The Working Class Mexican in Popular Culture

On the surface, a working class Mexican refers to someone who is of Mexican descent and is also a member of the working class. Considering I fit the criteria, technically speaking, that would mean I’m a working class Mexican as well. As I’ve grown up however, I’ve learned that “working class Mexican” means many different things to different people and I decided to explore that. To gain an understanding of what most people think the working class Mexican is, I have found several different depictions of the working class Mexican in popular media. Most of depictions portrayed reinforced many negative stereotypes I have heard in the past, but some also did so satirically in an attempt to combat the negative views of working class Mexicans.

The first instance of the working class Mexican I found was in a movie called “A Day Without A Mexican” that was produced by Eye on the Ball Films. This movie takes the angle of the working class Mexican’s impact on American life. This movie takes place in Southern California where Mexican laborers play a substantial role in economic stability. The writers of this film set out to demonstrate the significance of Mexicans in the workforce. Not only that, but the movie addresses the political agenda of the United States on issues dealing with Mexican immigrants living and working in this country. Writer and director Sergio Arau creates the film on behalf of all Mexican immigrants and to defend the laborer’s rights that so many before him had fought to obtain.

In the film, all Mexicans around the world disappear suddenly and mysteriously. Once this happens, many US citizens are panicked and recount the “horrible things” that had happened after they disappeared. An example of this was of a horrified man who was talking to a news reporter about how he went in to his restaurant and there were no Mexicans so he had to wash a dish. Otherwise, a lot of work in the area stops getting done as the US citizens are either not vast enough to complete a task or don’t have the abilities.

Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

To start off the film, the portrayed American view on immigrant workers is that they are unintelligent and inferior. As the film progresses, there is an increasing awareness in the characters of how valuable immigrant workers truly are. Although there is a bias present since all of the writers for the film are of Mexican descent, there are many implications about ridding the United States of Mexicans that would hold true. Although this movie focuses mostly on the identity of immigrant worker instead of the “working class Mexican” as a whole, in doing that, it introduces one of the main connotations with working class Mexican which is them being immigrants as well. What is particularly interesting about this movie though is that it combats negative stereotypes of Mexican laborers such as them being useless and unintelligent, by lashing out at the US citizens who employ them by making them look arrogant and foolish.

The next artifact I took a close look at was a clip of an episode of the show South Park called “The Last of the Meheecans.” The show’s purpose overall is largely intended for entertainment purposes as they air on Comedy Central but the show commonly includes a lot of political commentary. This often includes taking sensitive subjects and poking fun at them for not only comedic purposes, but for social purposes as well. This particular clip emphasizes many of the stereotypes that surround the working class Mexican and I believe in many ways does so to such an extreme in order to point out how ridiculous many of these stereotypes are.

Watch the clip here:

This clip from the show portrays that its creators believe that some of the stereotypes and beliefs that are widely held are completely ridiculous. The part of the clip that comes to mind is when the “employer” figures gift the “Mexican” a leaf blower and expect him to be overjoyed by this as if Mexicans have so little else they are concerned about that they are most excited by their work. Throughout the clip, the Mexican character is shown carrying out a variety of different jobs that are described as “Mexican work.” Not surprisingly, these jobs include yard work, cleaning, and basically anything else to make money which are common jobs immigrant workers seek out since they often lack the qualifications or training for other positions. There are also brief depictions of United States Border Patrol that is suggestive of the fact that the Mexican worker is also an immigrant which reinforces the stereotype that all Mexican workers are immigrants.

Although there were many interesting details in this short clip, another particularly important one is that the “employer” character mentioned that the “Mexican worker” character should use the garbage bags that were loaned to him. I found this particularly striking because garbage bags are incredibly inexpensive and typically don’t have much value of any kind. Despite this, the employer made it clear that they were a loan and that he hadn’t actually given the Mexican worker the bags to keep. The fact that the employer could only loan the bags to the worker and not give them to him suggest that one, the Mexican worker couldn’t afford his own bags, but also that having his very own bags is something that he clearly wasn’t worthy of since it wouldn’t have cost very much for the employer to just give them to him.This sounds pretty outrageous but is exemplary of how many employers treat Mexican workers, especially illegal immigrants as they don’t have to be granted the same worker’s rights as US citizens since the immigrant workers wouldn’t be an a position to argue due to threat of job loss or deportation.

Another interesting artifact to consider is a song by Kap G and Chingo Bling called “Working Like A Mexican”. What is interesting to note is that one of the writers of this is Hispanic and yet is presenting Mexicans in such a degrading way. Whereas the other artifacts I chose are commentaries on how people portray Mexicans and why they might be wrong, this piece directly plays into and amplifies these images that many Mexicans are trying to set themselves apart from.

Listen to the song here at your own discretion (explicit):

This song includes a lot of drug references which is something to consider for a variety of different reasons. On one hand, because of the style of the music, a drug reference isn’t entirely surprising as they tend to pop up a lot in rap music which is known for its brashness. Because this song is about the working class Mexican, it could also be tying back to the drug cartels centered in parts of Mexico and the general Mexican involvement in drug trafficking. The other detail that was particularly striking was the mention of sending money to coyotes, which are people who help facilitate the illegal entry to the United States from Mexico for Mexicans who don’t have the legal paperwork to cross on their own. This ties into a little of what was mentioned in artifacts one and two which is the stereotype that all Mexicans are in the United States illegally which ties to another misconception that they are trying to overrun the United States by helping a countless number of other Mexicans to cross the border into the United States as well.

