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.


Randal Cooper said...

Mexicans: A slang term used by Americans to refer to persons from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Nicaragua, Chile, Venezuela, and Alaska. --The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Lux said...

I hate the word 'Latino' (or 'Latina'). I am Mexican, not Latina. Boricuas, Nicaraguans, Haitians, Cubans, etc... have few things in common, certainly not enough to group us all under an umbrella term like 'Latinos'. Hispanic, IMO, is even worse... it's like saying "well, your skin is obviously not white, and you speak Spanish, and that's all I see".