told Colbert that the word was pacencia instead of the correct word paciencia. Why do assimilated Mexicans lose their language and find Spanglish acceptable? — El Erudito

Dear Gabacho,

Indeed, I did appear on the pinche hilarious Colbert Report, and I did indeed translate patience as pacencia instead of the formal paciencia. But I'm not a pendejo; I merely practiced elision, the linguistic phenomenon where speakers drop consonants or vowels from words. Hispanic elites have long considered Mexicans the Eliza Doolittles of the Spanish-speaking world for their tendency to elide and epenthesise (add vowels or consonants), much like gabachos ridicule the sons of the South for their Dixie dialect. Examples of elision in Mexican Spanish abound — pa' instead of para (for), apá instead of papá (father), SanTana instead of Santa Ana, pos instead of pues (well) and my supposed gaffe. Elision is most common among the working class and poor, so any Mexican who talks that way isn't butchering the language of Cervantes; they're probably of rural stock like my parents, natives of Zacatecan mountain ranchos. You might frown upon elision, Erudito, but that's the beauty of language — it doesn't give a shit what you and other self-appointed language guardians think. It doesn't conform to ideas of purity or uniformity, and anyone who tries to squeeze languages into finite linguistic boxes is ignorant of the human condition — or is a member of the French Academy.

To see the Mexican on The Colbert Report, visit

How come Mexicans are always so damn happy? There could be ten of them in the bed of a beat-up pickup in 100-degree heat, and they're all smiles. Are they always drunk or something? — Looking for Mexican Drinking Buddies

Dear Gabacho,

You remind me of my papi's favorite song — "El Muchacho Alegre" ("The Happy Boy"), a ranchera tune popularized by Francisco "El Charro" Avitia that begins, "Yo soy el muchacho alegre/que me amanezco cantando/con mi botella de vino/y mi baraja jugando" ("I'm the happy boy/That wakes up singing/With my bottle of wine/And playing cards"). "El Muchacho Alegre" should be the Mexican national anthem because it has everything a Mexican needs for fun: boozing, whoring, gambling, singing, gunplay, anal — what psychologists call escapism but I call Tuesday night. Besides, what's there not to be happy about, gabacho? Everything is great in the Mexican universe! Fucked-up Mexican economy! Exploitation in el Norte! Endemic diabetes and alcoholism! H.R. 4437! Underachieving Mexican soccer team! Lou Dobbs! Whether it's music, booze, gambling, work or nibbling on cricket quesadillas, we're happy at all times lest we remember life's one unfortunate wrinkle: We're Mexican.

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Gustavo Arellano
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