A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Que es Being "Latino?"

I grew up in the People's Republic of Spanglish, a.k.a. Miami. My folks still live there, and last time I went home my Dad and I got into this huge argument over what it means to be "Latino" in a Mexican restaurant in Homestead, an enclave of rednecks and migrant workers.
I stumbled across an interesting article written by Taylor Gandossy that appeared on CNN.com called, "The Complicated Measure of Being Hispanic in America." In this article, Gandossy makes a couple of points that I would like to share with you. First, there are approximately 44 million people in the U.S. that consider themselves "Latino." Now, when taken with the approximate population of the U.S., 300 million, one will see that Latinos make up about 1/6 the population of the U.S.
Gandossy goes to explain that from a "census standpoint, being of Latino or Hispanic origin means a person identifies himself in one of four listed categories: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or 'other Spanish, Hispanic or Latino' origin. In the latter more open-ended category, respondents can write in specific origins, such as Salvadorean, Argentinean or Dominican."
But this seems limiting, especially when you take into consideration a study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center/Kasier Family Foundation that was conducted in 2002. The researchers found that "54 percent said they primarily identify themselves in terms of their or their parents' country or origin." And that's exactly how I see myself; when people ask me where I am from the answer that I usually give is, I am Argentine-American.
But this category never shows up when I am asked to delineate my ethnicity. I usually have to mark, Hispanic, and then, Other. Which means that the designation of Latino is really a political construct and one that may not even fit all Latinos. In the article, they interview Suzanne Oboler a professor of Puerto Rican and Latino studies at John Jay and she says, For me...there is no such thing as a Latino identity...There's certainly a cultural understanding...and a political identity.
It seems sad but the only sector of society that I have seen that has done the requisite research and investigations into the true identity of Latinos is the advertising world. First, I would recommend that anyone that can youtube (i.e. the verb form much like Google) a commercial for Gallegos Bros, an advertising co that operates out of LA. The commercials are spot on and, I believe, talk to the appetite of Latinos. The commercials are playful, picaresque, and ultimately spot on.
According to the article, David Chitel and New Generation Latino Consortium, have coined a term to designate Latinos: "new generation Latinos". A NGL is a person that has "grown up here in the US in Latino households, most likely with their parents speaking Spanish at home, eating certain foods at home, certain values and traditions that are insilled into them, from music to religious beliefs to the importance of family, these sorts of things."
Carl J. Kravetz, "a long time veteran of Hispanic marketing" and the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies "embarked on a Latino cultural identity project last year." They found that in general there was little cross-pollination between different Latino groups, but there was definitely some "clusters" of shared traits. According to Kravetz, "Those areas include interpersonal relationships (Latinos tend to emphasize family; individuality is not as important), perceptions of time and space (they have longer time horizons and have a relaxed sense of privacy) and spirituality (religion and spirituality have a strong influence on Latino life and perception of the world).
So, Dad, a Latino is a political designation and it is a term created mostly by political and mercantile combines vying for a slice of our honey pot. It is basically another way for people from Spanish-speaking countries to designate the complexity of what it is to be for me and 44 million people in this country. So, if you want to consider yourself white, then I guess that's fine, but that's a reality that my bronze-ish skin will not afford to me.

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