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To Survive This, Americans Need To Learn From Mexicans In El Norte

Culture & Community By O. DELGADO
To Survive This, Americans Need To Learn From Mexicans In El Norte

Mexicanos know about "the art of survival."

Right now, Americans are facing job insecurity, scarce resources, fears running high. Mexicans and immigrants have been living this struggle for generations; we've survived, and thrived, by relying on our family, our sense of community, and our traditional staples, like frijoles y tortillas.

We've all been hit hard, some more than others, by the coronavirus pandemic. 

But, argues Dr. Álvaro Huerta, though we're all struggling, Mexican Americans and immigrants are uniquely well-equipped to handle these challenges - we know “about the art of survival.” 

And he believes Americans should take notes.

"Being family-oriented, Mexican descendants in el norte commonly rely (socially, economically, spiritually, etc.) on their family members (immediate and extended) on a regular basis," writes Dr. Huerta, a professor and researcher at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in the most recent installment of his column, "Barrio Widsom." 

Whatever we need, we turn to our family, which includes non-blood members like close family friends, comadres and compadres, madrinas y padrinos.

"We support each other with housing, food, babysitting, job referrals, money-lending, tandas or cundinas, etc.” 

For Mexicanos crossing the border, this collectivistic socio-cultural dynamic is incredibly important. Family and family friends are essential to their survival.

And still, it's a struggle.

“Speaking of my parents, they are prime examples of how millions of Mexicans immigrants work hard, sacrifice and suffer without economic security so their children have better opportunities,” writes Huerta, whose father was a migrant worker and whose mother cleaned houses for over forty years.

With long hours, low wages, and no job security, life is difficult for immigrant and even 1st or 2nd gen families. 

“Fortunately, I had my immediate and extended family to rely on, which is the Mexican way,” writes Huerta, who stayed with grandparents and cousins for long periods of time when he needed to. “I always felt at home.”

Like our parties, visits to relatives have no time limit. And there will always be food, even if the food is a simple meal, like frijoles and tortillas, eggs and weenies, or bowl of fideo. 

“In terms of food, I’ve noticed that Americans have been pillaging Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, etc. like there’s no tomorrow,” writes Huerta. 

Mexicans know to hit up their local tienditas for the essentials: arroz y frijoles, tortillas, eggs, fresh produce, even toilet paper.

“It’s time to rely on the time-honored nutrition of rice and beans with the occasional bit of dairy, eggs, and meat to get you by. If those powerful ingredients fueled entire generations of people in the Americas, it will get us through these times too.”

“In Mexican households there are no labeled items in the refrigerator, like “Brad’s milk” or “Tiffany’s kale,” writes Huerta. 

Or, as my dad says, “Lo que está en esta casa es para todos.” Everything in this house is for everyone.

Viva la raza.


“Barrio Wisdom” is a recurring column by Dr. Álvaro Huerta, a professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Huerta is a published author and holds advanced degrees from UC Berkeley and UCLA. Click HERE to read his latest installment, "To Survive The Coronavirus, Americans Must Learn From Chicanos."