What is it about Mexicans and collecting old cars? I have three Mexican neighbors with middle-class incomes but in each case, when the old car or truck won’t run anymore, they would buy a nearly new replacement and then just let the old clunker sit in the driveway up close to the house or garage . . . for MONTHS! Hood up, radiator out on the ground, flat tires . . . etc.
Flying with my Ford
When my brother came of age, I lectured him on the facts of life. No, not sex, as that’s for him to discover with cousins of his age watching Tube8 on a laptop (as opposed to my generation of cousins, who’s watch pornos on scratchy VHS tapes while all our parents were gossiping during Carne Asada Sunday), but on what would make him a man: who could afford a classic car. Just like our fathers and abuelitos in la patria weren’t real men until they had a beautiful horse to call their own, modern-day Mexican males in the United States aren’t real hombres until they have enough income to own a classic car, be it bomb or boat. It shows you have money, you have taste, you know your way around an engine, and you have an investment you can sell in a second if you ever need bail money for some primo or other. We don’t drive these often—you always need a dependable daily driver, as well—but a clasic ranfla is is so much better than the latest Lexus or BMW that every gabacho douche buys for their bit of conspicuous consumption. A la chingada con stocks: nothing valuates better than a ’59 Chevy Impala convertible that stays in the garage 360 days of the year and is equipped with an air-raid siren, custom rims, and an Aztec miden mural on the trunk.
Here’s my question. I hope you take me seriously . . . what’s so great about the U.S.A.? War, bad politicians, Social Security gone, stereotypes, drunk driving, gang wars, scary public schools, no respect for anybody who doesn’t want to live the way they live. I know my family risked their lives so I could be born here, but I hate it. The jobs aren’t that great and there’s crime everywhere. How is that any different from the Mexico they left? Is the American dream over?
Pocho ready to go
Dear Pocho: As I’ve written before, the United States basically is Mexico at this point without Aztec pyramids at this point thanks to Republicans. Horrible violence (14,043 murders in the U.S. In 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal, compared to the much-ballyhood narco-murder rate of 15,273 in Mexico that same year), an ineffectual government, stuck-up fresas who insist there’s such a thing as “authentic” Mexican food—we’ve become Mexico in its worst manifestations. But is the American Dream done? Not even close, as long as we have Mexicans and other immigrants who flee bad lives and want to improve themselves in the country where it’s historically been possible. That’s becoming harder and harder, of course—net migration from Mexico to the United States has been nearly zero for the past couple of years because of the Great Recession—but the American Dream will live as long as we have someone crossing the desert in the middle of July, as long as we have fake passports, and as long as people willingly stuff themselves into cars for the opportunity to hear their gabacho bosses bitch about how horrible life is.
Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org, be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!