Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly, Canto CXXIII: The Original Journalism YOUR Tacos Bought!

La Herradura in Anaheim, which all of ustedes should visit. Photo by Gus Jaimes...

Gentle cabrones:

As we all get ready for Election Tuesday and What’s Next — and if you haven’t voted yet but can, GO VOTE NOW — let’s take a canto to see what tacos of positivity can do.

In August, I asked ustedes to give me 2,000 tacos so I could commission five original freelance work — three pieces of about 1,000 words, one long piece over 3,000 words, and an illustration.

I would pay what’s considered not-bad for freelancers: 300 tacos for the shorter pieces, 1,000 tacos for the longer one, and 100 for the illustration.

Now, I could’ve done a Lyle Lanley and run off with the tacos — but I ain’t no Fyre Festival. So two weeks ago, I published a week’s worth of originals — and I even joined in the fun.

I want to thank everyone who donated tacos to the effort. I think I’m going to do this once a year, and ask for a little bit more every year to offer more tacos to writers. It’s great to not only work with talented freelancers who deserve more shine, but also give them a byline that they can hopefully turn into a gig with publications more prestigious than my rink-a-dink shop.

All thanks to YOU (or rather, those of ustedes generous with your tacos haha).

And here they are…


First time reading this newsletter? Subscribe here for more merriment! Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc Feedback, thoughts, commentary, rants? Send them to

La Herradura in Anaheim Keeps their Western-Wear Store Dreams Alive”: I’ve known author Sarah Mosqueda for years as one of the bright spots in OC’s restaurant scene with her stints at Taco Maria and the late, great Irenia. So imagine my surprise when she not only pitched me a story, but wrote an awesome piece about a store I had long driven past by and now must visit. Sarah is part of the coaching tree of Irvine Valley College professor Lisa Alvarez.

Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano, and the Art of the Wait”: Remember how I say to don’t be shy? Author Sean Vukan is, yet he got over it to not only pitch me a review of the much-heralded San Juan Capistrano restaurant, but also ask for a one-hour writing workshop with me as part of my community office hours. Now THAT is WERK. Follow Sean on Instagram.

In Oaxaca, Researchers Find Livestock Can Help — Not Hurt — Native Grasslands”: I met Lorena Villanueva-Almanza when she invited me to speak at a UC Riverside event urging doctoral candidate to engage their findings with the hoi polloi. She took my advice to heart, because she kindly offered this story to me that could’ve easily published in Nature or any scientific journal.

10 Great Songs About the States of Mexico”: A story I had wanted to write FOREVER, and finally did to join all the freelancers ustedes commissioned. Click on it, and that’s your morning soundtrack! And expect a sequel of sorts soon…

The Fantasies of Ole Hanson, San Clemente’s Founding Father”: Was great to work again with my former colleague/forever compa Gabriel San Román on some DEEP TRACK OC hidden history stuff, this one about the delusions of OC’s southernmost city. And former OC Weekly art director Federico Medina kindly offered a photo.

Everyone has been paid, insha’Allah. Read them all, even if you didn’t offer tacos. And if you want more? Keep sending those tacos my way…gracias!


This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…

With everything that is happening in the world right now… COVID-19, civil unrest, policing issues, Trump issues… etc.. I am curious to know your thoughts on this…how important is the Message compared to the Messenger?

A few years ago I traded online differences with people in regards to Colin Kaepernick. He was in the midst of kneeling during the National Anthem as a protest against racial injustice, police brutality and systematic oppression throughout the country.
My position at the time – and still is – that he was completely within his rights to kneel and I appreciated the attention he was bringing to these issues. Whereas a few of my online friends felt his actions were disrespectful towards our flag and nation.

Fast forward to present day, these same people seem to be jumping onto the BLM Bandwagon but still trashing Kaepernick. Which I find weird. When I pointed this out to one person their comment was,
The messenger has to be as good as the message.WTF!

Previously, you wrote,
Heroes, by their very nature, are not meant for this world, and by definition, usually fall to the vices of their virtues. Hercules. Gilgamesh. Joe Dimaggio. John Steinbeck probably made up most of Travels with Charley. We’re meant to get inspired by them, not emulate every action of theirs.”

I don’t particularly see Kaep as a hero, but I do see him as a person with a large megaphone trying to inspire people to do the right thing. Do I want everyone to emulate all of his actions? No (my personal opinion is he is a mediocre quarterback with an inflated ego), but that doesn’t discount the message.

Kaepernick is no mediocre quarterback, and he has no ego. His performance in the 2012 NFC playoffs against the Green Bay Packers was one of the most dominant performances I’ve ever seen. And an ego is believing in something, but shutting up to take in tens of millions of dollars a year and living the good life. Kaep risked his career to fight for something that, years later, others caught on to — the definition of a prophet.

