People avoid speaking about race in the presence of another racial group for fear of saying something wrong and creating friction. This was not the situation at JB’s, a small Mexican cantina located in one of Houston’s oldest Mexican barrios. Mexicans made up most of the regular patrons, but a small number of whites also visited the bar on a regular basis. This situation created the circumstances for race talk in which the Mexican patrons needled and criticized the white patrons because of their whiteness. The white patrons likewise criticized the Mexican patrons, but their remarks were not as strident in comparison to those they received. When Tatcho Mindiola visited the bar and heard the race talk, he realized that it was a unique situation. He thus became a regular patron, and over a three-year period kept notes on the racial exchanges he observed and heard, which form the basis of this insightful volume.
This ethnographic study focuses on JB’s, a small Mexican neighborhood bar primarily patronized by Mexican American and white men in Houston. Informal and friendly conversations, joking and teasing, profanity and male posturing expose deep structural, cultural, and power differences between these two groups. Paradoxically in this social space where race talk is a dominant theme, Mexicans are the aggressors and whites often the victims. These social interactions reveal new insights into Mexican Americans’ self-perception and their place in contemporary society.—Avelardo Valdez, Cleofas and Victor Ramirez Professor of Practice, Policy, Research and Advocacy for the Latino Population, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California
Sociology at its best. Tatcho Mindiola’s ethnography enters the extraordinary world of a diverse Mexican-dominant cantina to show us real people—Mexican men and white men—up close and personal. Interracial interactions, stimulated by humorous and serious race talk, become tensions and friendships across the country’s harshest color lines. Lessons here for all Americans.—Joe Feagin, Ella C. McFadden Professor and distinguished professor, College of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M University, and author of The White Racial Frame
Tatcho Mindiola’s Race Talk in a Mexican Cantina restores the tradition of the best ethnographies, suspending judgment while providing meaningful insights into complex social relations across racial boundaries. The contextualized storytelling is superb, and the implications are immense as the country deepens its conversations about race relations.—Teresa Córdova, director, Great Cities Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago