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Arts and Entertainment

The Final 'Ask A Mexican' Column Will Run Wednesday, But It Won't Be In OC Weekly

(Photo Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
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In the 13 years since “¡Ask a Mexican!” first appeared in the pages of OC Weekly, the satirical column has become a syndicated staple in more than a dozen newspapers nationwide, inspiring a 2008 book of the same name, and a stage play in San Jose last month. More than anything, OC Weekly’s flagship column, which answered even the most outrageous reader questions about Mexicans with illuminating humor and authority, is synonymous with its creator, the writer and editor Gustavo Arellano.

On Wednesday, Arellano will publish his last “¡Ask a Mexican!” column, but it won’t be running in his hometown paper, which he abruptly resigned from a little over a week ago. The final installment will appear online in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Weekly Alibi, according to the Associated Press. The Weekly Alibi appears to have been the first paper to syndicate the column, and it clearly holds significance for Arellano. “Ustedes will always have a special place in my heart, since the Alibi was the first paper with huevos to print my ¡Ask a Mexican! column,” he wrote in that paper in 2010.

News of the beloved column’s fate comes less than two weeks after Arellano stepped down as editor of OC Weekly, shocking the media world and leaving a void not just in his blistering coverage of Orange County, but also in his frank writing about and advocacy for Latinos. Arellano left the paper in protest after refusing a directive from its owner, Duncan McIntosh, to lay off half his staff, he said on the Tom Leykis Show on Oct. 13. He said the alternative plan he offered to McIntosh in an attempt to cut costs and save jobs was ultimately denied.

The OC Weekly owns the rights to “¡Ask a Mexican!” and it came as a surprise to Arellano that McIntosh “was planning to keep the trademark on the column” instead of handing it over to its creator, he told the AP. Hopefully, it’s just adios for now and not forever. In his radio interview, Arellano suggested he’s looking to continue the column, albeit under a different name and logo.

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The column was famous for answering reader questions about Mexicans with biting wit and honesty, addressing ethnic and cultural stereotypes like “Why do Mexicans customize their trucks so ugly?” head-on. His answer?“To each their own on customizing, indeed. But ain’t it funny how when gabachos do haphazard decorations on their vehicles, it’s called Kustom Kulture and gets books and museum retrospectives -- but when Mexicans do it, the cops pull them over?”

The column that’s become a celebrated national brand initially began as a one-time joke, Arellano said in a 2005 interview with LAist. The OC Weekly’s then-editor Will Swaim suggested Arellano write it after seeing a billboard of a Spanish-language radio DJ and remarking, “That guy looks like he could answer any question about Mexicans,” Arellano recalled to LAist. “What continues to surprise me is how damn popular this column is.” And that was more than a decade ago.

Its influence on its readers cannot be understated. In an essay published last week, LA Times staff writer Carolina Miranda compared her discovery of the column to the feeling of getting struck by lightning. “Here was a writer who was both mouthy and erudite. He took serious topics — like racism — and made them blisteringly funny,” she wrote. “He deployed Spanglish slang without feeling like he had to explain it to death. And he did it all while waxing poetic about things like the ‘mexcelente Mexi-mullet’ of Los Tigres del Norte bassist Hernán Hernández.”

Arellano’s writing no doubt ruffled feathers among Mexicans and gabachos alike. When one of the owners of the Weekly Alibi approached writer Steven Robert Allen about syndicating the column in their paper, Allen remembers thinking, “Are you out of your pinche mind?” he wrote in 2006. But perhaps what won him over is that Arellano “doesn’t pretend we’re a nation of good-natured bleeding heart liberals,” he wrote. “From day one, his column has embraced the full, terrifying scope of the immigration debate, ramming into it head-on, sometimes with what seems like reckless abandon. Yet there is always a definite method to Arellano’s madness.”

The immigration debate isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and as President Trump continues to talk about building his border wall with Mexico and ending the DACA program, we likely need “¡Ask a Mexican!” now more than ever before.