Gentle cabrones:

This past Thursday was the third anniversary of the death of my mother from ovarian cancer. But I didn’t visit her grave on that day — I did what she would’ve wanted me to do. Be happy.

Yeah, right.

I visited her a month earlier, when I was asked to give a speech at Santiago Canyon College in Orange for Cesar Chavez Day. We did it in a big tent in anticipation of rain that never really came, rain that we really need in California. The community college is not too far away from Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, where my Mami is buried along with her parents and so many more from the Zacatecas diaspora to the point there’s a Santo Niño de Atocha statue overlooking hundreds of tombstones.

After my speech, I went over there and left Mami some roses from my garden. The idea came to me at the very last moment, otherwise I would’ve had dozens of them with me since it’s been a good year for my roses. Instead, I left one of each type that I grow— a bright yellow one, a big pink one, a white one, and small pink ones that grow in trios.

I took a photo, and I cried.

Water is all Southern California’s thinking about this week with word that millions of people will only be able to water their lawns once a week, and very likely not at all. We’re in the worst drought in 1,200 years, apparently. I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if I had to stop watering my plants – actually, I do know know how.

I would remember the advice of my Mami, and water deep. .


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My Mami never really came over to my house – she never drove on the freeways, and I always preferred to go visit her. She would come with my dad when my wife and I were on vacation to make sure everything was good, and when he’d cut the grass with me, but that was about it.  Almost every time she would come over, she would  always love to help me in the garden.

But would always scold me! She would say I didn’t water the plants enough.
“But I do it every couple of days,” I would argue. Yeah, but you barely sprinkle them, she’d respond. You have to let the water really sink in. You have to let the water go deep.

Doing that encourages the roots to go deeper, and thus have more access to water as the soil dries out. Watering shallow encourages the roots to grow close to the surface, which makes the plant dry out quicker.

Isn’t that life? Make your commitments profound, not superficial. That much more attention pays off again and again; little attention stunts growth. And yet we ignore that advice in the crunch of time and commitments, preferring the easy over the hard.

Mami would only water once a week, even in the hot summer days. Her garden was always more vibrant than mine, although that’s because she mostly stuck with ornamentals for some reason, while I almost exclusively do fruits and vegetables. Except roses.

Really, she watered every day. The proof is in her four children. We are all beneficiaries of her eternal well of love. Even with her gone and no longer able to give it in person, we are established enough to continue life in ways that would make her proud.

Right now, another rose is growing garden, a hybrid that came out nowhere. Deep burgundy, and really beautiful. You can take all the care in the world of something, and it still fails — that’s life. But you could also take all the care in the world, and something new and unexpected emerges — that’s life, too.

Gotta keep watering, one way or another.


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

I don’t have an immigrant story to tell when I share my Tejano culture and influences in the food I eat and cook at home. Will I box myself in by focusing on Mexican and BBQ? Or do I lean in and own my voice as a Tejano who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish, never visited Mexico, but who is charming and writes well? Side note: I’m planning a trip to Mexico City in July.

Why wouldn’t lean into your Tejano identity? You are the people of Lee Treviño, Selena, Lydia Mendoza and Freddy Fender, not Greg Abbott. Ultimately, the only person who can box you is yourself, so write whatever you want and hit up the pulque in la mera capirucha!

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: A visit to USC — actually, 3 in 4 days!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “When we get more houses than we can live in, more cars than we can ride in, more food than we can eat ourselves, the only way of getting richer is by cutting off those who don’t have enough..”

Nelson Algren

LISTENING:Blinding Lights,” The Weeknd. I first encountered this mega-artist when he performed at the Academy Awards for his contribution to 50 Shades of Gray, and really became a fan after his Super Bowl halftime show insanity. He was okay Weekend 1 of Coachella, far better Weekend 2 — and this song! There’s a haunting, sultry soul-goth quality that’s something else — and the videos are just WEIRD.

READING: A Statue Gives Romans a Voice: 2021, Rome, Italy”:I’ve never been to the Eternal City, and doubt I ever will, but this article takes me there to a proud people in one of their worst times since World War II, falling back on antiquity and bringing it to the present. A tad bit longer than it should be, but still a magnificent read.

