Friday, February 22, 2013

What's in a name?

I recently spoke at a high-school class to discuss a topic with a clumsy moniker: Latino/Hispanic/Chicano literature. Why all the names? Because every one of these handles is loaded with cultural freight. When I have to identify myself, as in when people ask, what are you? I know what they mean. Even though I was born, raised, and educated in the USofA, apparently I speak with an accent and have a "not-from-here" complexion. When others use the term "people of color," they look in my direction as if I am a green Martian. So to answer the question, given column A, B, or C, which am I? I choose Chicano, which is a Mexican-American with cultural roots in this country. Oh sure, I know about Univision but give me the Discovery Channel and AMC. I like tacos and hamburgers. And there's a political, militant thrust to Chicano that I take pride in. Why have a cultural identity at all? Why not just declare myself an AMERICAN? Because when I've gotten stopped by the police or the Border Patrol, it wasn't because I looked like a Stewart or a Knutsen.

Hispanic is a necessary umbrella word because a lot of "us" aren't Chicanos. Uncle Sam's brown chillin' include Guatemalans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Panamanians, and on and on. But the ethnic taxonomy remains complicated. What about Brazilians? They come from south of the border. Way south. But Brazilians can't be considered Hispanic because it was Portugal, not Spain, that conquered settled Brazil.

Which brings us to Latin. In an effort to find a common denominator among us from aya, etymologists fixated on the idea that since Spanish and Portuguese are Romance languages--wait a minute!!! 

Why can't I be called a Romance-American? Or a Romantic? I can totally dig that.

But no. The decision was to instead tag us as Latins. And the derivation, Latino. Should I complain? After all, when you think of Latin, what comes to mind? A Latin lover. Suave. Handsome. Debonair. Romantic. So absolutely me.

Excluded from the Latino grouping are the French (so very romantic), the Italians (even more romantic), and the Romanians (apparently not romantic enough even though they adopted the term as their ethnic name).

Which leads to another absurdity. How many of us Latinos speak Latin? So who spoke Latin? The Romans, who were long gone before the first lowrider cruised the barrio.

And this P.C. gets even more ridiculous at the supermarket. My local Kroger has an aisle labeled "Latin" foods. I should go Roman on them and ask what to serve at an orgy. Stuffed peacock perhaps.
Valete.

8 comments:

Toe Hallock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
j welling said...

Latin foods ? I love dates. Always popular with the patricians.

Also capon flayed and deviled.(Hold the fish sauce).

I'm all over a culture that "devils."

Charlotte Hinger said...

PC drives me totally nuts. I'm an "African American" historian. Which is a tricky label because I'm not African American. I just write about them. Whoops! we don't get to say "they" or "them" anymore. Plus not all Africans are Americans. Not all "blacks" are Africans. I've all liked "Negro" but that's totally out.

Mario Acevedo said...

J: Devils is good.
Charlotte: It can get tricky.

Toe Hallock said...

Como se dice Valete? Be brave? Sorry,but I assume its espanol. If not, my bad. My language skills are weak. Anyway,my Unca Al once informed me that our Great Grandma (my Great-Great?)was of Mexican heritage. Fine by me. Back in the day "our" motto was Viva La Raza. Nobody else in the family seemed to acknowedge this. So, as a kid in school I was labeled Caucasian. Like what, I was born in Russia? Anyway, when I was teaching high school students -- you know how curious they are -- they wanted to know about my ethnic background. In answer, I would relay what my Unca Al had told me. Then just tell them I'm apparently a little bit of everything. As far as color is concerned, I like "Beige." Boring, huh?

Mario Acevedo said...

Toe,
Actually, valete is Latin for goodbye when you're addressing a group. Years after my grandmother on my dad's side passed away, I found out her father was a French Baptist missionary, which makes me 1/8 French. This can get so complicated.

adeoe said...

I'm all over a culture that "devils."
GW2 Gold

adeoe said...

I'm all over a culture that "devils."
GW2 Gold