“There are no stupid questions,” the saying goes… But there are pointless ones.
Like the question someone asked me on Twitter after they read last week’s “Letter to My Racist Grandma“—or just the caption, more likely.
“Why does your Honduran grandma hate Mexicans?” they said.
First off, my grandma doesn’t hate Mexicans. The family that’s been renting out her basement apartment for the past 20 years for cheap is Mexican, which I know doesn’t actually settle the question. But it at least suggests that she doesn’t flat-out hate Mexicans, because who has the time and energy to be kind to people you hate, especially at her age?
Asking why my grandma or anyone hates Mexicans is like asking why Hitler hated Jews so much. Does it matter? If I explained why Hitler hated Jews, would you go, “Oh okay, I can see that, I get it”?
There’s never a good reason to hate a whole category of people—even Republicans. Well, except maybe hedge fund managers…. and people who use the word Latinx in private social settings…. and—
Okay, so maybe there are a few good reasons to hate whole categories of people. But being born Mexican, or Jewish, or anything, isn’t one of them.
If you have to know why my grandma doesn’t like Mexicans, it’s because she came to this country “the right way” back in 1970 or so and “busted her ass” to bring my mom and my two aunts here “the right way” too. So she hates the idea of someone “just crossing the border” without even paying cover.
My grandma did something a certain way and now she thinks everybody should have to do it that way. It’s dumb logic. Why would you want other people to suffer through something just because you did? That’s like surviving cancer and hoping they never find a cure.
What Grandma doesn’t seem to understand about today’s world—and she’s 81, so she understands less and less every day—is just how different the immigration system is now and how worse things are in Mexico today than they were in her native Honduras when she left.
Because while getting to America wasn’t that big a deal then—my suegro’s told me stories of how he used to cross back and forth no problem when he was a teenager chasing work—now, billions of dollars later, the border’s been made into a virtual wall, with a no man’s land in the desert that only the truly desperate or insane attempt to cross.
Plus there’s a line at the main doors 10 or 20 years long of people waiting to enter this country supposedly built by foreigners.
And while I’m not sure what was going on in Honduras c. 1970—I know there was a Soccer War with the Salvadorans around that time, but the really hard fighting over cocaine and communism didn’t kick off in the region for a few more years—I’ll bet my grandma a daily hourlong phone call from hers truly that things in Tegucigalpa back then were nowhere near as fucked as they are in Juárez today.
My suegro’s been staying with us for the past couple of weeks—we took him to the Los Bukis concert the first Friday, and by the time you read this he’ll be back in El Paso or in Juárez with his wife. Anyway, he was telling me just how bad things have gotten over there. Every time he visits, or when we go to visit him, he tells us how worse things are getting in Juárez. But now it sounds worse than ever.
They’ve been firebombing shops, the two cartels fighting over Juárez: the infamous Sinaloas, El Chapo’s old crew, and the New Generation clique out of Jalisco, who make the Sinaloas look button-down.
It’s the Sinaloas that torched a store and killed a woman and her daughter—retaliation, supposedly, for two gangeros shot dead in a prison riot, though I never understood how killing random people is considered revenge. If I were in a gang and someone killed one of my carnales, I’d go looking for the fucker who did it, and if I couldn’t find them, then I’d get my hands on one of the people they roll with.
But if I ended up killing someone who had nothing to do with any of it, I’d consider that an epic fail and a damn waste of time and bullets.
That’s like if America were attacked and, instead of going after the people who did it or were responsible for it, we just invaded another country. And then, once we blasted the place up with craters and rubble, we threw up a banner that said “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.”
Pointless… and stupid. Because now, instead of getting rid of one hater, you’ve just added another.
“Blowback,” they call it. Someone should teach these cartels about blowback, and marksmanship.
They killed a lady at an Oxxo crosstown in Juárez the other day as she was applying for a job. Think of that…
I wonder how far she got in the application.
Anyway, as I mentioned, my suegro’s wife lives down in Juárez. This isn’t my mother-in-law but a woman he met and hooked up with after he got deported in ‘05 and my wife’s mom two-timed him (long story… too long to tell here). Anyway, his new wife was born and raised near Juárez, on a ranch somewhere, and has never left the area except to visit an aunt in El Paso when she was 16. She’s coming up on 60 years old now, so you do the math.
The lady’s basically a prisoner in the little cinderblock house my suegro built with his dad back in the day. She only goes to work cleaning houses and offices or to the store to do a compra, but that’s it.
Her 18-year-old son mostly stays inside when he isn’t working. If you didn’t know him you’d hate to cross paths with him down some random Juárez side street. There’s a deadness in his dark eyes and face, but truth is he wouldn’t hurt a Chihuahua. Super gentle and soft-spoken.
Poor kid’s probably still traumatized from the time he got mugged at gunpoint while walking home from work one night. Dude strolled up alongside him, jammed the barrel of a gun into his ribs and said, “Pretend like we’re friends and give me your cellular.”
He was still making payments on the thing till not long ago.
I was telling my suegro over some homemade margaritas de tamarindo how I always wanted to take the Great American Road Trip across Mexico. I’d start in Nuevo Laredo or Reynosa and head down to Monterey, then down to San Luis Potosí and over to Aguascalientes, down through León (where I’d maybe catch a match) and Guanajuato—stopping in San Miguel de Allende, of course—then down to the Capital where I’d definitely have to catch a match at Estadio Azteca, but not before seeing Caza Azul and the room where Trotsky got brained. I’d see all the other sights there too—the Zócalo and the Templo Mayor, the column with the golden angel on top, the big green park and the Palacio de Bellas Artes—but then I’d head for Popocatépetl and then through Puebla on my way to Veracruz. From there I’d basically follow the coast through Tabasco and Campeche to Mérida, and from there through the Yucatán—stopping in Chichén Itzá, hopefully on one of the equinoxes to catch the snake slithering down the steps of the pyramid—then to Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel (I’d take a boat), and Tulum. That would be the halfway mark, the farthest out from home…
Then it would be a simple thing of just looping back around by a more southern and western route, through Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero—resting in Acapulco—up to Cuernavaca (it would be cool to take a day trip out to Anenecuilco to see where Zapata was born and learned to ride, or at least Chinameca where the fuckers finally got him), and then Toluca, taking my time through Michoacán, to Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, where I’d take a ferry to Cabo—they’ve got ferries from Mazatlán to Cabo, no?—and then take my time again coming up through Baja, eating and drinking everything in sight till I got to Tijuana where I’d rent a room close enough to hear the waves, buy a bunch of tequila, and party through whatever money I had left.
But I can’t take that trip. No one can, not without being robbed, beaten, raped, kidnapped, shot up, beheaded, or burned alive—probably all of the above—and probably before they even finished packing the car.
Maybe Mexico isn’t as bad as all that, but it ain’t much better either. It’s sad, and it’s gotta cost Mexico loads of pesos in lost revenue.
My grandma doesn’t seem to realize how bad things are in Mexico, and she isn’t alone. A lot of people, conservatives mostly, but some Democrats too, want to pretend that Mexico is just really poor, like going-to-Walmart-for-eye-exams poor, or that it’s just as dangerous as Chicago.
I’m from Chicago, born and raised, and I’ve never heard of decapitated bodies being hung from a bridge over the Dan Ryan.
Featured image by logatfer/CC BY-SA 2.0