Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pretending To be Mexican: The New Tio Tacos?

Today I read where Central and South Americans in Los Angeles have been pretending to be Mexicans in order to get jobs. First, they need to acquire a Mexican accent, then learn some new words (especially swear words) and last eat Mexican food. They live in fear of being uncovered and potentially losing their jobs. Wow, in my day Mexicans worked hard to pretend they were anglos, but this?? Who would've thunk it? We called them "coconuts" (brown on the outside, but white on the inside), or Tio Tacos. They went so far as to change their names, especially their last names. The classic example is Victoria Carranza, who renamed herself Vicky Carr! One of the best stories I ever heard was from one of my students years back by the name of Ronnie Lopstain. He called himself a Chicano but I had my doubts. One day I confronted him about it, inquiring how he came to get the name, instead of say, Lopez or something. He told me that in fact his father's name was Lopez, but the family moved into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in San Francisco and opened a corner grocery store calling it "Lopez Groceries". When few clients frequented his business, his father decided to change the store's name to "Lopestain Groceries", but in time refined it to Lopstain! Needless to say his business increased tenfold! When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?


Patty said...

Wow! your comment is just a bit over the top, don't ya think?
To call the Grammy award winning singer Vikki Carr a pretender is way out there. She is the eldest of 7 children, born to Mexican-American parents, and FIERCELY proud of her heritage, you've picked the wrong person to pick on. Please, look elsewhere when you want to poke fun at someone, because she IS the real deal.
Sleezy jo

Rick Rivers said...

Whoa, sorry. I was not picking on her. I love her music. I just come from a generation where this kind of irritated some of us. Yet I realize it was "surival" which was the whole point of my commentary.

*AnairA* said...

Pretending to be Mexican o mejor dicho..pretending NOT to be Mexican is a more accurate way to describe Victoria's rational for changnig her last name. I don't question her pride but I also recognize her entreprenual spirit...let's face it, Vicki wanted to sell some records. Is she less than the real deal for doing so, the need to eat will move people to do anything-- even if it means compromising their identity to get ahead.

Rick Rivers said...

Anaira: Si, that was my point. We tend to see it in a different light today. I grew up in the 40's when things were very different. I went through the being ashamed to tell anyone I was "Mexican" syndrome of that time. Instead I told them I was "Spanish" and ate "Spanish Food". It was not very popular to be Mexican then. Thanks to the Chicano Movement of the late 60's and 70's I rediscovered my identity. Will publish a post soon on the word "Chicano" and how that word solved some of our identity problems.