Category Archives: racism
I know, it’s a strange title, but I wasn’t sure how else to sum up our visit to the grocery store today.
Carlos and I walked through the produce section as I checked my list.
“I need onions,” I said.
Carlos steered the cart and followed me to the onions.
“Whoa!” I said, when I came to the onions, because they were the biggest onions I’d ever seen.
“Those are huge,” Carlos said.
“Do you think they’re like, genetically modified onions or something?” I joked, picking one up.
“I don’t know. One onion is enough for a whole week.”
“Hey, quick, take a picture of it,” I said, holding it up.
Carlos obliged without question because he’s become accustomed to my odd photo requests over the years. Carlos snapped the photo and then that’s when everything went downhill.
A middle-aged blond woman standing nearby smiled at us. Her blond child sat in the cart and several more stood behind her.
“Where are you from?” the woman asked, turning her attention to Carlos, still smiling.
I glared at her while setting the onion down. Carlos shuffled uncomfortably as he put his cellphone back in his pocket.
“El Salvador,” he answered.
“You must not have onions that big there, huh?” the woman said in a voice that reminded me of a Kindergarten teacher speaking to one of her 5 year old students. She wasn’t trying to be insulting… She wasn’t trying to be.
“Um, no, not really,” Carlos said, shifting his eyes to make eye contact with me ever so briefly. Carlos and I didn’t need words, didn’t need to speak, to know we were thinking the same thing.
I bit my tongue, resisted the urge to ask the woman where she was from. I wanted to tell her that Carlos had lived in the United States for 15 years now, that he’s an American Citizen, not some onion-photographing foreign tourist. I wanted to lob one of the onions at her head but she was oblivious to her white privilege, her unintentional racism, how she had made Carlos feel “other” … She didn’t realize that if another white person had been taking a photo in the grocery store she would not have asked or even wondered where they are from.
“We just went to Thailand. We love anything international!” the woman exclaimed.
The awkwardness was unbearable.
I wondered in my head how she would have reacted if I blurted out something equally as random. “Tea and crumpets are amazing!” is what I wanted to say. I bit my tongue harder.
“That’s nice?” Carlos said, unsure, as was I, what she expected us to respond.
I looped my arm through Carlos’s, forced myself to smile at the woman and we walked away. I kept quiet because I still don’t know how to explain white privilege to other white people.
What would you have done? How would you have responded?
The Boston marathon bombings – I didn’t think I would be writing about this, but here I am. Like most of you, I’ve been watching way too much TV, reading too many articles on the internet, and when torn away from those, listening to the radio in my car. Like most of you, I’ve had a lot of feelings the past few days on many different angles of this tragedy.
Tonight, the second suspect has been captured and it’s “over” … and yet it isn’t. I hear my fellow Americans chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” … and it seems somehow inappropriate. I understand relief. I understand pride in our first responders. I understand feeling some sense of justice or closure – but the all-out celebration, taking to the streets like revelers on New Year’s Eve? I can’t connect with it.
Those who died, are still dead; those who are mourning, are still mourning; those who are injured, are still injured. Those innocent people who were mistakenly caught up in the investigation, are still dealing with the resulting emotional damage. The young suspect in custody, if he survives, will face a long trial, all of which we will once again watch as if it’s some sort of sick reality show/telenovela hybrid.
After everything is said and done, we are left with scars – and some of those scars were inflicted on our society by the media, by irresponsible journalists. The use of racial profiling and the xenophobic language exhibited by journalists of networks I once respected, has disgusted me. It’s as if the journalists salivated at the idea that the suspects might be Muslim, as if that explains everything, when that fact alone explains nothing. That is why I’m writing this – It’s why I created a video – because at first, I couldn’t find words.
