“Pop, notice anything about the landscapers here?”
“What about ‘em?”
“None of them are beaner.”
“Haha. You’re right, mijo. It’s a trip.”
As a Mexican American, I get to use the word beaner. Deal with it. And yes, Pittsburgh, PA lacks Mexicans. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just more of an observation that is noticeable for someone born and raised in San Jose, CA. I say that because I left Cali in search of different. And different is what I found.
If you’ve never lived in California then it makes sense that you’re not used to seeing such a level of Latin American culture – almost everywhere you go in the state, especially its main cities. And as a Californian, it’s easy to forget that there are places different from California and the melting pot it is, even if this diverse pool has people of all color trying to stay afloat against some of the highest rents, housing prices, and costs of living.
I also don’t speak Espanol (dios mio, indeed). Thus, I never felt accepted by my own people. Growing up this way was not without its benefits, however, because in order to be different you, you know, have to be different. The Mexicans I know are still victim to the culture and group think. There’s a reason why so many of them end up as landscapers and construction workers and it is not always due to lack of opportunity. A cultural revolution is needed – but that’s for another post.
Anyway, back to Pittsburgh. Last I checked, the Hispanic population was estimated at 2 %. That’s about 8,000 people. Barely enough for a proper fiesta. And besides the lack of Hispanic landscapers and Latinos in the streets, the lack of businesses remains the most obvious. That means less tacos and burritos and, most importantly, less tamales. As a hamburger lover I don’t mind as much. However, it is frustrating when the cravings and nostalgia hit.
Sometimes I just want to walk by a Mexican neighborhood similar to the ones I grew up around, with its poor residents with silver-capped teeth, tiendas with piñatas hanging outside, old men pushing paleta carts, numerous taquerias serving tacos de cabeza and other rare flesh, the flea markets, and, of course, the panaderías.
Still, it’s not bad to live outside your comfort zone – not that the Mexican American way of life was mine. But for many it is. So, if you’re a beaner who doesn’t need to fear ICE, then flee California and experience other cities. Instead of Mexican food you too can enjoy more Polish food and dishes with Heinz ketchup as the main ingredient. Yeah.
Sure there’s not as much sun, but if you’re naturally darker than my conquistador flesh, then what’s the problem? Just don’t forget your winter coat.