You don’t speak Mexican?
If Mexican were a language, it would still be hard for me to speak it. The biggest reason would be that I was in Colombia and not in Mexico. Even though I was born in Colombia, I don’t speak Colombian. I know it seems strange doesn’t it. Now if people put a little thought into it, they would realize that words like Hispanic, Spanish, and Latin have more to do with language than actual ethnicity. Not too long ago I wrote about the subject and how I am proud of in a way being Mexican by being Latin.
There is something to be said about the American school system. I remember in Colombia learning about every country in the world, knowing what language they spoke, their currency, population, flag and type of government. I knew that in the United States they spoke English. While it could be debatable if Americans really speak the Queen’s English or an American version of it, the language is still called English and I have never asked anyone if they speak American. That would make a lot more sense since even the aliens on the movies speak English. The bad guys for some reason have an English or French accent but that is a whole other post.
Yesterday enjoying lunch with some coworkers the subject of ethnical identity came up; it was stated that to most non-Spanish people, when they see someone that looks Spanish they are automatically deemed Mexicans. Now this has been true for both Michigan and Illinois. I am not sure if in New York people think all Spanish people are Puerto Rican or in Miami everyone thinks they are Cuban, but in the Midwest being Spanish automatically makes you Mexican.
I had experienced this same conversation before with various groups of people. Most people then get very defensive when I tell them that I am not Mexican, and ask why do I care if I am called Mexican. I have nothing against Mexicans, my sister is married to a Mexican, I have Mexican friends, love Mexican food and furthermore I think that the Aztecs and Mayans were civilizations to be admired. However I am also very proud of my own heritage. I am very proud of being Colombian even though my country does not have the most positive image in the world’s eyes.
The other question that is often asked is: “What is your real name?” A lot of people, including some Spanish people think that I changed my name once I moved to the United States. I’ve had people try to call me Juan, which is the translation of John to Spanish… but not my name, I was born John, it is the name my parents picked. So talk to them about naming me with an English name. Do me a favor and don’t accuse me of “Americanizing” my name.
While language unites Spanish people, or Hispanics, or Latinos, or whatever it is politically correct to call us these days, we are not a united front. There are very deep division lines betweens people from different Spanish countries and a lot of people outside of our ethnicity do not realize that. People from different countries seem to just dislike you for being from a country different that theirs; I have experienced this dislike first hand. I do seem to get along with pretty much anyone, but because of food similarity, or music taste I have always seemed to get along with Cubans and Puerto Ricans. But it does not stop there, I am also a big fan of Spanish rock and thanks to it I was got to meet couple of guys from Guatemala during high school. I believe the only person that I know from El Salvador is JorgeQ. I hope that I never experience that country segregation and that someone will not read me just because I am from Colombia. Overall though there is a division, I am not sure if it is Central Americans vs. South Americans or what, but what I do know is that no one likes Argentineans, “they are kind of stuck up.” (Joking)
I am not trying to offend anyone here; I like everyone for who they are as people and like to find out where people are from just because I love to learn about cultures, not because I am not going to like you because of where you are from; Even if you are from Argentina. I am trying to point out how ridiculous it is to have all the prejudice that we see between Spanish people, or for that matter between humans of all races. It is cool to be proud of where you are from, of who you are, but make it a springboard for unity, find common ground. Do not make the color of your skin an excuse to find differences and things to divide you from your fellow humans. I am extremely proud of my flag and I wear it on my arm (literarily), but I want it to be taken as a sign of pride and not arrogance. While Colombians are very proud people, at times a little too loud and at times just annoying, I can tell you that as a group of people we have “ganas” (drive) and hearths as big as our houses.
On the spirit of humor one of my coworkers found a little Homies figurine depicting a Mexican Mariachi. I thought it was hilarious, now it is going to be eaten by my dragon.