ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The “Ask A Mexican” column, a satirical weekly installment about U.S. Latinos that once ran in more than three dozen alternative weekly newspapers across the country, is coming to an end.
The column’s founder, Gustavo Arellano, told The Associated Press on Monday that the final version of the humorous installment will appear online for Albuquerque’s Weekly Alibi. The column will not appear in the OC Weekly of Fountain Valley, California, a publication where the column began, he said.
The move comes after Arellano resigned from the OC Weekly this month after he refused a request by newspaper’s owner, Duncan McIntosh, to layoff half of the publication’s staff.
Arellano says the OC Weekly owns the column and he has rejected an offer to continue it as a contractor.
“When I had my meeting with Duncan McIntosh…he said he was open to me continuing the column on a ‘contract’ basis,” Arellano said. “That’s when I realized he was planning to keep the trademark on the column instead of giving it to me.”
McIntosh did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press.
Arellano said he opted not to continue the column under a different name and logo because it seemed like he would be “clinging onto the past.”
The column, which began in 2004 in OC Weekly and appeared in other newspapers two years later, drew national attention for asking readers to submit questions to Arellano about Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans.
Questions ranged from readers asking why Mexican immigrants park their cars on their lawns to why Mexican Americans in Texas use yellow cheese with Tex-Mex dishes.
Arellano responded with history and humour while also challenging stereotypes about Latinos.
“Ask a Mexican was my way of confronting the racism that Americans have thrown at my culture for over 150 years,” Arellano said. “It wasn’t just enough for me to yell and protest — I needed to do it with stats and satire.”
He became one of the few Latino columnists in the nation where Hispanics remain underrepresented in newsrooms. A survey released this month by the American Society of News Editors, for example, found that less than 6 per cent of newsroom staff is Latino.
As alternative newsweeklies shank and reduced pages and staff, the number of newspapers that ran the column fell to just five as of this month. Still, it remained popular online. Arellano sometimes answered questions through video, even challenging Latinos’ stereotypes about other ethnic groups and gays and lesbians.
Alexandro Jose Gradilla, a Chicana and Chicano Studies professor at California State University, Fullerton, said Arellano brought a new perspective to media on Latinos that attempted to embrace the contradictions of being Latino in the United States.
“He didn’t rely on heroic representations or nice and neat ones,” he said. “(Arellano) instead spoke about the people and identity they have with all the messiness that is part of the experience.”
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras
This story corrects a previous version to say column began in 2004.