Victor Escobedo, who co-owns Papalote Mexican Grill with his brother Miguel, a local DJ, has returned to his cartoon Los Topiles. When we saw the title, no one knew the translation so we asked and he sent this back:
In Mexico the word “indio” is used as a put down. When your friend says something that’s grammatically incorrect; when someone wears things that don’t match or that are tacky–essentially when someone does something that doesn’t quite meet the inherent expectations of the group’s social level, you call them an “indio“.
“How could you wear sandals with socks!? Qué indio!!!”
“What did you say? Comistes? COMISTES?? it’s CO-MIS-TE, without the “s”, pinche indio!
It basically implies that you don’t have enough European blood in you and your indio tendencies are dominant in your actions, which of course makes you a lesser Mexican.
In my circle of friends indio was gradually replaced by topil. Topil is a word that popped up during a history lesson and it ended up being a part of our vernacular.
Look at that topil with the cow sticker on the side of his truck!
Being a very Mexican-looking Mexican amongst European looking kids, I grew up in Mexico City using the terms indio and topil, but it always bothered me. Partly because, unlike them, with my dark skin, my short stature and my black hair, I actually look indio (or topil).
When I started drawing Los Topiles in the late 80s, a few years after my family and I immigrated to the United States, I took ownership of the term. The concept of Los Topiles looks at the fact that in Mexico some of us might have had a better education, we might have a better grasp of the language and of European and American traditions and customs, but, once we decided to immigrate to the United States all bets were off. We are all here because, for whatever reason, we chose to abandon Mexico in search of a better life. In Mexico we might have been doctors, lawyers, farmers, laborers, construction workers, students or whatever else, but here, in the U.S. we are all one thing: Topiles.
Los Topiles reflects the point of view of first generation immigrants from Mexico, and the things we experience as we try to melt in the American melting pot. It is not the Mexican American, Latino or Chicano experience…it is the experience of the self exiled Mexican immigrant.
Also on Facebook at Los Topiles Victor Escobedo