The message matters far more than the messenger — but the human mind wants heroes to emulate, not prophets to jeer. History remembers heroes for their actions; history remembers prophets for their message. Go with the prophets.

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Me, after I voted. VOTE.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Off Sicily, as everywhere else in the world, dawn is the most perfect part of the day, if you’ve got the nerve to get up and see it.”

–Ernie Pyle

LISTENING:El Mojado sin Licencia,” Flaco Jimenez. One of the great satirical songs in Mexican music, one that knows how to say “wetback” with pride, offer  #mexicannames and #mexicannicknames, the BEST solo in music history after Bach goes nuts on the harpsichord at the end of the first movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, AND serve as the finale to the legendary documentary Chulas Fronteras. You’re welcome.

READING: Safe Risks & Radical Aspirations”: University of Arizona folklorist Maribel Alvarez runs the amazing Tucson Meet Yourself Festival, which I had the luck to speak at last year. It happened again this year, not as some Scottsdale nightmare, but COVID-safe and rehabilitative for the soul. Profe Maribel’s essay is not just an apt dispatch, but teaches how to practice wisdom and grace and community in the midst of a pandemic.

SHOUTOUT TO: Jodi, who kindly donated 100 tacos to sponsor TWO months of MailChango! Her two plugs go to her own podcast, A Slice of Orange (which covers North OC politics) and “any freelancer journalist who needs PR.”

That would be Illyanna Maisonet, the best writer on Puerto Rican food around and a HELL of a read, period. Her newsletter has a regular feature where her mom reviews cheeseburgers which is HILARIOUS — sign up, and send her some tostones, wontcha?

Gustavo Community Office Hours!

I’m rebooting my stint as scholar-in-residence at Occidental College’s Institute for the Study of Los Angeles! Every Tuesday, from noon-3 p.m. people can book half an hour with me and we can Zoom (over a secure line, of course) one-on-one about WHATEVER. Interested? Email me to book your time NOW!

Gustavo in the News

The Scariest People in Orange County”: Myself and Gabriel San Román appear on the aforementioned podcast to talk about the worst ghouls to afflict OC this year. Good questions!

We’ll see what happens”: My quarterly appearance on KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center in anticipation of Election Day.

Latino Republicans Trying to Turn Orange County Red Again”: I appear onSpectrum’s L.A. Times Today to talk about my recent column regarding Latino Republicans.

A World Less Certain | The Day I Met Ray Bradbury”: An author remembers the time I broke his book sign — OOPS…

California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter’s latest plug of one of my columnas.

Newsletter: Trump’s two adversaries”: An LA Times newsletter plugs a columna of mine.

Ep. 93: Gustavo Arellano, Blexit Clowns & Matt’s Picks”: David Daquiri has me on his podcast to talk philosophy and drinks!

Slingshot: OC’s Gallery of Ghouls, Part Two!”: Gabriel San Román’s newsletter sh outs out his story for me, which you should reward by subscribing to his newsletter already!

New Old Friends”: I come out in a SanTana-based podcast to talk about my career and life for like an hour and a half!

Gustavo Stories

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido is not running for reelection after 26 years in office” My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about a changing of the guard in SanTana — no more Don Papi Pulido!

Grítale a Guti, Ep. 19!”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night 10:15 P.M. PST IG Live free-for-all where I take your questions about ANYTHING.

Trump inspired them to become U.S. citizens and to vote. Against him”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna checks in on the Serranos of Lakewood. KEY QUOTE: “For the past 20 years, the Serranos of Lakewood have kept a family pact based on equal parts patriotism and vengeance: Become an American citizen. Register to vote. And go with the Democrats to stick it to the Republicans.”

How Latinos raised in Southern California are changing politics in small-town America”: My second columna of the week checks in on a South Bend school board member, another one in rural Kentucky, and a New Hampshire state representative — all Latinos raised in SoCal. KEY QUOTE: “And he’s doing it as a voice from the future — as a Californian who has already been through the demographic changes that an increasingly diverse Midwest is now confronting.”

How Latinos raised in Southern California are changing politics in small-town America”: My second columna of the week checks in on a South Bend school board member, another one in rural Kentucky, and a New Hampshire state representative — all Latinos raised in SoCal. KEY QUOTE: “And he’s doing it as a voice from the future — as a Californian who has already been through the demographic changes that an increasingly diverse Midwest is now confronting.”

Latino ambivalence about affirmative action could doom Prop. 16”: My third columna of the week checks in why Latinos might not be as predisposed to affirmative action as people might think. KEY QUOTE: “Latinos who might believe they are the hardest working people around, and who have achieved a measure of success in the U.S. despite many obstacles, might well question the need for it.”

You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! And, if you feel generous: Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc