Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Deceptions of Brian Colón

About the "Tejana" ad by Brian Colon: (scroll below to see ad)

Several commentators have exposed the Colon ad for trying to divide Hispanics from North and South. Just a couple more points.

Colon slips two intentional deceptions into this ad: First, because "Colon" is a Spanish surname, his comments about "our culture" encourage you to think he is Mexican American. In fact he is from New York, of Puerto Rican extraction, so he is the cultural outsider, less entitled to use the term "our culture" than any New Mexican--Native American, Anglo or Hispanic--of second generation or beyond. If he had said, "I'm from New York and I resent Susana for being from Texas," there would have been no deception but the comment would be laughable. The only way to get the desired negative response is for him to try to deceive viewers into thinking he is an insider sharing an insider prejudice; he clearly wants to be viewed here as a cultural New Mexican, and clearly wants Susana not to be. This, incidentally, raises the question of what exactly qualifies one to be a cultural New Mexican: family background? Fluent Spanish? Liking green chile? Number of years living in the state? Passing a test on New Mexico culture? Whatever the criteria, I would wager Susana Martinez beats him by a landslide. In any event, Colon was trying, shamefully, to exploit a negative stereotype.

His second deception is to lure you into accepting his unstated premise that people from El Paso (Anglos or Hispanics) are culturally different (inferior?) from people (Anglo or Hispanic) across the river in Sunland Park New Mexico. Colon is hoping viewers North of I-40 are so geographically challenged they won't be able to distinguish between El Paso (where Susana was born) and "Tejas" --as the term is normally used in Northern New Mexico--but they will believe there is a difference in culture between El Paso and Sunland Park. If he were to argue this point in Las Cruces, Anthony, or Sunland Park, he would be laughed at: El Paso was part of New Mexico, culturally and politically, from the time Onate crossed the river here in 1598 until 1846, when the present U.S.-Mexico border separated El Paso from New Mexico. And you won't find anyone in this region claiming to be able to distinguish between "Tejano" culture in El Paso and "Nuevo Mexicano" culture on the New Mexico side. So just how is Susana culturally different from New Mexicans? The culturally different person here is Brian Colon. Using his own logic from this ad, shouldn't we disqualify him because he is further removed from New Mexico culture, history, and families than Susana?

There is another possible interpretation of the ad others have hinted at. The word suromato (literally, "go South or I kill"), used only in Northern New Mexico, refers negatively to Mexicans, as opposed to the Hispanic descendants of the pioneers who settled in Northern New Mexico in the 17th century. It also carries the connotation of Mexican Americans, not just Mexican nationals, from the South (not a clearly defined geography; I have heard the term used in reference to Las Crucens, for example), and is pejorative. Thus, the term "tejana" as used in this ad might simply be a code word for suromato, implying that Northern New Mexicans would not want one of those to be governor. Diane Denish, of course, is from an area of the state often associated with prejudice against Spanish speaking people, whether Mexican nationals or Mexican American descendants of the Onate expedition: they are all "Meskins" to some Little Texans, at least according to conventional wisdom or stereotype in the South Valley of Albuquerque or in Espanola. So when Colon speaks under the false cover of his surname to accuse Susana as being an outsider, to the benefit of a Little Texan, it raises more issues than it settles, and incidentally violates a longstanding, sensible, informal rule of New Mexico politics: ethnic factors influence elections, but we don't talk about them: when we point an ethnic finger, we often have several more pointing back at us. If Colon were more culturally a New Mexican, he wouldn't have cut the ad.

Brian Colon has been accused of ethical mischief before. While state Democratic Party chair he picked up a box of documents in Las Cruces dealing with the Region VII Housing Authority on behalf of his law firm, which was trying to sue to recover money lost when Region III defaulted on $5 million in bonds it owed the state. It was a conflict of interest for Colon, as state party chair, handpicked by Richardson, to pick up evidence that might potentially implicate prominent Democrats. Frances Williams, the plucky lady who unraveled a good deal of the housing authority shenanigans, scolded Colon severely for doing this and told Heath Haussamen, referring to the conflict of interest in Colon's actions, "This stuff with Brian Colón, it goes to the heart of ethics and how we deal with government...” Click here for story in Haussamen.

Note: I wrote the section on suromato after a lengthy conversation about it with my cousin, Erminio Martinez, from Las Vegas, NM. He traces the origins back at least to the 1920s. Any errors there might be in that section, however, are my sole responsibility.


Anonymous said...

I wish you would include a message on your blog that you are a charter member of Dems for Susana..

Anonymous said...

I don't care if a lot of "nortenos" think they're of Spanish blood - it happened a lot when I was growing up to avoid any linkage with Mexicans. It would be hard for any Hispano born and raised in NM to prove he or she is not Mestizo. And for Colon, well his name also suggests a certain part of the human anatomy.

Jose Z. Garcia said...

Would you like for me to devote more space on this blog to support Susana? Although I haven't made my support for Susana a secret, I haven't used my blog as a vehicle to promote her candidacy. But I will take your suggestion under consideration.

GF Alexander said...

Jose, It's your blog and you should decide how you want to use it. There's nothing wrong with supporting Ms. Martinez if you you feel strongly about it. I have always regarded your writings and opinions highly. As an independent myself, I will likely vote for her.

ched macquigg said...


I am wondering why you think it makes any difference if Mr Garcia supports Martinez or Denish.

What he wrote is either true or not.

If you don't think Mr Garcia is telling you the truth, for any reason, why are you even reading his blog?

Can you point to even one error in his facts or logic?

It's about the message
it is not about the messenger.

Anonymous said...

Great article Dr. Garcia. Dr. Garcia provides great insight in his articles and isn't afraid to state his opinions. That is why I always come back and read EVERY article that he writes.