After immigrating to Mexico, a dude gets confused about what to call his buddies.

Love You, Mano 

After immigrating to Mexico, a dude gets confused about what to call his buddies.

Dear Mexican:

Since moving to Aztlán from Boston, I've spent so much time with my next-door neighbor from Mexico City that I've taken to using the word manito as a term of endearment for my buddies, regardless of who and where they are. It's been my observation that most Anglos think mano a mano means "man to man." Being a bit better informed, I believe its literal translation is "hand by hand" and colloquial meaning is "hand to hand." Is manito the diminutive form of hand? Why, if so, do Mexicans use this term?

Not Handy With Español

Dear Beantown Gabacho:

I appreciate your re-Reconquista, but tus questions are more all-over-the-map than your newfound metropolis. Manito is the elided form of hermanito, which means "little brother," and it's just one of many words Mexican men use to strengthen camaraderie with their amigos. Other classics include güey, broder, cabrón and pinche puto pendejo baboso. Mano a mano means "hand to hand" in its literal and colloquial forms, and refers to a face-off of any kind, not just the macho type. The term comes from bullfighting, where a mano a mano is a specific matador competition, and was undoubtedly introduced into gabacho letters by Ernest Hemingway's "The Dangerous Summer" dispatches for Life in 1960. Gabachos, in their ever-fascinating habit of corrupting Hispanic culture, associated Papa's masculine prose with the fact that "man" is mano less one vowel and created a favored cliché for sportscasters and pundits to describe any skirmish involving Mexicans. And I hate to ruin your etymological deducing, but the Latin origins for hermano and mano aren't the same, even though they sound similar: Hermano comes from germanus, which sprung from germen (seed), whereas the Latin word for hand is manus, probably deriving from the Sanskrit manus.

Dear Mexican:

I am an illegal alien who just turned 18. Is there anything I can do to become a legal alien besides deporting or marrying a U.S. citizen?

Wetback Who Wants to Dry His Back

Dear Wab:

Go back to Mexico — seriously. Section 212(a)(9)(B)(iii)(I) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act states, "no period of time in which an alien is under 18 years of age shall be taken into account in determining the period of unlawful presence in the United States," meaning you can return to your mother patria, obtain a visa and come back to los Estados Unidos in, oh, about 10 years. Now that I've said that, can you appreciate the caca illegals face, gabachos? Even if a Mexican wants to enter this country the right way, our immigration system is so Kafkaesque — where else can you find such a crucial, relevant bit of information for millions filed away as a clause to the subparagraph of a paragraph in the subsection of a section's article except in the American government? — that most Mexicans would rather trudge through blistering deserts or suffer in a cramped Ford Ranger than deal with the bureaucracy. And it's not an innate Mexican trait to break immigration law — as I've said before, put any poor country next to a rich one; add historical symbiosis, Manifest Destiny and saber-rattling; mix in a dash of globalized economics, and voilà! Your own illegal invasion! I don't want to say there's no hope for you, Wetback, but any chance of amnesty in the next couple of years is less likely than a Guatemalan in the White House. So, in the meantime, keep adding to the fat of the land while taking some scraps for yourself. Anything less would be un-American.

The Mexican now offers ustedes an online-only question every week through the powers of a pirated camcorder. Submit your video preguntas and responses to you tube.com/askamexicano, and find a link to the latest edition every week alongside my regular column at Pitch.com. Or, as always, submit your questions at mexican@pitch.com. Letters will be edited for clarity. Include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we'll make one up for you!

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