PODCASTING:Slow Burn: The L.A. Riots”: I wrote about this incredible series earlier this year, but am plugging it again on occasion of the 30th anniversary of the riots. This, LA 92 and Official Negligence are the best-ever treatises on Saigu.

SHOUTOUT TO: Rita, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor TWO full month of MailChango! “Please plug Alta Baja Market and all the other businesses on Fourth Street in Santa Ana suffering due to a stupid light-rail project.” HEAR HEAR

BUY MY NEW CO-BOOK! People’s Guide to Orange County tells an alternative history of OC through the scholarship and reporting of myself, Elaine Lewinnek, and Thuy Vo Dang. There’ll be signings all year — in meanwhile, buy your copy TODAY. And, yes: I’ll autograph it!

Gustavo in the News

Musk is tweeting like he owns the place … which, actually, he likely soon will”: A shoutout for my Alex Villanueva columna.

The Crowd: Knife Pleat is the venue as South Coast Plaza celebrates big milestone”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to finds me at, of all places, South Coast Plaza.

Today’s Headlines: Unprecedented water restrictions ordered in Southern California”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the columna.

Latinx Files: How not to mess up Bad Bunny’s ‘El Muerto’”: Still another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the columna.

Book club: New stories from Pico Iyer, Maggie Shipstead, Ibram X. Kendi”: Still another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.

Villanueva backs off investigation of Times reporter who revealed cover-up”: I get shouted out in an L.A. Times story about Alex Villanueva.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The public square”: All these decades later, I think this is the first time I’ve been shouted out in Daily Kos.

California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter shouts out my Alex Villanueva columna.

Nieman Lab”: The media watchdog shouts out my Villanueva coverage.
Where are the Chicano Intellectuals?”: La Bloga thinks I’m one, for some reason.

Gustavo Podcast

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!

Helping and hoping in Ukraine”: Three citizens pushed into an extraordinary situation.

Big Tobacco, Black trauma”: Bye-bye, menthols?

Black Twitter frets for its future”: Where will Crying Jordan go?

The L.A. riots, 30 years later”: I interview my awesome LA Times colleagues Sandy Banks and Frank Shyong about whether we learned anything.

What light rail will bring to South L.A.”: Here comes the Crenshaw Line…

Gustavo Stories

Grítale a Guti”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.

‘Not city-wide representation’: Brea, Cypress reject district elections”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the latest tomfoolery to afflict Wes.

Publishing Club Zoom Meeting 2022 04 20”: I speak to a Laguna Woods club about writing.

He was murdered during the L.A. riots. We can’t forget Latinos like him”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna starts in Bakersfield to talk about April 29, 1992. KEY QUOTE: “Never forget that Latinos played a far bigger role in the riots than we care to remember or admit. Latinos were killers and the killed, assaulters and the assaulted, looters and the looted.”

At Tom Rivera’s memorial service, his dream of ‘Future Leaders’ is fulfilled”: My next latest LA Times columna profiles the celebration of life of an Inland Empire legend. KEY QUOTE: “He was impossibly positive,” Lily, his wife of 56 years, said recently. “He couldn’t see clouds. He couldn’t see storms. Any problem that came up, for most of us, we’d say, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ He’d say, ‘Let’s find out.’”

Sheriff Villanueva just showed the world the petty emptiness behind his bluster”: My still next latest LA Times columna goes after LA’s top lawman for going after my colleague. KEY QUOTE: “Instead, we’ve seen an administration of tantrums unworthy of a preschooler denied their “Peppa Pig.” And he just went through his worst one yet.”

Their pupuserias survived the riots. Now, Central Americans thrive in South L.A.”: My still next latest LA Times columna talks about how Central American “Latino” South L.A. actually is. KEY QUOTE: “Evangelical storefront churches painted in the blue and white common to all Central American flags stand near massive Black houses of worship. Paintings and decals of quetzals, the long-plumed, vibrantly colored national bird of Guatemala, are as common as murals of the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

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