DEAR MEXICAN: In my hometown of Playa Larga (Long Beach, California), natives refer to a major avenida in our villa, Junipero Avenue (named for Father Junipero Serra, accused native genocider, a candidate for sainthood—but I digress), as Juan-a-pear-o. There is no “Juan” in Junipero, but that’s how everyone in this town pronounces it. People who reside on that street, real-estate agents, residents, business owners—I even heard a former mayor pronounce it that way. Why do white Americans (and even some Guatemalan-Americans) bend over backwards to pronounce Junipero as Juan-a-pear-o to sound as though they know how to pronounce it as a Spanish speaker would, yet it is the most garbled malapropism of the word (which should be pronounced “hoo-NEE-pear-o”)?
DEAR GABACHO FROM LONG BEACH: Gotta say that in my lifetime of living in Southern California, I’ve never heard nadie pronounce Junipero as you say people mispronounce it—the malapropism I hear is “June-IH-pear-oh,” a fascinating medley of the proper accent placement on the third-to-last syllable in Junípero’s Spanish incarnation and a rigid following of English grammatical structure. This is the wonderful world of the grammatical gabacho colonizing of the American Southwest, where Yankees decided to keep many of the original Spanish names of territories, cities and geographical landmarks, but Anglicize them—”Tex-as” instead of Teh-haas,” “Loss An-ju-less” instead of “Loce AHNG-heh-les,” or “A-ri-zone-ah” instead of “Hell-on-Earth” (okay, in fairness to the Sonora dog, just the parts of the state where Arpayaso and Brewer roam). Custodians of Cervantes, of course, cringe at gabachos’ mongrelization of Spanish-language place names, and that’s a beautiful thing: Remember that one of the few cardinal rules of this columna is that language is fluid, and anyone who tries to box it in or get their chonis in a bunch about it are as deluded as Rick Santorum.
DEAR MEXICAN: Why is every overweight, tattooed, goateed, bead-wearing, late-model-Tahoe-driving, non-educated enchilada in Texas a University of Texas fan? Why not A&M or Tech? Or Baylor (that’s obvious)? And one more thing: Please stop becoming belligerently drunk and taking it personal when the team on your Walmart 3XL T-shirt loses. You have no personal ties to the team, so quit throwing up gang signs and using profanity in an atmosphere that’s meant to be fun. The drunk 19-year-old college kid means no harm when he screams, “Boomer!” so grow up and get a life.
DEAR GABACHO: “Enchilada” as a slur against Mexicans? The 1950s called—they want their ethnic insult back. As for the fan question: same reason no one outside of Oklahoma gives a shit about the Sooners. Subway alumni like winners in football, and the Longhorns are the epitome of a winning program in the Lone Star State, while the Aggies, Red Raiders, UTEP Miners, Texas Christian University, the University of Houston and Texas’ many other college football programs haven’t exhibited such gridiron dominance over the years. The Sooners haven’t dominated college football since the days of Barry Switzer—you really expect non-Okies to give a damn about a third-rate university that just played in something called the Insight Bowl? By the way, your Baylor dig is lost on me. Because Baylor is a private university? USC (the Trojans USC, not the Gamecocks one) is private and has more than a few wab alumni. Typical Sooner solipsism—but what else can we expect from a university that named itself after invading illegals? Go Cowboys (both the Dallas and Oklahoma State variants)!
Gustavo Arellano is the editor of OC Weekly, author of the syndicated column “¡Ask a Mexican!”, and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. He started at the paper with an angry, fake letter to the editor and went from there—only in Anacrime!