I went to the South Gate campus to see Gustavo Arellano, the columnist who writes the weekly newspaper entry entitled “Ask a Mexican”, a column that explains the origins and opines on the veracity of stereotypes on the Mexican community. I arrived at South Gate expecting a good event, and I got it. There was free food (very important for me!), and I got to sit in the front role to see Gustavo up close.
Gustavo went up the podium and began his presentation by asking questions. There were many people in the audience, and they were all very attentive. I had at first hoped to ask him why there is such a great anti-immigrant atmosphere in the country, particularly in shows like “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and a few talk show hosts in radio stations. After contemplating possible questions, since I figured I should only ask one so that many people can get a chance to participate, I ended up asking him other question that addressed what I considered the root of the challenges to the Mexican community, namely, “Why is the Mexican community so divided?” He answered that all communities are divided, not just the Mexican one, but that this is a negative thing because the powers that be are aiming to keep us divided. It is an old dictum of “Divide and Conquer”, and it is essentially the way that groups are kept repressed.
Aside from discussing the divisions in the Mexican community, he elaborated on the fact that stereotypes originate from exaggeratedly broad assumptions. People see a condition in one segment of the population, and assume that it is the same for all. The thing that is required to debunk a stereotype is an exception to the particular stereotype. Once this is done, the whole false belief crumbles down.
He also pointed out that there are both positive and negative stereotypes. Mexicans are thought to be hard-working survivalists. This is a stereotype that is pleasant. But there are also stereotypes that say that Mexicans are lazy. This is unpleasant.
Then he went on to explain the origins of his column. It all started when a white co-worker of Gustavo noticed a billboard that had a picture of “Piolín” wearing a Viking helmet. He asked Gustavo, “Who’s that Mexican with the Viking Helmet?”
Gustavo replied in shock and outrage. He chastised his friend for not knowing that Piolín was the most famous DJ in the country. His friend got an idea from this little exchange. He proposed to Gustavo that he should make a column that would educate white people about the stereotypes about Mexicans. He proposed that the column should be called, “Ask a Mexican”. Gustavo followed through, and to his surprise, received plenty of questions for his column.
Little by little the column grew bigger and more successful. It got to the point that Gustavo was not able to keep up with the amount of questions submitted. And even more amazing (and eerie), was the fact that none of the questions ever repeated (I personally don’t believe that).
Everyone in the audience seemed to enjoy Gustavo’s presentation. They were captivated by his witty remarks. He was a quick thinker and talker that was able to improvise in any situation, and adjust his speech to fit the participation of the audience. The audience laughed at his jokes, made comments, asked questions, and had an overall good time. I know that it is hard to have such presentations, but I noticed that this one went exceptionally well.
Gustavo Arellano is a man who gets paid thousands of dollars to give presentations. I was very lucky to be able to see him without having to pay. Being a “starving college student”, I need the experiences and education, but I also need to be easy on my wallet. And so I appreciate the chance to be able to attend such an event.