One of the biggest things that all three pieces focused on is that the Mexican laborers tend to do all of the work that nobody else wants to do. When it comes to the working class Mexican, very rarely do portrayals of Mexicans working more commonplace jobs like retail work or office jobs, but instead they are depicted as doing things such as gardening, cleaning, being food vendors, etc. They generally are portrayed as being hardworking as they are thought to work long hours as is also depicted in the artifacts. What was interesting as well about artifact two is that it showed the Mexican laborer taking on a variety of different jobs, which suggests that the Mexican laborer is never truly done with their work and always looking for more work to be done. Although qualities such as being hardworking are admirable, Mexican laborers are also portrayed as willing to degrade themselves or as being so desperate for work that they are willing to do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. This also might be a suggestion that Mexican workers are incapable of doing anything besides the menial jobs that they are often portrayed as doing. These are all stereotypes that I’ve grown up hearing and I was interested in finding out if these views were as widespread as I always felt they were. In order to do that, I realized that looking at how these portrayals of the working class Mexican were received by the general public.
The movie “A Day Without A Mexican” fortunately yielded an abundance of reviews. One  Kevin Crust for the Los Angeles Times largely argued that the movie barely scraped the surface of the issues relating to Mexicans and falls short of asking and answering any of the bigger questions. One of the points Crust makes is his uncertainty regarding whether or not the creators of the film merely did so to get themselves noticed instead of carrying out some satire. An author’s purpose is incredibly important to consider as the depictions they portray are going to be a reflection of their intended outcome. Based off of the film as a whole, I think it’s obvious that the writers wanted to empower Mexican class workers and emphasize their significance but I agree with Crust in thinking there may be an element of the writers just putting forth what they thought would be received well by the public.

There was also a review of the South Park episode covered in this piece written by Ryan McGee for A.V.Club.com. McGee brought up a really interesting point. He discusses how the creators of South Park were brilliant in bypassing a lot of backlash from people who feel strongly about limiting immigration by reframing the entire argument regarding immigration. Instead of focusing on why or why not Mexicans should be allowed to be in our country, they beg the question of why Mexicans would even want to enter into our country,”The underlying theme tonight: We’re doing a lot more to prevent people from coming to this country thanks to the state we’re in as a nation as opposed to the state of security around our borders,” (McGee). Funny enough, one of the things McGee mentions actually mirrors what the author in the last source said. McGee felt that the creators of South Park stopped short. He overall applauded them but he urged that the creators should have explored what might have happened if the United States lost such a large part of their workforce.

These two sources are interesting to consider because they are written by members of the public who creators of these artifacts target. It’s also interesting to compare the intentions of an artifact with the actual responses of the public and how they may differ. The sources were actually surprising as the depictions and importance of Mexican workers seem to be of some kind of interest to the general public. Whereas the Mexican worker isn’t something I figured many people cared about, it appears that these sources were effective in leaving the audience wanting more and to see more of resolve regarding issues that still face the nation.

Throughout my research on the identity of the working class Mexican, I came across many of the stereotypes that I expected to see. Most of the working class Mexicans I have ever seen appear in popular culture are immigrant workers who are often portrayed as being untalented and incapable of carrying out any other jobs. They are often portrayed as being insignificant and unimportant. This can be a problem to many working class Mexican because they are often not taken seriously and employers often try to take advantage of them based on grounds that do not accurately apply to all working class Mexicans. In my experience, it can also cause working class Mexicans to be looked down upon and simply not respected for no particular reason. Simultaneously, I didn’t expect to see so many pieces trying to counteract many of the common misconceptions of the working class Mexican which was incredibly refreshing.

Works Cited

A Day Without A Mexican. Dir. Sergio Arua. N.d. DVD.

“A Day Without a Mexican – Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 7 April 2015.            <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYJcfhxMkrQ&gt;.

“Butters Mexican Work Song South Park.” YouTube. YouTube, 6 Apr. 2015. Web. 06              May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0s3HVyJS7wY&gt;

Kap G Ft. Chingo Bling. Working Like A Mexican. Square Beats, n.d. Web.               <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka5zzDsNyJk>.

“South Park:.” Review: “The Last Of The Meheecans” · TV Club · The A.V. Club. N.p., 12      Oct. Web. 18 May 2015. <http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/south-park-the-last-of-the-            meheecans-63138>.

14, May. “‘A Day Without a Mexican’ Is Pure Vanilla.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles          Times, 14 May 2004. Web. 18 May 2015               <http://articles.latimes.com/2004/may/14/entertainment/et-crust14>.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Working Class Mexican in Popular Culture

  1. Hi, marrcruzg13

    Your post was very intersting and I agree with you about the media has portrayed many negative aspects about Mexican. I was born in Venezuela, so I can speak spanish and I always like to talk with Mexican people and they were very nice and friendly. Last week, I went to Mcdonald’s and I saw a white women said to a Mexican worker “Get out of America, we don’t need Mexican people here!” It was very shocked to me, and I talked to that women that her action was racism. However, she said “this is not your business” and then she left. I think the media had portrayed to much negative aspects about Mexican worker, so many people didn’t respect them. I hope that the media can change the image of Mexican people. I am not sure how long it will take, but I hope the media will change. Thank you for bringing an interesting essay and have a good break!

  2. Hey!
    I really enjoyed your depiction of satire used to bring the racism on it’s head regarding the working class Mexican, because sometimes the best activism that helps different cultures think about something in a different way is through humor. I also hadn’t thought about how the media portrays the working class mexican as a group who have no social mobility. It seems like the media does this on purpose to make it socially acceptable, and keep working class mexicans doing the jobs that nobody else wants to do.

    Thank you!

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