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Down and Delirious at Columbia University (Pochos y Chilangos talk about POCHO BECOMING)

April 16, 2011

In the last three years at Columbia University and in NYC i’ve slowly carved out some space. A few goods friends celebrate key moments, provide support when shit sucks, read countless drafts of papers, grants, drink ounces and ounces of coffee and beer. The owner and bartender at el Porton have become fam: inviting me to their children’s bday, providing advice, and playing Ramon Ayala (no matter how many times I’ve request the same two or three songs).

On campus: we have an active and cool set of Latin Americanist. Together with students of color, I helped found a workshop on race and ethnicity and a position within the history department to advocate, recruit, and create community among historians of color. Things that we west coast undergrads take for granted.

While all this is dope, yesterday was particularly special. With Modelo tall boys, 20 ounce Coronas, various 6 packs of modelo especial, cacahuates japoneses, palomitas, and other botanas, pochos, chilangos, and americans packed a room to talk about Down and Delirious in Mexico City. I’ve never seeing so many pochos in a Columbia classroom. Below are my opening remarks (with all its typos)
which served as a away to introduce Daniel and the book. Thanks to all who came, helped, and helped form banda. Hope you enjoy:

As I read review of Down and Delirious in Mexico City, I was annoyed that reviewers understood Daniel Hernandez’s as a Mexican-American in search of his roots. With a few simple lines they located the origins of Mexican identity outside of the United States. More to the point, they called all of US PHO-Mexicans. My friends in New York had to hear me rant.

Do these writers not know that Los Angeles is the third or fourth largest Mexican city in the world? That across the US, Mexicans of various skin tones called themselves TE-ZO-ZO-ZO-MOC-wear elaborate head dresses and reproduce the traditional and authentic dances of our ancestors? That Micheladas, horchata, tacos, fruita con sal y limon, paletas de leche y agua can be bought and consumed in restaurants, street corners, and parks. That in New York we also ask La Virgencita for miracles. Had they never witnessed the broken hearted run to their local mariachi and request songs of betrayal, of a love that could not be.

They must know that if the US National Soccer team wants a home game against Mexico they must go to Canada. That in 2006 immigrants and their allies took to the streets? Someone must have told them that we Chicanos and Pochos are as good if not better than real Mexicans at inventing Mexicaness.

Finally, a friend from Mexico City had enough: “guey you haven’t even read the book. Besides, guey, las pinches tortillas en Nueva York son malisimas, todo mundo lo sabe.” Well, after reading the book I am happy to inform everyone HERE that my rants were at least partially justified…

Down and Delirious traces Daniel becoming a chilango. I want to propose that his upbringing in the US as a Mexican-American, as a pocho, both enabled and shaped this BECOMING..

Some definitions before we proceed.

Pocho: While currently in vogue among Mexican-Americans of our generation, it is a deragotary label used to refer to the children of migrants. POCHOs are believed to assimilate into American society and to either not speak Spanish or to speak it poorly.

To quote from Down and Delirious:

“My heritage is something people can almost smell on me here in Mexico City. It is a skin I cannot shed.”

“our manner of walking, for one, quick and exasperated, our tentative Spanish, that starting pocho accent—I am a gringo regardless of how dark my skin might be. I am a Mexican gringo, if you will.”

BANDA. Banda is an “umbrella term under which all subcultures are accepted. To be banda is to be part of the crew, the tribe, Banda is the ultimate compliment.”

Chilango: “A Mexican from the provinces who has made the DF his home and adopts all the most disagreeable characteristics of those caught in the city’s frenzy. It is a slur that is morphing into a badge of honor”

Daniel’s aesthetic, shaved head, dark skin, numerous tattoos, eclectic musical taste. His politics, a concern and desire to understand the life of those at the margins of society, are what enable him to connect with youth tribes of Mexico City: He is Banda because he is DOWN, he is DOWN via his own particular brand of POCHISMO.

The graffiti artists from Neza, the homies who adopt a cholo aesthetic, los punks from Santa Fe, all participant in cultural practices  that cross the US-Mexico border.

I would like to close with a scene from this past summer. Diego Flores Magon, Daniel Hernandez, Froylan Enciso, and I were at UNAM waiting to see the iconic Chicano Play Zoot Suit. This was an emotional DAY for all of us : it was the first time the play traveled to Mexico and we had the honor of hanging out with Don Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, an important Chicano intellectual and art critic. As we waited to enter the theater Don Tomas told us “CADA Mexicano es EN POTENCIA UN CHICANO”

Down and Delirious says something similar “In every pocho is the possibility of becoming a Chilango.” In the end, Dany Daniel finds his pocho roots by becoming Chilango:

“Mexico City is a site of essential rediscovery. For the first time I begin to consider the possibility that living with a cultural bipolarity could be okay, on balance. It is the city’s underlying lesson.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2011 12:34 am

    Video of Event Coming SOON

  2. nick permalink
    April 16, 2011 3:06 am

    interesting side note: gringo in some south american countries simply means a national from another country. but that’s only in south america. what do they know?

  3. April 21, 2011 8:06 pm

    I like the idea of having an individual brand of pochismo, pocho taking on different meanings for different individuals. It’s too bad reviews (mis)understood Hernandez as they did, but it sounds like another stereotypical example depicting a monolithic Latin@ identity narrative. And we know colonial narratives die hard.

    • April 22, 2011 2:43 am

      yeah, do doubt.
      Im thinking of using his book as a primary source to intervene on the use of diaspora. So, turning the basic argument here into a longer, academic review-like piece…
      I just have to finish a draft of prospectus first….Anyways, hope you good. If I write, te lo mando.
      saludos from nyc

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