The bicultural upbringing of Latin@s is not a uniform experience; for every best-of-both-mundos childhood, there’s a pick-a-side-already one. There’s no right or wrong way to be Latin@, but that doesn’t stop our people from subjecting each other to litmus tests.
Depending on your own experience, you might have heard or said the word “pocho” at some point. It’s a term that’s bandied about both affectionately and derisively to describe Mexican-Americans who have perhaps assimilated too well. The definition varies depending on who’s using it — some native Mexicans use it to describe Mexicans born in or who have “defected” to the U.S. Sometimes it just means someone who’s fluent in Spanglish.
Actor, comedian, and Daily Show Senior Latino correspondent Al Madrigal knows the pocho’s pain; his Latino bona fides has been called into question his whole life. He’s is half Sicilian, half Mexican, and wholly American; he grew up in a San Francisco cul-de-sac, attended prep school, and loves football. He’s joked in his stand-up about how his brown face has been enough to make him Latino to white people, but his Mexican friends always required a bit more… proof. Now in his 40s, Al has his own multicultural family and a bit of an identity crisis; his doubts about his “Mexican-ness” recently resurfaced with his father’s gift of a Mexican passport.
So Al set out to reconnect with his roots, learn to roll his Rs, and maybe find a way to balance these two parts of his identity. This became his Fusion docu-comedy special, Half Like Me, which premieres on January 22. With the help of friends, family, journalists, and grade-schoolers, Al goes on a hilarious journey of self-discovery and self-deprecation.
Here are some highlights from the special, but tune in to Fusion on Wednesday at 10pm EST to see how it all works out for Al.
Al Talks to Pocho Experts
Before heading out, Al asks some friends for advice: award-winning artist Lalo Alcaraz and award-winning writer Gustavo Arellano. Lalo and Gustavo know a thing or two about pochos and mexicanos as the editor-in-chief of Pocho and creator of ¡Ask A Mexican!, respectively. Lalo and Gustavo give Al his ranking on the pocho scale (11) and then take possession of his Mexican passport until he’s “earned” it back.
Al Talks to Jorge Ramos
Al sits down with the “Godfather of Latino journalism,” Jorge Ramos, though there’s some debate about who is a guest on whose show. Jorge assures Al he’s not the only person who feels “ni de aquí, ni de allá.” But he puts Al through the wringer to get a proper “Madrigal” out of him (Al’s always had trouble pronouncing his name correctly, thanks in part to being sent to French school as a kid).
Al Talks to a Racist White Guy
When Al conducts a Daily Show style interview with Jim Gilchrist, co-founder and president of the Minuteman Project, there’s lots of circular logic and false equivalencies and even a chupacabra sighting! It’s a scene that could easily wrong; how do you have a reasonable conversation with someone with such hateful rhetoric? And the answer is you don’t (enter the chupacabra).
Al Talks to a Latina Historian
Al decides to get a scholar’s opinion and meets with Vicki Ruiz, a professor of history and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Ruiz references the competitive spirit of Latin@s that is alternately self-affirming and self-destructive.
Al Talks to an Oscar Winner
Al speaks to a controversial figure in the Mexican film industry who has retired from the public eye but whose legacy can be seen in franchise spokesdogs and Rob Schneider sitcoms. It’s a real coup for Al, as he asks this Oscar winner point-blank about the lasting effects of his work. (Bonus: clips of some of Al’s own questionable roles).
Half Like Me airs January 22 at 10 PM on Fusion.