Zijuatenejo! Photo by Jennie Robinson CC BY 2.0

Gentle cabrones:

Every once in a while, I get a loooong letter from ustedes that I wonder what to do with.

It’s not that they’re offensive, or that I can’t answer them.

It’s that they’re loooong–and I don’t like cantos to drag.

So that’s this week’s life advice to everyone — write your questions short!

So on this Thanksgiving weekend when I’m busy doing…something…I’ll answer one of these missives and launch an occasional columna.

Don’t pay attention to what I said above: write them loooong, and you’re guaranteed to be responded to at some point because you’ve now become a gimmick haha.

In that spirit: Gregorio, take it away on gentrification!


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 mexicanwithglasses@gmail.com

Long Letters from Readers, Vol. 1:

I have had this bouncing around in my head from the day you wrote an article against gentrification. I am not sure what your basis is for being against it. By that, I am referring to neighborhoods or areas that in my mind have been renovated and improved. 

As you know, I travel to Zihuatanejo frequently. It is, and has been, more or less, a small town. I have been going there before they had traffic control lights. There are many areas that get their water from black hoses running through the hillside. No sewer system, just crude septic – basically holes in the ground that are filled in when they fill up. Despite not having these creature comforts, the people by and large are quite happy. 

There is a certain charm to all of it. 

The same was said when I used to go into NYC in the late 60’s, early 70’s around 42nd St. It was full of lights, sounds, noise. Also full of prostitutes, peep-shows, X rated movie houses and the assorted things that go along with it. But it had its charm so to speak. Now it is completely changed with Disney coming in and all of the above is gone. It is just one big tourist trap. 

I am torn between a certain charm of the
oldness and, for good or bad, the culture (think 42nd St). On the one hand, I can see renovating a neighborhood to make it nicer. On the other hand, I liked the original culture. 

The Zihuatanejo neighborhoods may not have running water as we have – they certainly cannot drink it  – and despite any kind of gentrification, when you drive by the sandy dirt roads you can see the ubiquitous glow from the flat screen TV’s. I can see the argument that having sanitary conditions such as bathrooms are a benefit. 

Am I not understanding your rationale?

Andy Dufresne, is that you?

What you’re describing in Zihuatanejo isn’t gentrification — but your romanticizing of how it used to be certainly is. The problem with gentrifiers (or, as I prefer to call y’all, Brave New Urbanists) is that they simultaneously yearn for a perfect past in a city or neighborhood that they seek to recreate by bashing the present residents outta there.

And they don’t see how that can possibly be insulting to those who remain.

Repeat after me: Improving a neighborhood isn’t gentrification. Improving a neighborhood is…improving a neighborhood.

Gentrification is the process by which parasites flock to “quaint” or “up-and-coming” neighborhoods and subsequently suck out their souls to turn them into a collection of live-work lofts and strewn scooters. And they’re not even the cool type of parasites that improve something, like those remoras that live on sharks, you know?


This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…until next week, because I already answered someone’s question haha!

BUT I will devote this edition to not so much a letter, but a correction by an eagle-eared reader:

I know I’m coming off like the nerd asking about the magic xylophone in an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon here, but Flaco Jiménez playing Un mojado sin licencia isn’t the finale of Chulas Fronteras. The last song in Chulas Fronteras is Mexico Americano by Los Pingüinos del Norte. This reminds me of one of my favorite moments in Chulas Fronteras: Los Alegres de Terán are playing the penultimate song, Volver, volver, while jostling with a jockey on a horse that gets too close and Eugenio Abrego shoves the horse and rider out of their way.

Duly noted! I was confusing Chulas Fronteras with The Best of Flaco Jimenez, where “Un Mojado sin Licencia” serves as the stirring finale to a hell of a greatest-hits compilation. And speaking of Simpsons nerds — my pockets hurt…

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Burrito de birria de res from Burritos La Palma, which I wrote about in my columna this week.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “INTERVIEWER: At what point did you step back and say, you know what, I’m actually good at my job, I’m not going to get fired tomorrow.

MACMULLAN: Have I done that yet? I’m not sure I’ve done that yet.”

–Legendary NBA reporter Jackie MacMullan, to the New Yorker.

