Opinion

‘We serve everybody.’ At this Mexican restaurant, bigots should just eat their words

La Cosecha general manager talks about incident with conservative activists

La Cosecha general manager Victor Guzman talks on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 about how he offered to serve a group of conservative customers Wednesday who started recording a live video on social media before he asked police for assistance.
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La Cosecha general manager Victor Guzman talks on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 about how he offered to serve a group of conservative customers Wednesday who started recording a live video on social media before he asked police for assistance.

It was a publicity stunt: Some wing nuts and other assorted bigots were trying to do what bigots do.

They descended on the governor’s mansion, wearing stereotypical Mexican garb, and then a Mexican restaurant across the street from City Hall. Their choreographed expressions of stupidity were recorded for the sole purpose of appealing to other bigoted morons who say they are after “illegals” but, in fact, are eager to disparage and threaten any person who fits their profile of a Mexican.

This all happened Wednesday. It went broadly public Thursday. The names of the misguided perpetrators arrested at the governor’s mansion and chased away from La Cosecha have already appeared in the media so I’m not going to give them another Google entry here. To hell with them.

Their names are irrelevant anyway. The attitudes they represent – a twisted mindset as old as California – should be recognized for what they are. This targeting of Mexican people for condemnation has always existed here, but it feels so much more present and mainstream since Donald Trump was elected president.

They can be Mexican. They can be Mexican American. They can be Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran. Who cares? To feel this misguided wrath, they simply have to have the complexion of their Mayan ancestors or an accent that brings a Latin American tinge to the English language.

Opinion

This week’s demonstrations of outright bigotry in Sacramento prove that demeaning an entire ethnic group is not only possible to execute with minimal consequences, it’s a political winner. As we reported, the video of the interactions has been viewed more than 40,000 times.

Remember, some of the first words out of Trump’s mouth as a candidate for President was that Mexicans were rapists. Then he maligned a Mexican American judge. And Trump’s acolytes were given free air time to slime this American-born jurist as a “La Raza” agitator.

And before you give me that bunk about the issue really being about “illegals,” just look at what happened here. The bums who descended on La Cosecha wearing Trump gear and hats bearing the acronym of Trump’s deportation force did not frighten and upset a restaurant full of “illegals.”

Victor Guzman, the La Cosecha general manager, is here legally. He’s working legally, has every right to be in the U.S. Ernesto Delgado, the owner of La Cosecha, grew up in Napa, graduated from Sacramento State, is a respected member of Sacramento’s restaurant community. La Cosecha chef Angel Sanchez is American born.

What did any of these people do to deserve being harassed and intimidated by guys wearing Trump shirts with Trump’s cartoon likeness? One guy wore a hat with the word “ICE,” which is the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s a restaurant that serves Mexican food. Is serving Mexican food a criminal offense? It’s not, but appearing to be Mexican is a societal offense to Trumpers.

“It was a sad situation,” Guzman said on Thursday. Guzman tried to appease his tormentors. He told them that they had intimidated other servers but that he would serve them personally. “We serve everybody,” he said. “We are inclusive.”

The staff members at La Cosecha felt duty-bound to keep their cool and take care of their business – a business the City of Sacramento invested in to raise the fortunes of Cesar Chavez Plaza. But were the staff at La Cosecha bothered by the experience? Were some of them intimidated? Were all of them upset? Yes.

Because these people came into their restaurant to make a scene and did so because of the way those working there looked. They treated the staff like dirt because of the way they looked. They got away with it because Mexicans are the political punching bag of the 21st century.

Bigots can get away with donning stereotypical Mexican garb. They can paste cartoonish mustaches on their faces. Or they can don the likeness of the President of the United States with smug certainty, aware that everyone knows the imagery is not meant as a gesture of goodwill.

This type of bigotry has a cumulative impact. Stereotypes and negative images become common talking points in our culture in absence of facts. It’s why Latinos reacted so strongly to Tom Brokaw’s racist assertions that Latinos don’t assimilate in America when every significant metric proves that they do.

It’s why Trump can create the falsehood of a “crisis” on the U.S.-Mexico border when every metric proves there isn’t one.

It’s why idiots can make a scene in Sacramento and be applauded for it by like-minded misanthropes. If you cheer for it or pretend it doesn’t exist or isn’t that bad, then you are a co-conspirator. Then you don’t care that people can be mistreated publicly because of the way they look or sound.

If this is you, then you are the problem and our country would be better off if you were deported. At least then we, legally, could eat in peace.

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Marcos Breton writes commentary and opinion columns about the Sacramento region, California and the United States. He’s been a California newspaperman for more than 30 years. He’s a graduate of San Jose State University, a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the proud son of Mexican immigrants.


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