‘Ask A Mexican’ columnist visits EC

EC welcomed guest speaker and award-winning columnist Gustavo Arellano on Thursday in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, according to a news release from the EC Public Relations and Marketing Department.

In a Q-and-A session, Arellano fielded questions from the politics of the Mexican-American war to the future of immigration reform, followed by a book signing promoting his latest work, “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.”

“I think people are very dismissive when it comes to how much Americans love Mexican food,” Arellano said. “When you hate a society, when you hate a people, when you’re discriminating against them, one of the first things you do is demonize what they eat, that’s where so many ethnic slurs come from.”

Going to great lengths to demonstrate the origins and integration of Mexican food into modern day America, Arellano made his case before the student body of just how important this acceptance is for the Latino community.

“The very fact that Americans love Mexican food, in its various iterations, I think is really something significant,” Arellano said. “The way I put it is, first, we conquer your stomach, then, we conquer your hearts!”
Arellano is best known for his nationally syndicated “¡Ask a Mexican!” column in the OC Weekly in which he answers two to three questions from the public regarding any and all issues pertaining to Mexican culture and Latinos in general.

The event was held as a result of a collaborative effort by the Graduation Initiative Project working in tandem with the Behavioral and Social Science Division, Schauerman Library, and the Advancing Higher Education for All Dreamers (AHEAD) Club.

Designed to help students and faculty develop alternate learning strategies, the Graduation Initiative Project, equipped with a $3.24 million grant, aims to “increase student readiness for the pursuit of the associate degree,” according to the project’s homepage.

“This is a good opportunity for us to have a dynamic speaker talk about issues a lot of times people don’t want to talk about or listen to,” Idania Reyes, Graduation Initiative Project Director, said. “We know that sometimes he [Arellano] may be a little controversial but we think that there’s dialogues that we need to have because we come from different cultures and different backgrounds.”

Events such as these have also been made possible thanks to the work of people such as Vincent Robles, former EC librarian and primary individual responsible for getting Arellano to come speak to the student body.
“The words he uses are well thought out and represents a thoughtfulness on his part which I think validates his opinion, at least for what he represents and what he says,” Robles said.

Although regarded as a polarizing figure by some, Arellano did not shy away from hard questions and gave his honest opinion on issues that may have given others pause, including the rising cost of tuition for college students.

“Youth apathy has always been endemic to the American mind,” Arellano said. “Obviously, some issues resonate more with students than others. For instance, if I was a community college student right now, I would be throwing rocks at the administration, you know, not just so much at the school administration, but on the bigger level.”

Despite not knowing who he was, some students responded positively to Arellano’s presentation and were genuinely intrigued by what he had to say.

“I was just gonna come for extra credit, I wasn’t really caring about what he was gonna talk about,” Ana Martinez, 23, psychology major, said. “But when he actually started talking about everything going on in his books, I actually got interested in it. He made me laugh, which was another reason why I liked him.”
A product of the community school system himself, Arellano had some sage advice for the students of EC as well.

“This country is a rat race, this country is a shark tank. If you don’t like it, oh damn, I don’t know, move to New Zealand or some place where the living’s more easy.”