A Guide for Puzzled Mexicans
By Jonathan A. Gallant and Lorenzo W. Milam
(with illustrations by Bob Cram)
Nominated for the 1997 Pulitzer PrizeGringolandia is ostensibly a guide for new visitors to the United States "to ease the concerns of those coming here for the first time."
In truth, it's a wry look at American customs, lifestyles, and ideals. For instance, on the subject of Nannies:
American families believe that Mexican women make great nannies. In fact, several famous and important American women have given up their jobs in politics so they can be home with their nannies to help raise their children.
Or this, on Public Schools:
Children leave early each morning to go to public schools. However, once there, they are not allowed to read books on sex or the origin of the species. Americans are very strict about this, because this keeps the children from becoming unwed teenage parents before they graduate. Fortunately, children do not mind being forbidden to read books because they don't know what books are. They only recognize words when they appear on computer screens.
The book includes a brief "History of Mexico," which includes such items as,
The Mexican system is based on government parties like the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. but combined into one party for simpler TV advertising. It is called the FRE. It is the only party allowed to win elections, although the other parties are permitted to hold dances and sell T-shirts. Every six years, the outgoing president devalues the peso. Shortly after, the incoming president finishes his semester at Harvard Business School and declares an austerity program.
When the authors were seeking illustrators, they sent out a small mailing with samples of text from the book. Karen Ward of Seattle responded:
Your solicitation for illustrators to freely submit one or two drawings from the enclosed text, Gringolandia, is one of the most impertinent examples I have yet to witness. Your lack of professional integrity along with the contents of your material is insulting to my level of expertise...
And Linda Garcia, of El Paso, wrote:
I don't know where you got my name, or where you got my address, or who you think you are, but if you don't stop sending me trash like this, I will notify the postmaster for this area, and have you declared a public nuisance.
The authors respond:
We designed Gringolandia as a merry romp among the joys and sorrows of contemporary American life, but our jolly view seems to affect different people in different ways.
They go on to suggest that perhaps the cartoonists didn't like the gibes about pet whales from Japan:
Through biselective breeding that is, scientifically uniting minnow-marrow DNA and whalebone RNA the Japanese have created miniature Killer Whales. Measuring no more than a finger-width from tooth to tip, they fit most home aquariums where they beg scraps of krill from their owners and swim about squirting up tiny water spouts that help to aerate the system.
WHAT THE REVIEWERS
It's not hard to like a book which wears its absurdity on its sleeve --- much like the nation it is satirizing. After all, it is time we caught up with how life is being lived in frantic, self-obsessed Gringolandia, if only because that life is starting to catch up with all of us...--- The (London) Times Literary Supplement
Now, when we need it most, comes Gringolandia: A Guide for the Puzzled Mexican. This handy illustrated paperback is a veritable operating manual for getting along in the land of Newt Gringrich. With compassion and humor, the authors take readers by the hand through a heady list of topics.--- The San Jose Mercury News
Ostensibly addressing the confusion of our neighbors below the border and beyond... Gallant and Milam chuck political correctness in this unapologetic, engaging satire of contemporary American life spanning politics to pets, taxes, televangelists, UFOs, voice mail, fat, oil spills, O.J. and old age, with inspired retakes on our Civil War and Mexico's history.--- New Mexico Magazine
A droll explanation, with Lingua planted firmly in cheek, of all things American, by a University of Washington geneticist, an ex-TV cartoon weatherman, and the celebrated founder of KRAB-FM..--- The Seattle Weekly
Travel author Lorenzo W. Milam, who previously penned The Blob That Ate Oaxaca turns his eyes North of the Border to poke fun at (to viciously savage) the USA with the help of Seattle cohorts Jonathan Gallant, a University of Washington science professor, and illustrator Bob Cram, formerly a TV weatherman-cartoonist.--- Book Alert/Public News Service
Not so much a guide for the outsider to American society, as a satirical look by an insider at the folly and foibles of contemporary life in the United States, pointing out the paranoia, privilege, passions, and preoccupations of our society. It may offend --- but then, that may be its intent.--- Books of the Southwest
ISBN: 0-917320-06-9 (Hardcover) $15.95
ISBN: 0-917320-05-0 (Softcover) $10.95