News » Ask a Mexican

You fight one bean, you fight the whole burrito.

Week of October 5, 2006

Dear Mexican: I once got into a fight with a cholo. We beat the crap out of each other, but when all was said and done, I kicked his ass harder than he kicked mine and the cholo ran off swearing and spitting. I assumed the matter was settled but the next day, I got jumped by this same guy and three of his friends. Now I was the one who had to take off running. I told my dad about this chicken-shit incident. He laughed and said, "If you fight one bean, you fight the whole burrito!" What gives with this cowardly, un-manly, pussy way of settling a beef?

Beat the Bean but Battered by the Burrito

Dear Gabacho: Where do you live — the set of High Noon? One-on-one fighting has never characterized the centuries-long brawl between Mexicans and gabachos. Think about it: Thousands of Mexicans stormed the tiny Alamo, and gabachos responded by taking Texas away from Mexico. Pancho Villa's merry band of troopers killed gabachos in Columbus, New Mexico; gabachos responded by sending World War I hero General John Pershing into Mexico to bring Villa to justice (he failed). American servicemen ganged up on Mexican youth in Los Angeles during 1943 Zoot Suit Riots; Mexicans responded last year by reconquistando the city with the election of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Mexicans know that a good fighter never rumbles in a vacuum, always includes his closest amigos and needs a unified front to win. And now you know why the United States remains stuck in Iraq.

Dear Mexican: I got a bumper sticker at a street fair in Mexico that was a play on the "Hecho en México" export logo with the eagle graphic. Mine is the same but says, "Hecho un Mendigo." My Mexican friends think it's funny. Problem is, we can't really explain the joke to gabachos. We try to tell them it means something like "Made in the Streets" or "Made by Funky Poor People" or "Made Me a Poor Person." Explain the joke to the gabachos, por favor.

Cantinflas I'm Not

Dear Wab: First off, your bilingual skills are muy malo. While you correctly translated hecho (the past participle of hacer to make), your paraphrasing of mendigo (beggar) is way off — seriously, "funky poor people" and "made in the streets"? And how the hell did you conjugate "hecho un" ("made a") into "made me" and "made by" ("me hizo" and "hecho por," respectively)? The literal translation of your sticker is "made a beggar." But colloquially, it means "I was made a fool." I'll cut you and your pals slack, though, for trying to explain the intricate world of Mexican wordplay to gabachos. All non-slapstick hilarity is notoriously difficult to translate, and Mexican humor outside of lecherous midgets, big-breasted women and flamboyant homos is heavy on puns, double entendres and other comedies of linguistic errors. The "Hecho un Mendigo" sticker is a great example of the subtleties of Mexican wordplay. The joke works on many levels — as satire (the words use the same stylized font as the iconic "Hecho en México" logo), as a homophonic pun, as self-deprecation, even as a socioeconomic commentary on the destruction of Mexico's economy by NAFTA. Felicidades on your choice of sticker, Cantinflas I'm Not — it makes you so much more refined than the panocha- and beaner-obsessed Carlos Mencia and George Lopez, ¿qué no?

To view more examples of Mexican wordplay on stickers, T-shirts and other random pendejadas, visit

Shameless self plug: Read an interview the Mexican did with the Albuquerque Alibi in this month's issue of the Utne Reader — or, if you're a mendigo, visit

Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we'll make one up for you!

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