Wednesday, July 30, 2008


A while back my mom came and looked over my shoulder while I was filling out college applications online. "Hispanic?" she asked, noting that the little box under "race/ethnicity" ws checked.

"Yeah," I answered. "What else would I be?"

"Jon, we're white."

Which is technically true, I guess, even if I don't self-identify as such. Not that that really means anything: for every fellow Spanish-speaking guy whose skin is darker than mine, there's another two or three people who make conversation by correctly assuming I speak the language just by looking at me. Maybe I'm white, but I'm probably not white white.

My mom's reaction to "Hispanic" isn't unusual. As Richard Rodriguez notes, it was more or less invented by the Nixon administration and it has no real historical basis, so I consider resistance to such an imposition to be perfectly valid.

I don't mind "Hispanic." I'm aware that it was basically invented for people like me (not connected enough with Latin America that a foreign sounding word like "Latino" seems perfect, but not quite able to get away without a modifier for "American") but whatever sense of authenticity it might lack, it's still about as accurate as you're gonna get, precisely because it was invented for me. Not any less American, but something else, too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Very short story

I was walking to the grocery store when a guy hit me opening his car door.

"Ow," I said.

"Watch it," he said, getting in.

I thought I might get angry, but I decided instead to rest content in the knowledge that my dog had peed on his car an hour ago.


New Blog. Hi.

Still working on layout and logistical things like the title and whether I use an alias or anything like that. Suggestions?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Against our parents

Here's a post yesterday over at Daily Kos. I've appreciated the hell out of Kos lending his considerable voice and influence to the three SoFla congressional races and his enthusiasm for the candidates there, Annette Taddeo, Raul Martinez, and Joe Garcia. He seems to get the frustration over the fact that my beloved hometown is represented by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

(And, I note paranthetically, it's a great post. Garcia deserves the recognition he's gotten from all the lefty blogs. He's a Cuban Democrat who's had the unenviable task of reforming the Cuban American National Foundation, which had been basically a local arm of the GOP for most of my life, when they put Garcia in charge. He's got solid name ID and good fundraising. I look forward to him wiping the floor with Mario D-B in November.)

So Kos's heart is in the right place, but I still had a moment there where I reacted just like when some stoner or college freshman or Michael Moore takes time to tell me why Castro's not such a bad guy and that he does a lot of really cool things for his people, dude, like give them awesome awesome health care and education and the fascist American government really has a thing or two to learn from guys like him. (I'm paraphrasing.) Whenever someone brings up
the corrupt Cuban exile community
I have to pause for a second. Obviously Kos was really referring to that one extremely active and right-wing minority of a minority of a minority; he's not trying to slur Cubans and Cuban-Americans. I also know that Kos will recall that younger generations, recent exiles included, of Cuban Americans are not as reflexively Republican as their parents are and that Florida's Cuban population is decreasing in proportion to other Hispanics. That terminology wouldn't have given me the slightest pause had he worded it just a bit differently, but written as it was I cringed. These may be extreme, radical, frequently racist malcontents we're talking about, but fuck it, man, these are still mi gente. Why, even though I know better, do I keep getting the nagging feeling that liberals are scapegoating Cubans?

I'm pretty sure it's just me. It's the same reason that the phrase "non-Cuban Hispanic" is fairly prevalent. It's why, every election season, pollsters take the time to separate Cuban respondents from Hispanic voting stats when they're polling Florida. Kos can say this, and it's not wrong even if it does aggravate me, because the definition of the Cuban In America is so intrinsically political in nature that it's become unnecessary to even bother acknowledging details and small contradictions. "Cuban exile" is as loaded a term as "NASCAR Dad"--somewhere, sure, there exists a prototypical one of those that prays to the holy trinity of Christ, Reagan, and Junior. But for the sake of convenience, we can ignore everyone else who shares the experience but not the perspective, since the sample we have is at least somewhat representative.

We can lump the Cuban exile community together because for decades they've lumped themselves together as such a reliable voting bloc. I guess what bugs me is circumstantial: it happens to be that at this historical moment "the corrupt Cuban exile community" is slowly ceasing to be a meaningful descriptor. I want to be able to love the Cuban exile and hate the corrupt community, but it's tough when the words are jumbled all the wrong way.

You can probably tell how conflicted I am by all this. By our very nature many of my generation combat the common wisdom, which is to say we can embrace our Cubanness as loudly as we reject our grandparents' politics. Of course, many of them would reply that I can't have it both ways, and I find myself too often unsure whether or not they might be right.