Gentle cabrones: I was walking back to my Yukon yesterday with a tray of raw cornbread mix when I heard someone yell “Gustavo Arellano!”
Random strangers approach me sometimes to commend me for a story I just wrote or share a tip — but none had ever said my name in full, from over 100 feet away.
I turned around to see a young woman. “Hey, what’s up!” I shouted.
No response. I felt like a fool. So since I had earphones on, I turned around again and pretended like I was actually talking to someone on the phone.
I’m such a nerd.
But it turned out she WAS talking to me. And she kept talking.
She was upset about an article my former paper published about a double-murder in SanTana. In an angry but measured voice, she claimed we had wrongly identified one of the victims as a gang member, and that it was messed up of us to do so.
I asked which story was it, and when. She mentioned the victim’s full name — a friend of hers, but it still didn’t register with me.
After asking some questions, I finally remembered the murder, but not the story. She said that the article had been so offensive that she wrote a takedown of it for El Don, the fabulous newspaper of Santa Ana College.
I said that I wasn’t editor of OC Weekly at the time, but that I wish she had reached out to me so I could’ve done something about her concerns. My response wasn’t to her liking.
“Facts matter,” she snapped while walking away.
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SO…how did you like the election?
Not many of you did, I think — when I wrote my canto about Election Day 2016, I barely got any responses.
I get it — it’s exhausting.
But if there’s one thing I hope we’ve all learned about the past four years, it’s to put out the facts early, often, and loudly.
And fight like hell for them.
Silence in the face of lies is dangerous, and only compounds the problem.
Even if stating them doesn’t change things at first, one MUST put the truth out there.
Either let the sinner know of their error, or at least state it for your own sake.
But do it as soon as possible, so that the lie doesn’t fester.
Take the example of the woman who confronted me.
She had held onto her anger over the piece for nearly a decade, and obviously waited for the day she could confront me about it.
She could’ve done it soon after the article’s publication, even though I had nothing to do with it.
She could’ve gotten at me while I was still editor, and we could’ve fixed the article.
Instead, she waited until long after the fact, long after I had left the paper — and a year after OC Weekly was shuttered.
While I’m glad she was able to unload her frustration on me all these years later, she missed multiple chances to do right by her deceased friend.
And now, neither of us can do anything.
Don’t sleep on the facts, folks. The future of democracy depend on it.
Take it from someone whose career depends on them.
And who now feels bad he couldn’t help to get them right for someone he’ll probably never meet again.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Who is a Chicano? Is it political beliefs, or that plus those who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s? My father was a Tejano, never a Chicano.
Chicano is the original Latinx: a term created by the leftist young of Latin American heritage to mark yourself as more evolved than your elders. A convert teaches you its gnostic meaning, and the converted absorbs it with zeal. And then you trash any of your peers who don’t subscribe to its gospel.
That was the Ambrose Bierce in me. But this gives me the best chance I’ll ever have to quote the legendary Chicano labor leader Bert Corona on the subject. In his Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona (co-written with iconic Chicano Studies professor Mario T. Garcia), Corona talked about how in 1958, the civil rights group he was leading:
…unfortunately faced the problem of terminology and of what to call ourselves. Some, who turned out to be in the minority, called for using the term “Latin American,” “Hispanic,” or “Spanish-speaking.” My own feeling, which proved to be that of the majority, was to be uncomfortable with such terms. I had never, for example, accepted the term “Latin American.” I always felt that it was an attempt to obscure our true identity as Mexicans.
End result? There was a schism before the revolution even started — all because of the question of what to call ourselves.
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Dried chile from my garden, the last crop of the season. It was a good one, especially given it was 2020.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “You don’t dare mention a new disease in front of Billy, or he has it the next day. Right now he’s toying with spinal meningitis.”
–Billy Wilder’s wife
LISTENING:“Tikita Tikita,” Los Rolands. I usually don’t care for live performances, but this early ’90s performance by the Honduran pioneers of punta rock (punta being the sinuous music of the Garifunas of Central that makes samba seem as fast-paced as a dirge) is probably the happiest humanity has ever been in one gathering. I still don’t know who rages the best — the lead singer, the two dancers in the middle, the two women dressed in white at each end, or the guy who gets a electric sax and just JAMZ.
READING: “A Rascuache Prayer” Luis Alberto Urrea on Juan Felipe Herrera — wry, heartfelt compa love.
SHOUTOUT TO: Irma, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! She writes: “Nothing to plug, just animo, as we keep the faith that better days are ahead. Lighting my velitas to the Virgen of Guadalupe that she bring hope and comfort to those suffering from the toll Covid is taking, anywhere, but especially in our communities. So much sickness and death, loss of jobs, kids getting lost in the educational system. So important to do what we can to help others, something you demonstrate week after week in one way or another with what you share, my agradecida… ”
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!
Nov. 9, 1 p.m.: I’ll be part of a 2020 election panel held by the UC Irvine School of the Humanities on Zoom. Event is FREE, but you gotta register here.
Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m.: I talk about food and #TortillaTournament for the Whittier Public Library via Zoom. Event is FREE, but you gotta register here.
Gustavo in the News
“Winning ugly is still winning”: I appear on KCRW’s Left, Right and Center to talk Election Day results.
“‘Taqueria Pequeña’ brings taste of Michoacan to rural Southern Illinois”: I get quoted about the subject at hand.
“California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter mentions two of my columnas!
“The Ultimate Fighting Councilman”: The Ringer interviews me about Huntington Beach’s newest councilmember, Tito Ortiz.
“Elections américaines 2020 : le vote latino déçoit les démocrates”: Mon Dieu, France’s Le Monde mentions me in a story about the Latino electorate.
“Migratory Notes 188”: This very fine newsletter quotes me on one of my columnas.
“Eat your feelings with this list of 9 Tucson comfort foods”: Tucson’s travel bureau remembers how much I love caldo de queso.
“OC ahead of Election Day: Exhaustion, no enthusiasm for Biden, and lots of car caravans”: My first KCRW “Orange County Line” of the week was a preview of what was to come in OC elections.
“Blue wave hasn’t taken over all of Orange County post-election”: My second KCRW “Orange County Line” of the week was a review of what had come to OC elections.
“In Orange County, voters say there is a lot at stake”: A Los Angeles Times Election Day dispatch from OC with great young writer Stephanie Lai.
“In Santa Ana mayor’s race, a shot at history with a Bolivian American candidate”: My first Los Angeles Times Election Day dispatch was a quick profile of SanTana mayor-elect Vicente Sarmiento — the first new mayor for the city in 28 years. KEY QUOTE: “Sarmiento came to Santa Ana in 1965 as a 1-year-old and joked that he’s now “more comfortable with tortillas and tacos than salteñas and chuño,” referring to two classic Bolivian dishes.”
“Column: Lots of Latinos voted for Trump. That should not be a surprise”: My first LA Times columna of the week talked about how people freaked out that Latinos might not all be leftists after all! KEY QUOTE: “We were supposed to be the phalanx in the war against Donald J. Trump. An immovable mass of multihued tribes hurtling like an unstoppable force to smash white supremacy in the name of democracy.”
“Column: In Orange County, pretending coronavirus is fake news wins you elections”: My second LA Times columna of the week talked about how wacked out coastal OC continues to be with its coronavirus-downplaying politicians. KEY QUOTE: “In polite society, such callous disregard for public health gets you shunned. In Orange County? It gets you elected.”
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