“An American, a Russian, and a Mexican are in a plane…”

“Uh… an American, a Russian, and a Mexican are in a plane… and umm… the plane is about to crash or something that’s the joke.”
[“Uh huh.”]
“So the… the Russian jumps… jumps out and says ‘for my country!  And… the American jumps out and says ‘for my flag!’ And then… the Mexican jumps out, and says, ‘for my sandalsss!!!!”

My friend is an animation major at the University of Southern California.  She has some Irish relatives and Mexican relatives.

My friend remembers a joke her father told her in Spanish, but since I didn’t understand Spanish she told it to me in English and told the joke as best as she could.  The joke is supposed to make fun of some stereotypes that Mexicans are aware of.  The “sandals” referred to in the joke are “chancla,” which, as my friend described it, are sandals that Mexican women wear.  Chancla are  also associated with the image of angry Mexican mothers with chanclas in their hands, possibly beating children who upset them.

I find it interesting that this motif of introducing nationality as a primary piece of exposition finds its way into Mexican humor.  I remember a joke that begins with “An Irishman, a Japanese, and an American were all in a hot air balloon” that proceeds to operate off of stereotypes as well. It never occurred to me to think that that particular motif would be in other cultures’ jokes. Since my friend heard this from her father, I’m guessing that more often than not this is a joke Mexicans would tell other Mexicans, since they’d understand why “chancla” are so iconic and so humorous in this context.  The stereotyping of the Russian and American also seem to go off of Mexican perceptions of those two nationalities and their fervent nationalism.  Since I heard this joke in English and had to have my friend explain the punchline for me, I believe this joke would be far better for someone who understood Spanish and understood Mexican culture.  “Sandals” still evoke a pretty silly image, but “chancla” have a particular significance for Mexicans.