Tonight, Canelo Álvarez will fight before a sold-out crowd, and hundreds of thousands more people watching at home via pay-per-view or Twitter. It’s the annual tradition of a big boxing match for the Cinco de Mayo weekend, a tradition that I haven’t been able to partake in for years because of the pandemic, but also because I’ve been too busy to hang out since, oh, 2005.
Boxing is one of my favorite sports, and it usually makes its ways into my cantos. It teaches a lot of lessons and remains the best possible workout after swimming (I try to get in a couple of rounds on my bag every day — watch for my cross).
Boxing is also the setting for what remains one of my most treasured memories: the time my cousin Plas and I got to see a bunch of fat Armenians righteously beat up a bunch of fat Mexicans.
Let me explain.
You should hear the heartbreaking story Plas says about Joe Louis… By World Telegram staff photographer – Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain
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The setting: the Honda Center in 2009.
My cousin Plas invited me – he’s one half of Vic and Plas, my favorite cousins, inaugural members of the Mexiclan along with our mutual best friend Art, and people I’ve known my entire life.
Plas is one of those autodidact geniuses, someone who never got a bachelor’s degree but has made a hell of a life for himself. I still remember the day when he bought a bunch of T-shirts for a buck apiece and sold them on his online store for $24 a pop. He was the first person I knew with an iPhone and a Tesla, a rancho libertarian to the max who particularly likes to troll alt-losers.
He’s also one of the biggest boxing fan I know. So when Plas invited me to go see a match at the Honda Center, I didn’t hesitate.
It wasn’t until we got there that I even knew who was going to be the main event: Vic Darchinyan versus Jorge Arce for a couple of super-flyweight titles.
Darchinyan was perhaps the greatest boxer Armenia ever produced. Arce was a great champion as well, but was the slight underdog when they faced off in Anaheim. That didn’t stop the crowd — about two-thirds Mexican, because DUH — from cheering on Arce as he strolled into the ring with his trademark tejana and cherry lollypop, and jeering Darchinyan as he strutted in with a smirk.
Yup, it was going to be a bloodbath.
Darchinyan destroyed Arce. It was so bad that the referee stopped the fight in the 11th round, not even giving Arce the dignity of a 12-round decision. By then, the once-boisterous Mexicans had grown silent. The once-boisterous crowd gotten drunk. The Armenian cheers were now even louder than the Mexican boos.
And when there was nothing else to do, the drunk Mexicans began to fight.
Mexicans lose a lot. We mythologize it in our songs and stories. There’s dignity in losing. But Mexicans can be some of the worst losers you could imagine. And that’s what happened in the stands at the Honda Center the night Vic Darchinyan beat Jorge Arce.
And when there was nothing else to do, the drunk Mexican fans began to fight. They threw sloppy punches that they telegraphed from a mile away. The Armenians were not particularly graceful — they were as drunk as the Mexicans — but they easily pummeled the Mexicans.
Fights all around the Honda Center. Mexicans trying to get at Armenians, a group with which we have no real beef like, say, Puerto Ricans. The Armenians KICKED our ass.
It was embarrassing all around, and Plas and I shook our heads in disgust at the Armenian beatdown. I think we even locked eyes with an Armenian group of pals, and their disgust was the same as ours – except their side was winning, and we were getting our asses kicked.
Plas and I left the Honda Center — and have never stopped talking about that night.
It’s a memory that I always tell with a smile and a laugh. Those paisa idiots deserved the beatdown that they got – it just wasn’t our day, and we should’ve just gone home with the loss and our dignity, and plan for another day. But we couldn’t let bygones be the proverbial bygones — and so we got beat.
Those Mexicans probably never spoke of that night again. Neither did those Armenians, because it wasn’t worth remembering. Rage, rage against the dying of the light — unless it’s coming with showers of Michelob and the Vic Darchinyan army showing you what’s up.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Our local Democrat Party….membership about 50-100 with 50% out of city is pushing a Dem carpetbagger to move into the area to run against a great current representative who is the best this district has had…the Dem party wants only Dem-registered candidates.
Why would Dem or Rep parties not support highly qualified candidates who bridge both parties and should because local constituents are both parties??? How can the public affect this nonsense??
Political parties are not in the business of democracy; they’re in the business of preservation. The public can affect this by not registering with any party, and that’s what’s been happening in California for a good 20 years, as more people register as decline-to-state voters.
The next step is to elect candidates who are not Democrats or Republicans, and that’s slowly happening. On that note, did you know legendary Chicano author Luis J. Rodriguez is running for California governor with the endorsement of the Green, Peace & Freedom AND US Justice Party. Now THAT’S democracy!
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Sign for Tacos El Yogi, off the corner of McFadden and Birch in SanTana. Only open Friday through Sundays, so check them out!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
LISTENING:“Vasos Vacios,” Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. The legendary Argentine ska group was before my time, but not before the time of a dear friend who helped to popularize them in the United States and is back in the proverbial promoter saddle. Oso, may you take hundreds of thousands of dollars away from nostalgic Mexican Gen Xers, and find the groups that will do the same with chipsters. And Fabulosos? Y’all were great musicians — but vos were no Bersuit Vergarabat.
READING: “Dinners That Preserve a 400-Year-Old Puppet Tradition”: One thing that I will give New York reporters the edge over SoCal reporters is their mastery of breezy, talk-of-the-town storytelling about incredible subjects. This entry by one of New York‘s verticals is a perfect example. In the hands of a Cali writer, we’d weigh it down with meaning and resistance; the author here just lets the story unfold. After this, I want to go buy a marionette, damnit!
PODCASTING: “Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez”: I heard it when it first came out, but wanted to save my shoutout to when it was closer to the 30th anniversary of the singer’s assasination. It’s 95 percent there — no shoutouts to El Show de Keystone Ford, and there could’ve been a bit more emphasis on how culichi culture now dominates in Southern California — but serves people who have no clue about Chalino and plebes alike.
SHOUTOUT TO: Penny, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! She wants her shoutout to go to my Mami and all the mamis, and I like that!
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!
May 14, Taco Fest: I’m going to be in San Antonio to deliver a keynote lecture on the state of tacos in the United States, AND I’m going to be a moderator for a debate about who has the better taco scene — San Antonio, or Austin (hint: It ain’t Austin). It’ll cost you to attend, but DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!
Gustavo in the News
“Los Angeles Times reporting team of Erik Himmelsbach-Weinstein, Mark Potts, Gustavo Arellano, Jessica Q. Chen and Steve Saldivar win Division A Projects in APSE Contest”: For our “Fernandomania @ 40” series!
“Watch ‘Encanto’ under the stars, chow down at the On A Stick Festival and literally soak in classical music this weekend in San Antonio”: A plug for my play happening in San Antonio this weekend.
“Visiting production of Interview with a Mexican comes to San Antonio’s Guadalupe Theater this weekend”: Another plug for my play happening in San Antonio this weekend.
“Things to do this weekend in San Antonio: Mermaids, Kurt Vile, Patty Griffin, Cinco de Mayo celebration”: Still another plug for my play happening in San Antonio this weekend.
“The best things to do this week in San Antonio: Opera San Antonio returns, Todd Snider, ‘Doctor Strange’”: Yet still another plug for my play happening in San Antonio this weekend.
“Column: He fooled voters once. Can Sheriff Villanueva do it again?”: A LA Times columna you should subscribe to plugs my columna.
“Will ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ be a gateway for summer moviegoers?”: A LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Today’s Headlines: All types of drought, all at once”: Yet another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Book club: New stories from Pico Iyer, Maggie Shipstead, Ibram X. Kendi”: Still yet even another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“L.A.’s Big Debate – Homelessness: Top Candidates for Mayor Join Us Live”: This is going to be fun!
“Author David A. Romero Interviewed by Poet and Professor Donato Martinez at B&N Huntington Beach”: Romero is a great writer whose work I’ve plugged in the past — and I’m doing it again.
“California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter shouts out a columna of mine.
“30 Types Of Bread And What Makes Them Unique”: While I appreciate the shoutout, tortillas are NOT bread. They’re…tortillas.
“Photos and Highlights from The Exposés, Capital & Main’s Media Awards”: I host the gala for a great nonprofit news outlet.
“The coverage of Rodney King and unrest in LA, thirty years on”: Columbia Journalism Review shouts out my recent work on the matter.
“The murky origins of the Mother-in-Law, a Chicago tamale-hotdog hybrid”: Salon gives me credit in a story where which they originally didn’t give me any credit for.
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!
“The state of the streaming wars”: Is Netflix’s rule over?
“Tijuana’s many, many sides”: This San Diego Union-Tribune podcast that we keep playing keeps impressing.
“L.A.’s election of rage”: An excerpt from a conversation I had with my colleagues Erika D. Smith, Julia Wick, and Alene Tchekmedyian about all things L.A. primary elections.
“Cinco de Mayo forever”: A rerun from last year because the conversation is THAT good.
“A TikTok president for the Philippines”: Bongbong beyond the brink.
“Grítale a Guti”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.
“The Land Rights Battles That Created Today’s Orange County”: A co-article with my People’s Guide to Orange County co-authors Elaine Lewinnek and Thuy Vo Dang for KCET.
“Cinco de Mayo”: I appear on Recipe Club, one of the many podcasts Dave Chang has in his galaxy, to cook for the first time in my LYFE.
“The six faces of Rick Caruso: What I learned from watching all of his endless ads”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna does exactly what the headline promises. KEY QUOTE: “What emerges is a rich man trying on different personas to see which ones stick and which ones are as irrelevant as Joe Buscaino’s campaign.”
“Cops, not books? This town’s library may become a police station”: My next latest columna goes to McFarland in the Central Valley, where the city council wants to do what the headline states. KEY QUOTE: “His hometown had no library, but his mom was able to take him to libraries in bigger cities. “It was the difference,” he quietly said, “between a bright future and the futures that some of my peers had.””
“Newsletter: Happy birthday to our daily news podcast!”: My latest Essential California newsletter celebrates the one-year anniversary of the podcast I host. KEY QUOTE: “To paraphrase the old KFWB slogan, you give us 20-some minutes, we’ll give you the world.”
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