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Gerald Ford (14 de julio de 1913 – 26 de diciembre de 2006), D.E.P.

27 December 2006

Hey, I manage to keep relevant somehow or another.  A momentito of silence for the man who reassured gringos that Mexicanismo is indeed a mystery wrapped in an enigma… or at least a corn husk. 

Popkin begins his well-regarded book on the subject, “The Reasoning Voter,” with an example from Gerald Ford’s primary campaign against Ronald Reagan in 1976. Visiting a Mexican-American community in Texas, Ford (never a gaffe-free politician) made the mistake of trying to eat a tamale with the corn husk, in which it is traditionally served, still on it. This ethnic misprision made the papers, and when he was asked, after losing to Jimmy Carter in the general election, what the lesson of his defeat was, Ford answered, “Always shuck your tamales.” Popkin argues that although familiarity with Mexican-American cuisine is not a prerequisite for favoring policies friendly to Mexican-Americans, Mexican-Americans were justified in concluding that a man who did not know how to eat a tamale was not a man predisposed to put their needs high on his list. The reasoning is illogical: Ford was not running for chef, and it was possible to extrapolate, from his positions, the real difference it would make for Mexican-Americans if he were President rather than Reagan or Carter. But Mexican-Americans, and their sympathizers, felt “in their gut” that Ford was not their man, and that was enough.

Louis Menand, “Critic at Large”, The New Yorker, August 30, 2004

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