“Dude, I Hate to Tell You This, but You’re Hispanic”

So I was standing in line at a theme park, waiting to jump on a monsterously huge rollercoaster, when I noticed a swaggering young hombre in front of me. He was hanging with his girlfriend, a cute little Latina. The guy was obviously Chicano, and if anyone doubted the joven’s ethnicity, it was right there, spelled out on his t-shirt.

The words on the back of his shirt read

“Hispanic: No!

Latino: No!

Chicano: Yes!”

The wording was all-caps, for damn sakes, to minimize the danger of subtlety escaping. The front of the shirt featured the standard eagles and snakes and La Virgin imagery.

I lost sight of the guy by the time I got on the rollercoaster, and I forgot all about him for the two minutes of whiplash speed that I received in exchange for my hour in line (this was very poor ROI).

But I thought about him later, and I realized that the shirt pissed me off. This hombre was adamant, a walking billboard, in fact, for the idea that Chicanos are completely different from the rest of the Hispanic world. I had run into this mindset before, but not so explicitly. The implication, of course, is that they are better or superior to, say, Nicaraguans or Cubans or Peruvians.

I could understand if someone asked the guy if he was Bolivian or Colombian. In that case, maybe he would just want to be clear and/or take pride in his ethnicity. But instead he was performing a pre-emptive strike on anyone who would think, for a split second, that he could be part of the larger Hispanic or Latino tribe. He didn’t want to be included with me or anyone who didn’t have roots in Mexico.

What is the point of this demand for separation? Is it like the paper-thin differences emphasized by, for example, the British and the Welsh? And if so, will there be any involvement from women as hot as Catherine Zeta-Jones (she’s Welsh, not Hispanic, you know).

In any case, it was yet another example of our human capacity to emphasize differences over similarities. It’s little wonder that we get into crazed debates over larger, more ambiguous definitions (eg, who is a real American?) when we can’t even agree that Chicanos are Latino. It’s also symptomatic of Hispanic culture’s inability to coalesce, which is one reason the political power of Latinos is one notch above the lobbying strength of Idaho beet farmers.

Despite my annoyance, I wish no ill harm to the young Chicano. I hope the guy enjoyed the rollercoaster. But I also hope that at some point during the day, when he was strolling hand in hand with his girlfriend and eating cotton candy and handing stuffed animals to her, that she looked deep into his eyes and said, “You know, honey, that’s a really stupid t-shirt.”


1 Response to ““Dude, I Hate to Tell You This, but You’re Hispanic””

  1. 1 The Broken Forum
    June 22, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    A guy wearing a t-shirt is preforming a pre-emptive on you? Are you kidding? From what you wrote here, the kid didn’t interact with you at all, he didn’t get in your face or eve talk shit to you – you just happened to notice his shirt and it threatened you. I’m gonna’ go out on a limb here and guess that you are not Chicano because if you were you wouldn’t need an explanation.

    Last time I checked, we could wear whatever we wanted to and that includes, confederate flags, shamrocks, Malcolm x, flags, etc. The shirt pissed you off? Why? Examine that for a minute. Ask yourself that question. Is it because of your own cultural insecurities? Because the young “hombre” has defiantly expressed his proud heritage on a t-shirt and refused to assimilate under the “Hispanic” label that his coconate brethren so desperately want him to?

    The word “Hispanic” is a government term borrowed from Ancient Rome. It was widely used to homogenize all Latin cultures in the 70’s and 80’s to draw them into the U.S Census. Nothing more, nothing less. All it does is lump everyone together, which is total bullshit because the cultures all differ greatly – not to mention Latinos are still considered “white” so far as the census is concerned.

    Chicanos have nothing on common with Cubans or Puerto Ricans of even Mexicans from Mexico. And they will tell you so if you confuse the two. They all have their own differences and they are all very proud of who they are for a reason.

    In this day and age, in this time of raza odiada where the middle and upper class are scared to death of Latinos taking over and “invading” the U.S. – in this day of mass deportation and hatred of anything brown – wearing the word “Chicano” on your person is a badge of courage. We are in a throwback age, akin to the Zoot Suit era where Chicanos were often caught up by violence, hatred and prejudice.

    All I can tell you is that if you’re not now, you never were. And I hate to tell you this, but YOU are Hispanic. The rest of us know who the fuck we are.

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