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Jay Leno has been making a lot of jokes about Mexico and Mexican-Americans, focusing a spotlight on current events involving Mexico — and even focusing on Mexican history.
Here are recent samples from "The Tonight Show":
Leno: "A proposed ordinance in Mexico City would allow temporary marriages. Before engaged couples say 'I do' they can decide how long the marriage will last and they could set an end date of as little as two years. After that they could choose to renew their vows.
"You know what it's called in Hollywood when a couple is married two years? A miracle."
(Mexico City suffers from a high divorce rate, and the proposed law would allow couples to opt out of the marriage contract after two years without undergoing costly divorce proceedings.)
A history lesson:
Leno: "It was this week in 1542 Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrived in present-day San Diego. He and his men sailed from the port of Navidad, Mexico across the Sea of Cortez to the coast of Baja California, then journeyed on foot to present-day Tijuana, where they began tunneling into America." (This got a lot of laughter from the studio audience)
(Rodriguez Cabrillo actually sailed into what is now called San Diego Bay on Sept. 28, 1542. The port of Navidad, near present-day Manzanillo, was then part of New Spain. San Diego History Center story on Cabrillo. Many experts also believe Rodriguez Cabrillo was Castilian (Spanish), not Portuguese.
Leno: "President Obama is here in California now.... This morning he was in San Diego and as a result traffic was a huge mess. In fact there was a three-hour delay tunneling in from Mexico."
Will Mexican-Americans vote for bilingual Republicans?
Leno: "We are learning more and more about these Republican candidates. You know that Mitt Romney speaks French, do you know that? And John Huntsman is fluent in Chinese, he speaks Chinese.
"Is that going to help their chances? You know, this is America, OK! You have to speak Spanish!"
The Mexican and Mexican-American angle on U.S. states' (imaginary) telephone slogans:
Leno: "And the governor of South Carolina has ordered all state employees to answer the phone in that state with the greeting, 'It's a great day in South Carolina.' And now this is catching on with other states, they're coming up with their slogans. Which state do you want me to call? Texas!"
Leno then calls Texas, where a man with a Texas drawl who sounds like Gov. Rick Perry answers: "Hello, thanks for calling Texas, it's a great day to execute somebody."
When Leno calls California, a woman answers, in Spanish, to the laughter of the studio audience:
"Hola, es otro día soleado en California." (Hello, it's another sunny day in California)
On another night, Leno phones the state of New Mexico, where a woman answers:
"Hello, state of New Mexico, now with more Mexicans than Old Mexico."
Seeing how New Mexico's population is a little over 2 million and Mexico's is 112 million, this makes little sense. When Mexico started being called Mexico after winning independence in 1821, the population was estimated to be about 6.8 million. There are other definitions of Old Mexico, however. Hugh Thomas has a book entitled "Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico." Most experts say that what is now Mexico at the time of the 1519-1521 Spanish conquest had an estimated population of at least 4 million and likely much more. However, many experts agree that the population dropped, in large part due to the introduction of disease by the Spanish, to 1 million to 1.5 million by around 1600 to 1650, so in that sense the "New Mexico woman" could be right! Robert McCaa article on Mexico's population history.
Other Jay Leno jokes about Mexico:
March 2012: Jay Leno on Romney and illegal immigrants
February 2012: On Janet Napolitano comments on Mexico's drug war
On the State Department travel warning for Mexico
August: The U.S. economy is so bad ...
May: Immigrant women at border and Arnold Schwarzenegger