Informant: The Catholic church in the small, South-Texas town of Brownsville went up in flames late one evening, after mass had finished. It was a 5-alarm fire, and all local fire stations were called on to help save the little church. The Brownsville fire department arrived first at the scene, but the flames were too intense for them to do anything other than stand by and watch the—the devastation. No more than two minutes later, the Matamoros, Mexico fire department arrived, engine going full, top-speed and lights blaring. The Brownsville firefighters stood back and watched in awe while the Mexican fire department drove their truck right into the flames and managed to put out the fire, saving this historic church. As a token of appreciation, the citizens of Brownsville collected $5,000 and, in a ceremony, the Brownsville Fire Chief handed the Mexican Fire Chief the check and asked him, asked the Mexican Fire Chief, to say a few words to the crowd. Well, he didn’t speak much English of course, but The Chief—in his best English—thanked the crowd for the money and said, thank you, but really, they had just been doing their job. When someone in the crowd shouted out, asked what the plans were for the money, the Chief said, “Well, de furs’ ting we gonna do… we gonna buy new brakes for de fire truck.”
The informant (my mom) was born in Texas but spent most of her childhood traveling from country to country, specifically in South America and regions of southeast Asia, due to her father’s work as a banker. Her first language was Spanish, and today she is fluent in both Spanish and English.
This joke was told to the informant by her mother, who was born and raised in Texas. Brownsville is located on the southern tip of Texas, directly across the boarder from Matamoros, Mexico. The joke plays on economic disparity between the towns, as well as some of the racial bias Texans may have towards Mexicans (this racial bias seems especially prevalent in the punchline, when the performer uses an over-the-top Mexican accent to imitate the Chief of the Matamoros Fire Department).