That Mexican Smell

I’m doing some archival work right now (that’s fancy historian talk for sitting in a quite room and reading dusty things people haven’t read in a long time), and I came across the following. It comes from a research report on Mexican and Anglo relations in the small, agricultural town of Castroville, California. The research was done in the 1960s.

Several Anglos said that the Mexicans have a peculiar odor which is just “part of being Mexican.” One old man went so far as to say that he could “always tell a Mexican by the way they smell.” The odor was variously described as being “sticky sweet” to “sour” but those who claimed its existence were quite positive that it was peculiarly Mexican. Two school teachers agreed that their Mexican pupils smelled differently than their “white” pupils. One of the teachers, however, thought it was only the boys who smelled.