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Ask a Mexican: What's up with Mexicans changing their names on a whim?



LAST CALL TO BUY TACO USA! Gentle cabrones, my much-promised Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America has finally hit bookstores! Place your order with your favorite local bookstore, your finer online retailers, your craftier piratas, but place it. My libro editor has already promised to deport me from the publishing industry if we don't sell enough copies! And, after this week, I promise to stop running this shameless self-promotion so I can sneak in more questions — so BUY BUY BUY! Gosh, I sound like a pinche public-radio station during a fund-drive...

I usually don't allow anyone to hijack this columna, but an exception must be made for California State Assemblymember Gil Cedillo. He's been fighting the good fight for decades, recently trying to get driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and ceaselessly support DREAMers. Cedillo was so moved by the undocumented college student who wrote in a couple of weeks ago fretting about his future and inability to pay for community college that the chingón assemblymember wrote in with this public service announcement:

Unfortunately, Congress has stalled on passing the Federal Dream Act. However, here in California just last year. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 130 and AB 131, which allow all students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.  Assembly Bill 130 went into effect on January 1, 2012 and allows students to receive private scholarships. Currently, there are many organizations, donors and colleges raising money for undocumented students.  Just a few weeks ago, UC Berkeley announced that they awarded approximately $1 million in scholarships, which was funded by a combination of private gifts and endowments, to 140 students. In Silicon Valley, a group of technology leaders have donated money for scholarships and resources to undocumented students through an organization called Educators for Fair Consideration.  Furthermore, next year, once AB 131 is implemented, students will have the opportunity to receive Cal Grants, Board of Governor's Fee Waivers (for community college students) and other state-funded scholarships.  Although I agree with Gustavo that we must keep the faith while the Congress acts on the Federal Dream Act, here in California we at least have something to be proud of and look forward to.

Gracias, Assemblymember Cedillo. If only more assemblymembers and state senators across the country agreed with you on this, back to your regular programming.

Dear Mexican: Why do Mexicans change their names, seemingly at whim? For example, Antonio Garcia Rodriguez is Antonio Garcia on Monday and Antonio Rodriguez on Wednesday. And by Saturday, he might call himself Pedro Garcia! Is this a plot to confuse whitey? It's working, if it is!
No More Nombres

Dear Gabacho: From the moment a Mexican is born until the day he's seis pies abajo, a Mexican's sole goal in life is to confound gabachos — commanded so by diosito en el cielo in Leviticus, it is. But the long-winded names Mexicans use isn't part of that conspiracy. You can actually find a version of question in my ¡Ask a Mexican! book (BUY BUY BUY in the next week, and you get a free ¡Ask a Mexican! tote bag...or not), but let me reiterate: Traditionally, a Mexican's full name constituted four parts: a first name, a middle nombre, a surname, and the mother's apellido (more than a few Mexis drop the middle name, and use those initials to create cool belt buckles). This insistence on honoring the maternal and paternal sides of the familia, however, wrecks desmadre on American legal forms, which frequently mistake the maternal name for the last name, a middle name for a surname, or a surname for a middle name. And now you know why far too many Mexis get pulled aside by the TSA — oh, and that whole Tío Lencho-looks-like-Saddam Hussein thing, too...

Ask the Mexican at [email protected], be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano or ask him a video question at!

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