Illustration by Mark DancyDear Mexican,
As an Asian person, would I be considered a gabacho?Or do I fall into the yellow bucket labeled chinito,even though I'm not Chinese?
Like Americans assume all Latinos are Mexican, Mexicans think all Asians are chinos—Chinese.When I used to go out with a Vietnamese woman, my aunts would speak highly of michinitabonita—mycute little Chinese ruca.When I'd point out she was actually Vietnamese, mistíaswould think about it for a bit and respond, “¡Que chinitabonita!”
But just because a Mexican calls you a chinodoesn't necessarily mean we think you're Chinese, OC Asian. “Chino,” like so many of our swear words, has multiple negative meanings. In the colonial days, a chinowas the offspring of a half-Indian/half-black and an Indian. This association with race also transformed chinointo a synonym for “servant” and “curly.” The term “barrio chino” (Chinatown) also became a euphemism for a town's red-light district. And a popular schoolyard refrain that all Mexican kiddies eventually chant at their Asian classmates is “Chino, chino,japones:comecacaynomedes”(“Chinese, Chinese, Japanese: eat shit and don't give me any”).
So why the Mexican chino-hate? After all, Chinese were the Mexicans of the world before there even was a Mexico, migrating to Latin America a couple of decades after the fall of Tenochtitlán. And our most famous native dress, the billowy, colorful costume worn by baile folklórico dancers known as a china poblana, was supposedly first worn by a 17th century Mexican-Chinese woman. Bigotry is bigotry, though, and since Mexico's Asian population is still small and overwhelmingly Chinese, we lump Asians into the chinocategory—makes the racism easier, you know? Just ask Pat Buchanan.
GotaspicyquestionaboutMexicans?AsktheMexicanatgarellano@ocweekly.com.Andthoseofyouwhodosubmitquestions:giveyournameorapseudonym,por favor, orwe'llmakeoneupforyou!