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The Role Mexican Food Plays in the Immigration Debate



A couple of years back, I put four California white supremacists in prison. They had made the mistake of going into the Slater Slums of Huntington Beach, the city's traditional barrio, to kill a random Mexican. They got as far as stabbing a man before the Slater Slums smackdown began: The community came out from their apartments and kicked the shit out of the KKKlowns — a beatdown of wonderful, ironic proportions. Not a single Mexican was arrested; the Candy Ass Gang, as we called them, went away for years, convicted on hate crimes.

I discovered that the crime was premeditated, announced on a white-power Internet radio show just weeks before. But I also discovered that the attackers loved Mexican food: A bunch of pictures a source forwarded to me showed the pendejos in various states of devouring burritos and tacos from Del Taco, the Mexican fast-food chain that's known for being better than that Taco Bell mierda.

Race traitors? Hardly. Just following American policy: Hate the Mexican, love the Mexican food, assault the Mexican, get your ass handed to you by Mexicans. This has been America's experience with Mexicans, a cycle of justice that must be remembered when considering what's happening to this country right now in the wake of SB 1070 and its many copycats. The Know-Nothing politicians, judges and voters who pass law after law trying to stop Mexicans from asserting themselves in this country are like King Canute commanding the tide to stop: The game is already over. We beat you with our Mexican food long ago, and we're going to beat you on SB 1070 as well.

Although the dinner table may seem an unlikely battleground, you've got to know your history, kids. Food is one of the first things a conquering group demonizes when trying to repress a smaller group. The Spaniards tried to wean the Aztecs off tortillas and into bread, to no avail. During the Mexican-American War, urban legend had it that animals wouldn't eat the corpses of fallen Mexican soldiers due to the high chile content in the decaying flesh.

Similar knocks against Mexican food can be heard to this day in the lurid tourist tales of "Montezuma's Revenge" and in the many food-based ethnic slurs still in circulation: beaner, greaser, pepper belly, taco bender, roach coach. "Aside from diet," the acclaimed borderlands scholar Américo Paredes wrote in 1978, "no other aspect of Mexican culture seems to have caught the fancy of the Anglo coiner of derogatory terms for Mexicans."

But that's all an undercurrent in the larger story of Mexican food's conquest of this country to the tune of billions of dollars: tacos, tequila, hot sauce, chili, Chipotle, Rick Bayless and so much more. If America had truly been successful in its anti-Mexican campaigns over the past 150 years, it would have eradicated our cuisine à la the dishes of all the Native American tribes we exiled to permanent ethnic curiosity. It's not like politicians haven't been down this road before: Dudley Do-Rights have long tried to ban street vendors, taco trucks, cottage food industries and other Mexican culinary traditions from suburbs and cities alike, only to see the common American repudiate them again and again.

And that's what's going to happen with SB 1070. It will go down as did California's Proposition 187, which sought to make all government workers migra agents but later was declared unconstitutional. It'll fail like the mass deportations of Operation Wetback in the 1950s and those that occurred during the Great Depression — government mandates that Mexicans and the Americans who hire them quickly ignored. It'll fall like Los Angeles — once, one of the whitest big cities in the United States, now run by a hell of a lot of Mexicans and their obsequious porcelain-skinned counterparts.

Hell, even Tom Tancredo loves Mexican food. The notorious anti-Mexican former Colorado congressman debated me about assimilation in Denver during the fall of 2010. And what did we eat before the philosophical fisticuffs? Tamales.

America: If Tom Tancredo, who did his damndest to stop Mexicans from coming into this country and left a failed legacy on that front, admitted defeat with each bite of a millennia-old meal, then so will you. Don't worry: We'll be nice. And we'll make sure to add an extra shot of tequila to your frozen margarita when the courts, either now or in a decade or two, realize that SB 1070 is the Plessy v. Ferguson of the 21st century and overturn this cowardly act. In the meantime, keep stuffing your face with tacos!

More from "Crossing the Line":

Days of Rage: Phoenix-based Village Voice Media columnist Stephen Lemons suggest that civil disobedience might provide the answer to the immigration debate.

Bordering on Revolution: Village Voice Media executive editor Michael Lacey writes that the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling threatens to divide our nation.

Welcome Back, Jim Crow: From Miami, a report from Chuck Strouse about how new voting laws might well take out Obama this fall.

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