Episode 56 with Tireless Journalist, Raconteur, Voracious Reader, and Man of California and Orange County, Gustavo Arellano


Show Notes and Links to Gustavo Arellano’s Work and Allusions/Texts from Episode 56

On Episode 56, Pete welcomes Gustavo Arellano. The two talk about all kinds of interesting things-as Gustavo is a man of Orange County, a man of SoCal, and a man of the world-through his diverse interests, and prodigious and varied reading list. Nomenclature and identity, Gustavo’s writing/journalism career at The OC Weekly and The Los Angeles Times, and his three books are also key topics of discussion. “Authenticity” in food, particularly with regard to Gustavo’s encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Mexican food in the US, is also a fun discussion springboard.


Gustavo Arellano is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, covering Southern California everything and a bunch of the West and beyond. He previously worked at OC Weekly, where he was an investigative reporter for 15 years and editor for six, wrote a column called ¡Ask a Mexican! and is the author of Ask a Mexican, Orange County: A Personal History, and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. He’s the child of two Mexican immigrants, one of whom came to this country in the trunk of a Chevy.

Buy Gustavo's Three Books Here (Bookshop) 


Buy Gustavo's Three Books Here (Amazon)


Gustavo Arellano Los Angeles Times Page with Columns


The Times: A Daily Podcast Hosted by Gustavo for The Los Angeles Times-Starts May 3!

From opening to about 3:25, Pete welcomes Gustavo and Gustavo talks about the aims of his weekly newsletter, Gustavo’s Weekly Newsletter/Canto, including a personal story of discrimination his father faced, featured in the April 4 edition 


At about 3:30, Gustavo talks about his philosophy of looking forward and mostly eschewing nostalgia, though there are many things to be learned from the past, particularly in these times of racial reckonings


At about 5:45, Gustavo talks about his desire to be read, even if people don’t “like” him or his writing 


At about 6:40, Gustavo talks about childhood, early reading and writing, his early reading and writing influences, and his experiences with Spanish and English, through the prism of his relationship with his parents, immigrants from Zacatecas  


At about 11:45, Gustavo talks about his days in which he didn’t always get the grades that matched his intellect and his intellectual curiosity


At about 13:20, Gustavo talks about his early love of reading-including an obsession with The Guinness Book of World Records, encyclopedias, and biographies of historical figures, and much of Stephen King’s work; also, “Americana classics” like The Grapes of Wrath, and the work of The Beat Poets, Joyce Carol Oates and others on sports, Neruda, and on and on


At about 18:20, Gustavo talks about his journalistic influences from a young, including the dream team of writers from 90s Sports Illustrated


At about 20:15, Pete and Gustavo talk about the large number of writers inspired by Sports Illustrated, including previous Chills at Will Podcast guests Keegan Hamilton, Jon Finkel, and Jeff Pearlman


At about 20:50, Gustavo talks about his days in college, his studies in filmmaking, and what being selected as “Most Likely to Succeed” meant to him 


At about 22:30, Gustavo talks about his own expectations and his responsibilities as a reporter


At about 23:30, Gustavo tells his “origin story” about how he got started at The OC Weekly and his early connections with the magazine and its editor, Will Swaim 


At about 29:00, Gustavo talks about satire and his (in Pete’s words, “incredible and thorough”) presentation on satire done when he came into Pete’s class; he talks about the weapon that is satire against the powerful


At about 31:45, Gustavo talks about his idea of “afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted,” attributed to “Mr. Dooley”


At around 33:20, Gustavo talks about the beginnings of his famous column, “Ask a Mexican”


At around 40:15, Gustavo talks about blowback/criticism he received for his “Ask a Mexican” column


At around 41:50, Gustavo talks about “Ask a Mexican” grew in popularity from an underground phenomenon, including when future The Chills at Will Podcast guest and skilled writer, Daniel Hernández did a feature on Gustavo’s column for The Los Angeles Times in 2006


At around 44:15, Gustavo talks about the investigative reporting he did with The OC Weekly, including writing that took on powerful entities like The Catholic Church and the county’s political establishment


At about 45:40, Gustavo talks about his love of etymology, and the fact that “language as fluid” and evolution is a must,  with regards to the use of terms like “latinx,” “Chicano/a,” etc. 


At about 48:40, Gustavo describes why he starts his book Orange County: A Personal History, with a banal description of the supposed “Reconquista” 


At about 50:25, Gustavo talks about how some things have changed in Orange County-demographics, party affiliation-since he published the book, and how some things have stayed the same (corruption, racism, political ineptitude) 


At about 52:00, Gustavo talks about the opening anecdote from his book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, and how his meal at a Mexican restaurant with Tom Tancredo in many ways sums up America’s relationship with those from Mexico


At about 53:50, Gustavo talks about his book on the history of Mexican food in the the US, and the historical connection of “foreign food” and its connection to “othering”


At about 55:45, Gustavo talks about the idea of “authenticity” in food, including how the idea has been in many ways commodified and made murky by capitalism 


At about 58:30, Gustavo talks about the first “viral stars of Mexican food,” the “chili queens” of San Antonio and the tamale wagons of Los Angeles


At about 1:00:51, Gustavo talks about his writing for The Los Angeles Times, stories about “Who we were, who we are, and who we’re becoming as Californians”


At about 1:04:35, Gustavo talks about upcoming projects, as he is a tireless worker, including the May 3 premiere of his new podcast through The Los Angeles Times, The Times


At about 1:07:00, Gustavo talks about Naugles, his appearance on The Taco Chronicles on Netflix, and the fact that hard shell tacos shouldn’t be dismissed as “inauthentic”


At about 1:09:00, Gustavo talks about the challenges of being a writer in 2021, including the pull of print publications (he’s a big fan of Private Eye Magazine)

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