“Ven bien vestido,” my dad said before we went to go visit my Tío Gabriel yesterday.
Come well dressed.
It’s something my mom used to tell me too, although she would say “Ven bien vestidito.” Come very well dressed, using the diminutive and colloquial tense because I was her first-born son and thus the most apapachado.
My parents always cared about how their children dressed, and how they dressed as well. My father has multiple Stetsons, belts, cowboy boots, and button-up short sleeve and long-sleeve shirts. He still has a 1970s era tan leather jacket I would’ve LOVED to wear except it’s the tiniest bit too small for me.
My mom didn’t spend as much money on clothes, but she always dressed as the grand dame that she was: dresses, pearls, earrings, well-coiffed. Their sartorial choices came from their upbringing – small town people always take pride in appearances, because appearances are one of few things they have control over.
My mom always told us that even when she and her siblings were at the poorest, which would’ve been in the 1960s picking garlic in Hollister, California as children, they always made it a point to look as good as they possibly could. Even poor people can be clean, she’d say.
That’s why my mom was always frustrated that I didn’t care much about how I looked.
Oh, I’ve always cared about my style: cholo nerd. Dickies and slacks for pants, checkered shirts and guayaberas. No logo T-shirts with pants EVER, for reasons I really can’t explain. Chucks for nearly a decade until I outgrew them, and nice leather shoes since. Always-ironed everything.
But after that, I guess I’m a slob.
I’ll wear my clothes until it’s frayed and faded. I do most of my shopping at swap meets or Marshall’s — Ross, if I’m feeling fancy. I’ll buy in bulk, because I’m cheap.
And the pandemic basically made me throw away even THAT fashion sense – my de facto uniform now is baggy Dickies shorts, huaraches, and logoed T-shirts I got for free from somewhere (please don’t send me anymore free T-shirts, folks).
I honestly don’t l care about fashion—and yet I do.
Who wears a La Princesita Tortillería T-shirt and huaraches to an overpriced wine flight in Napa? This is me now
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I talked about fashion a bit in my barely read Orange County: A Personal History. My mom would take us shopping every year to either Montgomery Ward in Anaheim, or Mervyns in Fullerton. Never Kmart, because their clothes always yellowed quickly. Sometimes Target, although I don’t know why we didn’t go there more.
In 7th grade, the cool boys at Sycamore Junior High started dressing in button-down, kinda-f flowery shirts. Not as sloppy as Tommy Bahama, almost like Lilly Pulitzer in the loud patterns—but not as elaborate as what paisas wear. Hipsters wear a more subtle version nowadays. So I asked my mom to buy me shirts like that for eighth grade so I could look cool. She did.
So imagine my surprise when I got into eighth grade, that all the boys were now dressed in XXL-sized striped T-shirts, the way taggers would wear them. I begged my mom to buy me some T-shirts like that, even though she had just spent all of our money for the year on the flowery ones.
God bless her heart, she got me a couple. Nowhere near as nice as the cool people—there was a particular brand everyone wore, but I can’t remember right now, probably because I blocked off the name because of this painful memory.
I looked like an idiot in those T-shirts. I was the worst faux tagger you could ever imagine. I stuck with that through eighth grade, and really couldn’t do change my style in ninth grade, because my Mami had already spent her clothing money on me, remember?
Meanwhile, the cool kids started dressing like rebels – James Dean wannabes.
That’s what I realized the folly of fashion. That’s when I realize the folly of the wisdom of the crowd. That’s when I vowed I would trust myself and no one else on EVERYTHING.
My fashion and ethical style has worked out pretty good ever since, methinks.
My mami was always so proud whenever I dressed a little bit better than I usually would. ¡Así me gusta verte! That’s how I like to see you! On one of the last time I saw her completely lucid, I actually wore a brand-new pair of the usual pair of shoes I wore just so I could see the huge smile on her face when she saw me in them.
I still have them in the closet, waiting to be used again.
My mami always said that how one dresses reflects on where the person came from — and she wasn’t talking about money. She was talking pride in oneself, in one’s community.
That’s why when we went with my Tío Gabriel, I wore Dickies, my nice shoes, and a checkered shirt that I didn’t tuck in because I knew I was going to eat a lot.
My dad said I looked good. And the beat goes on….
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Despite the fact that Latinos have a high obesity rate, especially Mexican Americans, we also have a higher life expectancy compared to other ethnic groups. Why do you think that is?
SOME of us do. It’s called the Latino health paradox, and something that researchers — most notably David Hayes-Bautista of UCLA — have noted for decades. But COVID-19 upended all of that, something that David Hayes-Bautista has noted for over a year now. And it’s the immigrant generation that has that age advantage, not Chicanos — something David Hayes-Bautista has noted. Moral of the story? Read David Hayes-Bautista!
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Capirotada that I made to honor my mami. Details below…
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.”
LISTENING:“Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles,” Los Lobos. I always try to make each part of my cantos sui generis— no connection whatsoever with anything else. But, well, I already broke that with my photo, so might as well do it with this 1975 KCET-TV Channel 28 concert that just SINGS. Come for the titanic talent of David, Cesar, Louie and Conrad even then, learn about the Lost Lobo, stay foran INCREDIBLE version of “Las Tres Huastecas.” Rifa, total — put these guys in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, already.
READING: “His Nemesis Was Stupidity”: I’ve had a copy of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal since high school, somehow, yet have never read it (did Juana give it to me, or Art?). But after reading this New York Review of Books essay I’ve got to crack it open. The perfect book review: brings the subject of the tome to life even as critiquing said tome. Sharp, hilarious writing that also knows when to step back — man, Baudelaire was the original emo jerk!
SHOUTOUT TO: Sandra, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! Sandra wanted no plugs — folks, use your plugs!
Gustavo in the News
“Letters to the Editor: He voted for Villanueva. ‘I have never been this sorry for a vote I’ve cast’”: L.A. Times readers STILL can’t get over my triumvirate of interviews I did with L.A. County’s sheriff some weeks ago.
“A notorious LAPD settlement, revisited: An investigation into a gang murder goes off the rails”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“Latinx Files: J.D. Vance asks if you ‘hate Mexicans’”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the columna.
“Southern California has given the world so much. And fast food too”: My fellow L.A. Times columnista Patt Morrison overstates my feelings on Taco Bell.
“LA Poster Boys (and Girls)”: My sayings are now being used as section headings in articles that have nothing to do with me — damn.
“Best Chile Relleno”: My love for Denver’s La Fiesta is cited in Westword’s Best of 2022.
“The L.A. Times Festival of Books returns to the USC campus”: Me, Daniel Hernandez, Luis Rodriguez, AND Natalia Molina on one panel? GO GO GO!!!
“What to Cook This Week”: What a world — the New York Times‘ jefe de jefes of the food section shouts out my music writing!
“RD – Sheriff Alex Villanueva”: Mark Geragos, of all people, tries to take potshots at me in the podcast he hosts with Adam Carolla — it happens!
“Jimbo Times”: The L.A.-based indie news outlet shouts out a columna of mine.
“Born in the Borderland: Thursday isNational Burrito Day in US, but every day in Juárez”: My burrito scholarship is cited in the El Paso Times.
“Alta Picks: The Side Hustles of Alta Contributors”: The magazine where I’m a contributing editor shouts out GAG.
“With Citrus Costs Skyrocketing, Make This Bartenders Lime ‘Super Juice’ Hack”: L.A. Taco shouts out my lime writing.
“California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter shouts out my…music writing.
“Arellano to deliver commencement keynote”: For UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology — FUUUUUCK…
Latest roster of episodes for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host. Listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!
“Goodbye, Title 42”: Trump’s bad anti-amnesty diktat goes down.
“What’s slowing down the Jan. 6 investigation”: First of a two-part series insurrection with my colleague Sarah D. Wire…
“The lawyer behind Trump’s Jan. 6 attack”: …and the second part is all about former Chapman University professor and forever tool John Eastman
“Welcome to Tijuana”: We give some space to a new podcast from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“What COVID-19 wrought on Black men”: The health inequities just got worse.
“Grítale a Guti”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.
“Former OC law school dean helped spark Capitol insurrection, judge finds”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks even more about John Eastman, whom Moxley once described as looking like an “eccentric, aged cherub.”
“Sprawl Session 3: House as Crisis”: I get to talk urban planning, of all things.
“Francisco González, Los Lobos founding member and guitar-string pioneer, dead at 68”: My latest L.A. Times story talks about a SoCal music titan whom not enough people know about. KEY QUOTE: ““He was our own Chicano conservatory,” said his son, also named Francisco. “He gave us tools to resist discrimination and injustice and to stand and fight for ourselves, but also to love.””
“For Lent, I finally cooked my mother’s capirotada recipe. It was OK — and that’s OK”: My latest LA Times columna talks about my feeble at to recreate my favorite dessert of all time. KEY QUOTE: “But when my dad narrowly averted a catastrophic auto accident, I realized yet again that we should cherish our parents while they’re alive. So last week, I went 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