09 enero 2011
Disculpen por no haber escrito antes, I am always working! So I am clapping my hands together and ready for another entry. Latin@ stereotypes I wish I could change.
I included the photo above not only because I like to include photos, but because there is a misconception that Latin@ means something uniform. When asked questions such as 'What does it mean to you to be Latina?' I suspect we answer from incredibly personal perspectives. To be honest, not even language is something that ties us together. We are such different people that to discuss what it means to be Latin@ seems almost pointless.
One of the first misconceptions, as I said, is that we are a uniform group. This idea extends into our celebrations, our vocabulary, our food. For example, traditional dishes vary not only from country to country, but can also vary from city to city. You can even see this in Spain where the ingredients of paella vary according to the sort of meats and produce that are most easily available in an area. Additionally, being a traditional food does not mean that all people from an area have eaten it. The amount of Colombian traditional dishes I have not eaten is great. This is both because my mother is an atrocious, or at the very least lazy, cook. I am glad she will never bother to read this blog! Many of these dishes are also very beef or pork-centric and I consume neither.
There are also celebrations that vary from country to country. The most obvious would be those celebrations tied to each country's independence. I can also say that my family does not observe El día de los muertos (pictured above) nor did my mother have her own quinceañera. In fact, I have witnessed two quinceañera celebrations in passing (the girls and their families were dressed up and taking pictures in Orange County) and I am so removed from it that the entire scene fascinates me. It played as little a role in my own upbringing as would have a Bat Mitzvah celebration (having been raised Catholic myself).
The following are more concrete examples of stereotypes that at best irk me and at worst are harmful portrayals of Latin@s.
001. All Latin@s look similar and are brown.
My friend hates when I use the phrase 'Don't get it twisted' but I cannot help but use it. So - don't get it twisted, we don't all look the same. The Americas are filled with many different people and were populated by many different immigrants - sometimes forced. In Peru, as I've mentioned before, there was a large number of Chinese immigrants (which has led to some more delicious dishes in popular Peruvian cuisine). Much of the Americas, but especially the Caribbean, were the site of slave labour just as the American South. It's also important to remember that many Spaniards are white, which can explain the light complexion of some of those of us who are Latin@.
Similar to the idea of uniformity in Latin America, the notion that we are all similar makes invisible the reality of classism, racism, and colourism within Latin America and does a disservice to those who suffer from each.
002. Latinas are spicy.
We are women, not dips for your chips. Spicy, sizzling, fiery, lots of zest. No, that's how we describe food. Using food terminology to describe Latinas has only aided in the dehumanizing of us. And let's be honest, what the heck are you trying to say? That every single Latina on the face of this planet is feisty? I guarantee you that just like skin tones, we come with all different sorts of personalities.
003. We have 'Latin tempers'
There is a David Cross stand up in which he makes cracks about how white guys are just jerks but Latin men have 'Latin tempers.' Having a bad temper or being abusive is no more an integral part to the Latin identity than being a black belt is to a Japanese or Japanese-American. Come on, don't be silly!
These sorts of phrases and ideas about Latin@s perpetuate the notion that we are illogical, violent, or that our complaints have less to do with legitimate concerns and more to do with our 'inclination' to lose our temper.
004. We all speak Spanish
Les juro que hay muchas personas de origen latino que no pueden entender estas palabras. In fact, a few of my good friends and acquaintances never learned Spanish growing up despite being the children of Latin@s and Latin@ immigrants. There are varying reasons for this.
My mother worked in property management and real estate in the 80s (remember Reagan & Bush?) in Southern California & it wasn't uncommon that various immigrants refused to speak with her in Spanish and instead had their children speak English to her. Whenever the children (usually teens) would break into Spanish, their parents would scold them. There is still - sadly - a stigma with regard to speaking Spanish natively. This is why states such as Arizona can happily wipe away programs with an emphasis on Latin@s, and why states such as Missouri can enforce English only laws with regard to government documents.
There are many other stereotypes I suspect I will touch upon throughout this blog because they affect both me and my family personally and, as always, are politically relevant.