On Monday, while standing over his son as he placed the wooden piece at the threshold of our bathroom, the man responsible for fixing our doors begin to converse with me about what it is I do at the university.
'You teach Spanish? Are you Mexican?'
'No, my mother is from Colombia actually.'
He rolls his eyes, 'Oh, you're Hispanic. When my son was younger and in Boy Scouts all the boys there were Mexican but one of the boys was adamant in telling everyone he was Colombian. I guess it's one of those better-than-them things.'
Immediately in my head the scene from Clueless came up in which Cher tells Lucy to speak to the gardener because she speaks 'Mexican' though Lucy is from El Salvador.
Now I have to admit that I've never taken a class on geography. I don't even know that we had that option while I was in elementary or secondary school, but I have a working knowledge of it because of my insane access to maps (check it, Miss South Carolina - Google got that on lock!).
Look, I acknowledge that there is a sense of racism, colourism, and for sure nationalism throughout Latin America, and yes, I can't deny that there are -for example- Argentinians who turn their noses up at Bolivians (my grandmother). As evidenced by the poverty among the indigenous communities, Latin America is certainly guilty of discrimination.
But maybe the kid was adamant on his Colombian-ness because Colombia is an entirely different country than Mexico. If you ask me if my family is Mexican, I don't say no because I harbour some ill will toward Mexico, but because to say that they are Mexican is not at all accurate.
They are not even on the same continent (given you consider the Americas separate continents). In fact, I'm willing to bet that in many regards Southern California has much more in common with Mexico than does Colombia - Mexicans, for example. Because let's face it, I am going to find many more Mexican immigrants & children of Mexican families in California than I would in Colombia based on proximity alone. Add this to the fact in Central America & in Mexican much of that migrant labour moves up toward the US.
So before shooting off your mouth about how I said my mother was Colombian because I dislike Mexico, instead consider that it is because she is actually from Colombia and I recognize them as two different countries.
Or maybe to a guy like him there is no difference. All of Latin America is Mexico.