FIVE THINGS MEXICANS ARE SUPER TOUCHY ABOUT
By Dr. Alvaro Ramírez, Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California
Like many foreigners of old, Donald Trump has found a gold mine in Mexico that has been particularly beneficial to him in rallying his base. For more than two years, he has been hurling insults over his imaginary, beautiful, border wall to the delight of his followers while making many people in Mexico fume like the country’s famous volcano, Popocatépetl. He has compared us to rapists, killers, drug dealers, and job stealers, but he has not really hit the mother lode of insults that will really make Mexicans explode.
You see, these names, though offensive, are a bit tame compared to other things that Trump, or anyone else, can say to Mexicans that will truly make them go ballistic.
The following does not apply to all Mexicans since that would lead into the terrain of stereotypes, but these are five things that many people in Mexico are super touchy about.
First, don’t ever tell a Mexican that the Virgen de Guadalupe is a hoax. Doing this is like taking the comfort blanket away from Linus, that insecure character from the comic strip, Peanuts. You are stripping them of their identity, of that which gives them some stable meaning. La Virgen Morena (The Brown Virgin) is the glue that keeps their social reality intact because they know that nationalism doesn’t work too well anymore. Without her sacred image, Mexico disintegrates into nothingness. So if you claim the Virgin is a hoax be ready to see Mexicans fight you like a mother bear defending her cubs.
Second, you will also highly provoke Mexicans if you ever mention that racism is alive and doing well in their country. No way, they’ll tell you. We’re not racists only the Americanos and Europeans practice those bad habits. Here in Mexico, we have class but not race. You can take them to the region of La Costa Chica in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca where they’ll see plenty of Afro-Mexicans suffering discrimination, you can demonstrate to them how much racism Indigenous people endure, or you can point out how racism is at work in television in everything from commercials to telenovelas, still Mexicans will fight you all the way and deny that there are any racist among them.
Third, in fact, when discussing race matters with a Mexican, don’t ever make the mistake of calling him an “indio” (Indian). Even if they have strong physical features associated with the natives, they’ll take it as a derogatory remark especially if you say it in anger. In any case, call a Mexican an Indian and you’ll have a very deeply wounded person who will deny or downplay his Indian-ness unless, of course, he or she wants to sell you some native arts and crafts, then they’ll play it up for you, they’ll perform this ethnic role in exchange for dollars.
Fourth, Mexicans will also be offended and hurt if you call them “naco,” a demeaning and repulsive word associated with Indians that has race and class connotations. This denigrating word refers to low-class ghetto people imitating the tastes of the upper class who aspire to enjoy the delights offered by the multinational companies but all they can afford are the pirated knockoffs. Therefore, “nacos” are people who live in an imitation world, trapped in a tacky, garish reality in the worst possible way. Calling a Mexican “naco” is similar to calling an American, white trash. It will lead to problems and it’s best to avoid it.
Fifth, don’t ever tell anyone in Mexico that you can get real Mexican food in the United States. They’ll come at you with everything in the kitchen and beat you senseless with your burrito de carne asada. Mexicans will angrily tell you that Americans destroy everything dealing with food and turn it into a bland menu a la Taco Bell. They’ll also argue that the real deal can only be had in Mexico; everything else is fake Mexican cuisine, ut the truth is that many Mexicanos are hooked on American food, especially the fast kind.