National News

A New Gig for the ‘Ask a Mexican’ Columnist

Posted January 8, 2018 11:16 a.m. EST

For more than a decade, Gustavo Arellano used his perch at OC Weekly to write about the stereotypes and the realities of Mexican-Americans in Southern California — his “Ask a Mexican” columns were collected into a book and turned into a play. Late last year, he stepped down as editor-in-chief of OC Weekly, saying he chose to resign rather than follow a request by the publication’s owners to lay off most of his staff.

And it didn’t take long for Arellano to find his next gig: Last week he started as a weekly columnist for the opinion section of The Los Angeles Times.

But when he announced days later that he had also signed on as an editor of Remezcla, a Latino culture website catering to millennials, there was nearly instant protest with claims that he had in the past used racist and homophobic language. With the hashtag #boycottgustavo, the Twitterverse successfully lobbied Remezcla to sever ties with him.

We caught up with Arellano by phone to talk about what he’s learned, what he’s planning to do and what he thinks of California now. Here’s some of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed:

Q: In your first column for The Times, you write disparagingly about any suggestion that California is past its prime. What gives you so much optimism? (And why a dig at The New York Times?)

A: Far too often the coverage in national publications is very much an East Coast view of California, with the same tired tropes. It reads coy and tongue-in-cheek. People think of California being filled with crazy hippies still. Even the idea that the middle class is fleeing and desperate, it’s just not paying attention to what is going on on the ground. California has always had a working class that has fought to stay here.

Q: You’ve spent a lot of your career focusing on and writing about Latino issues. Are you going to continue to do so?

A: Latinos are a huge part of California, so of course I am going to write about them. But it will not be the only thing. “Ask a Mexican” is over. I don’t like replicating myself. My beat is going to be California. I like challenges and feel like, “Let’s see if I can pull this off.” If I can’t, at least I tried.

Q: Were you surprised about the backlash, with people calling you racist and homophobic?

A: No, there have been people who have been targeting me for a while. There’s always going to be people who don’t like what you write. If you don’t have haters you are not doing your job correctly. The people accusing me of being racist, they don’t take my career in perspective. We covered these communities better than anyone else in Orange County. What seems to be the issue right now, is that in this country if you don’t have the same thoughts as other people you are immediately marked as the enemy. I’ve always been about throwing stories out there, and I’ll defend them.