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Chihuahua, Mexico The message daubed in large letters on a wall in Mexico City shortly after the Bay of Pigs episode in Cuba was GRINGOS, NO. A day or two later this was modified by another hand. Daubed in equally large letters underneath the first line was GRINGAS, SI. As amended, the message can be interpreted: “We don’t need Americans, unless they are female Americans, who are more than welcome.” But this is a watering-down which loses the humor and the rich implications of the original. Those four words imply a full treatise on the Mexican point of view. This is a humorous point of view, except when it comes to certain areas that are sacred, such as Mother and the Virgin of Guadalupe. I can testify, as a reformed frequenter of cantinas, that the spifflication of every decent Mexican carouser reaches a climax when he bangs his fist or his glass on the bar, bursts into tears, and sobs, “My mother is a saint!” At such movements the question that always occurs to me is: Do saints tend to procreate drunks or do drunks make saints of their mothers? Mexican humor is commonly Rabelaisian and can be in turn mordant or even cruel, sardonic, or simply playful. An example of playfulness with no sharp edges is a sign on a Mexico City bus. Improvised in chalk under 10 The Texas Observer neath a printed sign that read Children who can walk will pay fare The Management the scrawl in chalk read: Girls who can love will not pay fare The Driver. For examples of humor that does cut, there are reams of devastating cartoons and caricatures that Mexican artists have turned out for generations. They still turn them out. Schoolboys turn them out. Even Mexican schoolboys in Texas have a knack for caricature. However dark the emotions may be that find release in laughter, the humorous view is hardly compatible with fixed, sullen hatred. The antigringo sentiment daubed on the Mexico City wall was the work of a fanatic ; the amendment to it was the voice of the people saying, “There are things in life more important than hatred or the international ‘situation.” And, when we consider this point of view, the notion that this people would ever voluntarily submit to communism, or any other grim discipline, seems utterly fantastic. THE WORD “GRINGO” itself, it is obvious, has undergone a softening. The word did use to have most unpleasant connotations. It called to mind the stereotype of the loud-voiced, red-faced Yanqui, smug, contemptuous, rich. That the character and deportment of the Yanqui in Mexico, in spite of the occasional tourist who makes his countrymen want to hide in shame, has improved perceptibly during the last few years, I think there can be no doubt. The “image” of the American today, as he appears to Mexican students, at least, is adumbrated by the word “gabacho.” A new word, slang that is foreign, as yet, to the vocabulary of older Mexicans, it is derived from its dictionary meaning: overcoat or fancy raincoat. It is applied to Americans because they are, as compared with with the standards that most Mexicans can afford, superlatively well dressed. This is a trait that evokes the admiration, and also the aching envy, of the young Mexican, who dearly loves handsome clothes. But let us complete the picture. The image of the American is not merely that of a man or woman who is opulently decked out : it is more that of one who, to quote an old-time Texas cowboy speaking of a dude rancher, “has got more money nor he’s got sense.” A recent survey of Mexican school children shows that, in their view, the Yanqui is bigger, stronger, better dressed, and much better heeled than the Mexican, but not, in comparison, very bright. This may come as a shock to many of us who are encapsuled with the doctrine of the superior Nordic, but it is nevertheless plain to the Latins that their minds move much faster than our own. To them we are slow, and lacking in humor. And it is a scientific fact that the average Mexican shoeshine boy, age 12, can see the point of a joke quicker than the average Texas banker. This has been established by experiment. THE GRINGO’S manifestation of wealth and power gives rise, naturally, to certain suspicions. Some unlettered Mexicans believe that he has recourse to occult, if not Satanic devices and that he will go to any lengths to keep his place in the sun. He is accused, for instance, of setting fire to the ancient church in the Indian village of Tzintzuntzan and destroying the famous Titian there, simply because the United States could not acquire the painting. He is accused of trying to buy up secretly all the black pots in Oaxaca because they were found to have a high count of uranium. He is even accused of causing earthquakes, which have terrified the inhabitants of the central Mexican plateau for thousands of years, but are now blamed on the atomic tests. Charles Ramsdell