LISTENING:Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” Rose Royce. Underrated group, underrated JAM. Sad no radio station in Southern California regularly plays this one anymore — THAT ORGAN and LINNDRUM!!!

READING: The Agony and Ecstasy of an Oboe Reed Maker”: A little bit first-person, a little bit classical-music history, a lot of personality and just a gorgeous piece of writing. About oboes.

SHOUTOUT TO: Sandy, who kindly donated 100 tacos to sponsor TWO months of MailChango! For her plugs, she writes: “A big GRACIAS to Gustavo for expanding our minds all these years!! 2. SUPPORT!! DONATE TACOS to Gustavo!! It’s easy as uno, dos, tres! Keep it real, my homies!!”

You heard Sandy, who along with her comadre Samantha have been fans of mine for nearly 15 years — DONATE TACOS. Links all around here to do that, you know?

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

Salsa Pistolero”: The newsletter for this great NYC-based hot sauce gave me a shoutout, but I don’t see how to subscribe to their newsletter, so just go to their website.

Mailbag: Gustavo Arellano doesn’t get Huntington Beach”: In which Surf City’s mayor invites me to see the good in her hometown via the letters pages of the Daily Pilot. You say when, Your Honor!

Today’s Headlines: Biden’s ‘Goldilocks’ cabinet”: One appearance in one Los Angeles Times newsletter…

Today’s Headlines: California coronavirus cases surge”: …and another appearance in the same Los Angeles Times newsletter!

Remembering Professor Juan Gómez-Quiñones: UCLA’s Chicana/o and Central American Studies Department shouts out my recent remembrance of my late graduate advisor.

Gustavo Stories

Grítale a Guti, Ep. 23!”: My latest IG LIve free-for-all.

‘Viruses don’t pay attention to economies or people’s wishes.’ Gustavo Arellano on OC’s COVID surge”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about OC’s latest coronavirus wave.

White bread, sandwiches, masa, tacos”: My latest KCRW Good Food with Evan Kleiman appearance finds me talking masa!

‘Scared like crazy’: Going viral saved Burritos La Palma from the ravages of COVID-19”: My first Los Angeles Times columna this past week involves Burritos La Palma, which appeared on this year’s The Taco Chronicles. KEY QUOTE: “By 9 a.m. that day, people were calling all La Palmas to place orders. By 10 a.m., a line had already formed outside the Santa Ana storefront though they wouldn’t open for another hour. Irony of ironies: what saved Burritos La Palma during a pandemic was going viral.”

‘Scared like crazy’: Going viral saved Burritos La Palma from the ravages of COVID-19”: My first Los Angeles Times columna this past week involves Burritos La Palma, which appeared on this year’s The Taco Chronicles. KEY QUOTE: “By 9 a.m. that day, people were calling all La Palmas to place orders. By 10 a.m., a line had already formed outside the Santa Ana storefront though they wouldn’t open for another hour. Irony of ironies: what saved Burritos La Palma during a pandemic was going viral.”

How Huntington Beach became Angrytown, USA”: My second Los Angeles Times columna this past week involves the most easily triggered town in OC. KEY QUOTE: “All these traits have compounded on themselves to the point that the rest of Orange County now stereotypes HB residents as spittle-flecking, over-muscled, badly tattooed, ultra-tanned men and women whose idea of dressing up is matching Rainbow flip-flops with Oakley shades.”

Dejected L.A. restaurants serve their last meals, fear for the future”: My third Los Angeles Times columna this past week involves a road trip through Los Angeles and Long Beach on the day L.A. County banned outdoor dining for at least three weeks. KEY QUOTE: “To capture the pulse of a citizenry that’s hangry (that’s “hungry” and “angry” sauteed together, gentle readers), I traveled across Los Angeles to talk to restaurants owners and their customers about this second alimentary Armageddon.”

Flor Silvestre, beloved Mexican singer, actress and musical matriarch, dies at 90”: My latest LA Times obituary talks about la mera mera of the Aguilar entertainment dynasty — wife to Antonio, mother to Pepe, and abuelita to Angela and Leonardo. KEY QUOTE: “By then, she was Mexican womanhood personified: a mujer who had shined on her own and as an equal to her partner, then seamlessly transitioned into the role of matriarch for an entertainment dynasty.”

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