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Central American immigrants adopt Mexican ways in U.S.

November 3, 2008 |  8:27 am

The Times' Esmeralda Bermudez reports:

Juan Carlos Rivera knew that if he wanted to get a dishwashing job at the MacArthur Park hamburger stand, he would have to pretend to be Mexican.

But the thought of lying made the Salvadoran anxious. He paced outside the restaurant, worried that his melodic Spanish accent, his use of the Central American vos, instead of the Mexican tú, would give him away.

Resolving to say as little as possible, Rivera remembers steeling himself and stepping inside -- into the world of Mexicanization.

In his best Mexican Spanish, the Salvadoran asked: ¿Tienen trabajo? (Do you have work?)

When asked where he was born, he swallowed his pride and answered: Puebla, Mexico.

The job was his. For three days, Rivera scrubbed plates in conspicuous silence. He knew the Mexican cooks were on to him. Especially the one from Puebla.

"I would stay up late wondering, 'What if they discover me? What if they take my job away? What if they beat me up?' " Rivera said.

Twenty years later, those fears have vanished but the 35-year-old continues to pretend. Life in Southern California is just less complicated as a Mexican, he says. Fitting in is easier. He introduces himself as Mexican. He says his closest friends are from Mexico and he eats nothing but Mexican food.

Read more of "Central American immigrants adopt Mexican ways in U.S." here.

Click here for more on immigration.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City.