Man from El Chuco: Goodness from Home
by Luis Carrasco
Posted on November 1, 2007
The other day my editor told me he had heard a woman on talk radio say that the United States needs to send all those Mexicans back because her town of Little Rock, Ark., was starting to look like Mexico.
I’m assuming the woman thinks all Latinos are Mexican (they wish), otherwise I can’t understand why she was so specific. Now, as a long time El Paso driver I can understand wanting to send all those New Mexicans packing, but classic Mexicans? We’re so darn lovable, what could possibly be her problem?
Oh, yeah, the whole “looking like Mexico” thing.
I’ll once again assume and say that the woman is not only a racist but also a moron, and that referring to a country that is larger than Western Europe as one would to the living room does not exactly make clear what she means. I’ve never been to Little Rock, but I wouldn’t mind if it looked like Cancún or maybe Guanajuato; would that be so wrong?
But I’m being disingenuous. What that woman clearly meant is that Little Rock is starting to look like Juárez. And not ProNaF-Campestre-Las Misiones Juárez, but, you know, Mexican Juárez, full of mercados, donkey stands and Sarapes “R” Us stores.
This brings us to the photograph that accompanies this column. As you can clearly see from the picture, not only do I badly need hair plugs but Chattanooga, Tenn., is also starting to look a little like Mexico (or at least Sunland Park).
According to the 2006 U.S. Census, 2.8 percent of the population of Chattanooga is Hispanic. That’s over 4,000 people who daily demand chorizo, mole and bagged mystery pig products floating in their own goo. And where there is demand there is supply, hence La Guadalupana, my local Mexican corner store.
Step inside La Guadalupana and it’s as if you never left Mexico. With Canel’s to the right of you, Gansitos to the left, and Doña Maria bringing up the rear, you don’t have a choice but to surrender to all that Mexican goodness -- that expensive Mexican goodness.
A kilo (about 2 pounds) of tortillas in Juárez costs six pesos, a little over 50 cents, while here it costs $2.50. A roll of toilet paper will set you back around 75 cents, while Foca laundry detergent, an off brand if ever there was one, comes in at $2.
I know what you’re thinking, who the heck buys their toilet paper by the roll? People, OK? People do. Why they buy crummy toilet paper when a package of Charmin Ultra at Target breaks down to roughly the same 75 cents per roll is crazy. But insanity, thy name is homesickness.
I found it very interesting how this store has managed to capture the experience of going to a neighborhood tiendita in Mexico and how the people who frequent it look for their favorite products (even if they’re terrible) as a way to not loose their shopping identity to Wal-Mart (although to be fair, Wal-Mart not only stocks chorizo but also soyrizo for the Mexican vegetarianos).
There are at least a dozen businesses in Chattanooga that cater specifically to Hispanics, including carnicerías and panaderías (no jobs yet for the candlestick makers, though). But the number of such stores in Chattanooga pales in comparison to what’s going on only 30 miles away in Dalton, Ga.
As of the last census, the population of Dalton is 40 percent Hispanic, with many believing the number is actually higher because most undocumented immigrants aren’t too crazy about giving the federal government their personal information. If around three percent of the population brings about La Guadalupana, you can imagine what happens when almost half of the community knows what real menudo tastes like.
A quick peek inside the pages of El Informador, Dalton’s weekly Spanish-language newspaper, offers us ads for doctors (Clínica San José, Santa Rosa Clinic, Clínica Familiar de Dalton), lawyers (Calderín & Oliva), beauty shops, quinceañera photographers, Casa Hermosa furniture store, Amigo travel, Primer Banco Seguro (member FDIC), and car ads telling you to ask for Mark “Tex” Ruiz.
Walk around Dalton and not only is there a neighborhood called Little Mexico, which is unfortunately a trailer park where new arrivals congregate, but there also are businesses that wouldn’t seem out of place in downtown Juárez, including several dress stores offering the latest in quinceañera wear. Apparently colored dresses are all the rage this season.
I have to remind you this is Georgia and Tennessee -- over 1,000 miles from the border -- which already look like Mexico. Frankly, what hope does Little Rock have? I weep for that racist woman. Maybe she should move to Monterrey, Nuevo León. I hear it looks a lot like Dallas.
Oh, mercy. Check out the reaction from Ana G to my last column.
Ana G calls me “simple minded” and basically says I’m for “uncontrolled and unchecked mass migration” from Mexico and that I am “a tool of the rich” Mexicans who send their poor over to the United States rather than deal with poverty in Mexico.
While she completely misrepresents the column, I can agree that the situation in Mexico has to change. A country with so much poverty should not be home to the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, unless he starts putting that money back in the hands of the less well off.
Unfortunately Ana G, who says she and her family came to this country “through the front door,” shows her hand by ranting that undocumented immigrants are ILLEGAL ALIENS (her screams, not mine), and that calling them undocumented -- which they are -- will corrupt the children and raise taxes.
It’s always amazing to me that people get worked up over calling someone an undocumented immigrant instead of an illegal alien. Yes, undocumented immigrants are here illegally, and, if by alien you mean foreign, then yes, they’re foreign. There. Happy now?
The reason I don’t use the term illegal alien is because it reminds me of that terrible Sting song “Englishman in New York,” which has a chorus that goes something like this:
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien
I'm an Englishman in New York
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien
I'm an Englishman in New York
I think even Ana G can agree with me that Sting should be deported. Right after The Police reunion tour, anyway.
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