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Mexicans were the original frugalistas

Commentator Gustavo Arellano

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: We mentioned this earlier in the broadcast that the number of new unemployment claims hit a two-month low last week. We're not going to know for sure exactly what that means until the monthly numbers come out two weeks from tomorrow. But what we do know for sure is that millions of Americans are still out of work.

A lot of them are looking for ways to save money, a trend that's not really a trend, says commentator Gustavo Arellano.


Gustavo Arellano: Canning. Food trucks. Knitting. Urban homesteading. Home brewing. The rise of these DIY activities amuses me. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for people growing their own food and sewing their own clothes. These are the new ways of life in middle-class America, a way to save money during the recession. But I gotta ask: What took you guys so long to become Mexican?

All these trends are, well, old habits for my circle of relatives and amigos. Butchering a pig? My Tia Maria can do that, and doesn't have to blog every organ of it. Preserving your own food? My mom devotes an entire wall in her garage to jar after jar of pickled cactus. She's ready for California's much-feared big earthquake. Organic gardening? Her sisters each grow specific crops, then they trade produce.

This is how we've lived life as an immigrant family. Even after my parents made it, they kept their frugal ways. Why? They knew the good times might not last. And guess what? They didn't! Yet our quality of life hasn't truly suffered -- all because we were prepared.

Self-sustainment is what made this country great. But we seem to have relegated this preservation mentality to the rubes and the immigrants, the poor and the old. And it's annoying, because when young professionals and the socially hip raise chickens in their backyards, newspapers do articles with slideshows. When us Mexicans do it? People call code enforcement. But, whatever: Preserve, America! Live like us Mexicans. And save your next batch of kiwi-strawberry marmalade for your humble commentator.

Ryssdal: Gustavo Arellano writes the "Ask A Mexican" column for the Orange County Weekly.

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