Hey, Gringo, Hendrix wasn’t Mexican, OK? 

Dear Mexican:

I recently received the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, in which Ronnie described his friend Jimi Hendrix as part black, Cherokee and Mexican. I've always read about Jimi's grandmother being Cherokee, but this was the first that I read about him being Mexican. I Googled Hendrix's name with the word "Mexican" and received many hits. Is this another mentira originated by Mexicans, like Anthony Quinn's supposedly real last name being Quintana?

El Habrano

Dear Wab:

Man, the locuras some people believe and repeat, ¿qué no? I've seen mentions of Hendrix's supposed Mexican heritage everywhere from the aforementioned Ronnie: The Autobiography to mainstream American newspapers to even the BBC. But don't believe what you find on the Internet — it's only good for dailyrotten.com and reading my column. I have no idea why or when people began believing Hendrix was part wab, but the rumor has been around since at least the late 1990s. The closest I can peg him to possessing any Mexican roots is gracias to Charles R. Cross' 2005 book, Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix. In it, Cross cites an interview that Hendrix once gave, in which Hendrix remembered how one grandmother gave him a "little Mexican jacket with tassels" as a child, and he was ridiculed for it. Also, Cross found a Hendrix diary entry that makes mention of his "Mexican mustache." Cross' bio is a must-have for any music fan because it's the best of the many Hendrix books out there, and he also gives the most thorough genealogy of Hendrix's family I've seen, going back through both sets of grandparents — the guitarist did indeed possess gabacho, negrito, Canadian and Cherokee blood, but no Mexican sangre whatsoever.

Mexicans claiming a major historical figure as one of their own is nothing nuevo. I've read that Thomas Alva Edison was from Zacatecas, that Walt Disney was the bastard child of a Mexican, and that Jessica Alba wants her baby to be Mexican. Wishful thinking, all of it, just like the many gabachos who insist a Cherokee princess is in their family tree (never mind that the Cherokees had no such royalty). In fact, the only crypto-Mexican that has ever panned out is also the most unlikely — Ted Williams. Yep, America: Teddy Ballgame's mami was May Veznor of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Dear Mexican:

My co-worker Maria and I are having a disagreement about the meaning of the word gringo. Would you be able to tell us the true meaning and street meaning of gringo?

Veritas vos Liberabit

Dear Gabacho:

I think Mary and you are having the wrong discussion. Even the dumbest gabacho knows gringo is a pejorative that Mexicans use against Americans, now so harmless that even gabachos call themselves gringos. What ustedes are probably trying to determine is the word's origins. The Mexican usually consults the Royal Spanish Academy's dictionary for such queries, but even the world's foremost body of Español has no clue — its entry describes the etymology as "disputed."

Here's what we know: Gringo did not originate during the Mexican-American War as a result of — take your pick — the invading Yankees wearing green coats and the terrified Mexicans shouting "Green, go!" at them, or because said soldiers sang either "Green Grows the Lilacs" or "O Green Grow the Rushes" while trampling through Santa Anna's armies. Both explanations are self-serving urban legends repeated by gabachos who get a perverse pleasure out of dominating all aspects of Mexican life, from former territories to our women to even our slurs for ustedes. Besides, etymologists can date gringo in Spain centuries before the Mexican-American War, in the context of referring to strangers. Some say it's a corruption of "griego" (Greek, the classic Western European ethnicon for something that makes no sense); others claim it referred to Irish immigrants in Madrid. Whatever its genesis, the Mexican recommends not using gringo, as it's an antiquated term like celestial or greaser, and one should always be up on his or her Rolodex of racism.

E-mail The Mexican at mexican@pitch.com, find him at myspace.com/ocwab, or write to him via snail mail at: Gustavo Arellano, P.O. Box 1433, Anaheim, CA 92815-1433. Letters will be edited for clarity, cabrones. And include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we'll make one up for you!

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