My compa Russell Contreras, New Mexico correspondent for the Associated Press, has a ridiculous theory: The Houston native insists his hometown is the “heart of Aztlán”— in other words, the capital of Mexican everything in the United States. No manches, the rest of the country says! Houston didn’t even have a sizable Mexican population until after the Mexican Revolution, by which point the Reconquista of Los Angeles was well underway.
Today, Houston markets itself as one of the most diverse metropolises in the US — another way of saying “We’re not as Mexican as L.A.” But that’s OK.
As an impartial observer who has lived in the shadow of the City of Angels his entire life and has traveled to H-Town dozens of times over the years, only I can objectively compare the two cities’ Mexican bona fides on the eve of the Dodgers and Astros facing off in this year’s World Series. Lineup, por favor:
Astros vs. Dodgers Rosters
While the ‘stros have no players of Mexican heritage on their World Series roster, los Doyers have three: Mexican pitcher Julio Urias, Mexican-American first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and outfielder Andre Ethier, whose mother is Mexican-American. While they’re of marginal value to the Boys in Blue right now, Houston’s complete lack of Mexican players awards this category to Los Angeles by default.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Historical Civil Rights Achievements
Everyone knows about Los Angeles’ activist bona fides, between the Chicano Moratorium, high school walkouts, and many, many more. But what helped to lay the groundwork for such activism was Hernandez vs. Texas, a 1954 Supreme Court case that found Mexican-Americans had equal protection under the 14th Amendment and gave our community the legal footing to further challenge discrimination nationwide (the famous desegregation case Mendez, et al. vs. Westminster was an Orange County case).
Authoring the Hernandez vs. Texas briefs was Houston lawyer John J. Herrera. He’d go on to introduce JFK before the president gave a speech to an audience of Mexican-American activists – making him the first president to ever address Mexican-American voters – in Houston the night before his assassination.
Public Radio Hosts
Los Angeles can count on A. Martinez, host of Take Two for KPCC-FM 89.3. He’s your typical NPR polite voice. Houston, on the other hand, has Nuestra Palabra on KPFT-FM 90.1, which has promoted Latino authors for 18 years. And host Tony Diaz has an alter ego as the Librotraficante, in which he smuggles Chicano books into communities that banned Mexican-American studies. Much better than promising listeners a coffee mug for their donation, you know?
Alt-Weekly Mexi Reporters
LA Weekly has the tireless Dennis Romero; Houston Press has the tireless Marco Torres. They’re both my good friends and amazing writers, but the advantage here goes to Marco, because Dennis is originally from San Diego, like other famous Angelenos Lalo Alcaraz, Daniel Hernandez, and the Los Angeles Chargers, while Torres is puro El Northside.
Martyred Chicano Musical Icon Movies
Ritchie Valens and Selena both occupy the same stage in heaven (I hear their version of “Como la Flor” is rockin’). But their movies? Gregory Nava’s Selena has turned into the Latinx generation’s Pretty in Pink, and starts with her legendary last concert at the Astrodome. La Bamba is dark and moody, and people only quote Esaí Morales’ anguished “Ritchiiiiiiiiieeeeeee!” or Rosanna DeSoto’s “Not my Ritchie!” — and ironically, at that.
Adopted Mexican Music Legends
Chalino Sanchez changed Mexican music forever when his ballads of murder and tough dudes popularized narcocorridos in Los Angeles and created a generation’s worth of sonic ultraviolence. Cumbia icon Fito Olivares gave the world “Aguita de Melón,” “Juana la Cubana,” “El Colesterol,” “El Chicle” and numerous other easy-going rolas for his Houston base. His most violent sentiment was “el chicle se me pegó,” for chrissakes.
George Lopez has done movies and films, but his last stand up for HBO was boring. Satirical rapper Chingo Bling is still finding his standup moorings, but “They Can’t Deport Us All” remains the greatest Chicano comedy track since Cheech & Chong’s “Mexican-Americans.”
Sorry, Houston: As much as I love the trompi-burger at La Macro (a hamburger featuring carne de trompo, the al pastor style meat of Northern Mexico), the taco de fideo at Taqueria Laredo, and pay my respects to Mama Ninfa’s fajitas, even Dallas beats you in the Mexican food game—and Los Angeles makes Dallas seem as raza as Rice University.
Advantage: Los Angeles
And the winner is
So, congrats, Houston: You beat LA! But, because I said y’all are worse than Dallas in one thing, any goodwill I won with you will probably go the way of the Astros bats once they face down a Clayton Kershaw fastball. See everyone at Pappasito’s!