Mexican WhiteBoy

by Matt de la Peña

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What is the setting of Mexican WhiteBoy?

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As a San Diego native myself, Mexican WhiteBoy is a really fun read because the author has flooded the text with a rich knowledge of San Diego. Most readers will assume that the text is set in present day times. The book was published in 2008, so it make sense to think it takes place around that year; however, there is at least one indicator that the author is setting the story prior to 2008.

At one point in the story, Danny goes to the "Del Mar Fair." The fair has been a San Diego staple for over a century, but it was renamed the "San Diego County Fair" in 2002. With that said, Danny goes to Petco Park at one point in the story, but the San Diego Padres didn't use that stadium until 2004. This would indicate that Danny and his friends use the "Del Mar Fair" name out of sentiment.

Danny attends a school in Leucadia, which is a real suburb in San Diego County. It is located along the Interstate 5 corridor just south of Carlsbad and Legoland. It is nearly 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, and it is located right along the Pacific Ocean.

The other prominent location in the text is National City. National City is a southern suburb of San Diego. It is located just south of downtown San Diego and right up against the San Diego Bay. It is also less than 10 miles from the Mexican border.

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There are two primary settings in Mexican WhiteBoy.  Reflecting its bicultural theme, the novel takes place in San Diego and National City.

Danny embodies a bicultural reality that is mirrored in the setting.  His mother is white, and his father is Mexican. San Diego is the setting that represents the "white" aspect of his personality.  In San Diego, Danny attends the prestigious private school, Leucadia Prep, and experiences a feeling of awkwardness.  It is predominantly white, and the people who look like Danny are those who tend the gardens  or serve the food in the lunch lines.  

In National City, Danny sees the culture of his father.  The first time we see Danny in this setting, the differences between it and San Diego linger in his mind: "But whenever Danny comes down here, to National City—where his dad grew up, where all his aunts and uncles and cousins still live—he feels pale. A full shade lighter. Albino almost."  Danny is darker in the "white" setting of San Diego and lighter in the "Mexican" setting."  These polarities represent the biculturalism that defines his challenges.

Danny straddles both worlds.  He refers to himself as a "Mexican WhiteBoy"   to communicate the challenges he feels in both worlds.  Not having a father to help him navigate through both gender and cultural challenges contributes to Danny's sense of frustration in both settings.  Danny's journey starts off with difficulty, as he is searching for a place where he can find himself.  Just as Danny searches for his "pitch" as a baseball player, the dual settings present themselves as a part of his quest to find his "home" in terms of identity.

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