Maybe you’re not Muslim – most people who read my blog are not. Maybe you’re saying, “What does this have to do with me?” – Believe me, it has everything to do with all of us. The sentiments stirred up by the media, intentionally or unintentionally, are not only anti-Muslim, they are anti-”foreigner”, anti-brown person, anti-accent, anti-bilingualism, anti-immigrant. They are sentiments that divide and quite frankly, we’re better than this as a people, as a nation, and we deserve better than this from our news agencies.
If you agree with me, please consider sharing this video far and wide.
For the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes. Life is too short and there are way too many ways to be offended by things that aren’t politically correct. It’s difficult to say why one thing doesn’t bother me, but something else gets under my skin.
For example, the whole Mexican Barbie thing? If I were a little girl, I’d love to have that Barbie, and if I had a daughter, I’d buy it for her. I think it’s awesome that she has a passport, and all the dolls in the collection do. Her dark wavy hair is so pretty and being a brunette myself, I always favored dark-haired Barbies over the blondes. The ballet folklorico dress is nice although it could be more detailed, and the Chihuahua, well, I think that may have been a lazy decision, (isn’t the Xoloitzcuintli the national dog of Mexico?) – but all that being said, I’m not offended by the doll.
Really, my only major problem with Mattel’s Dolls of the World collection, (besides my usual complaints about Barbies contributing to unrealistic body ideals), is that they stuck with many of the same countries that are already represented in these types of toy lines. When will we teach kids about lesser known countries? Ask any kid in the United States to name a country that speaks Spanish and you’re almost guaranteed they’ll say “Mexico.” … In other words, when will we see a Salvadoran Barbie? (Or Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, Panamanian… you get the idea.)
If Mattel needs help designing the Salvadoran Barbie, I’m available. Imagine the colorful dress, the leather chancletas, maybe a cántaro or a bouquet of Flor de Izote. You could have a cachiporra version with a bastón, and a vendedora version in a delantal that comes with a comal full of pupusas. How about a Salvadoran version of the Ken doll? He could wear traditional dress with a scapular and a cowboy hat – he could carry a capirucho or maybe a modern version sporting una camiseta de La Selecta and holding a Pilsener. (Okay, maybe not.)
Speaking of beer, Cinco de Mayo is fast upon us which means every Mexican beer, tortilla chip, and salsa company is gearing up to bring in the pesos. Here is a display for Corona which I spotted at a Wal-Mart.
As I was saying, for the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes, (they’re somewhat necessary to understanding the world we live in), and this doesn’t really offend me as much as it makes me roll my eyes. However, this stereotype of Mexicans – sombrero, sarape or poncho, and burro, (although I guess Corona decided to get “creative” and use a horse?) is getting a little old, isn’t it? Besides, they totally forgot the big mustache and the cactus for nap time after the fiesta is over.
#101HispanicWaysToDie was a trending topic on social network Twitter today.
The range of responses to the hashtag was interesting. The vast majority, including myself, had fun with the hashtag – just some light-hearted joking around. Others became nostalgic for childhood, even when it meant remembering being smacked with a chancla. Some people expressed disgust at the hashtag, possibly assuming the worst, and not actually checking it out. Then there were the racists who couldn’t resist jumping in and talking about illegal border crossing – decidedly NOT funny.
One Latina tweeted “say [to your parents] you’re going out with a moreno” – It was unclear whether the person who wrote it meant it seriously, as an honest commentary on their reality, or if they were trying to be humorous. This unfunny tweet which points out the racist tendencies of some parents, was re-tweeted 301 times and favorited 119 times at last count and there were other similar tweets which, perhaps reflect a sad reality that deserves more discussion en la comunidad latina.
Whenever there’s a trending hashtag on Twitter, you’re going to get this diverse mix of funny, honest and offensive. I jumped in and tried to keep my tweets light and funny. Here they are re-purposed for this blog post. Feel free to add your own in comments!
13 Latino Ways to Die
1. Suffocation after too much Vicks Vapo-Rub has been put up your nostrils.
2. Pine-Sol and bleach fumes after your mother cleans the house.
3. Setting off illegal fireworks.
4. Third degree cheese burns from not allowing the pupusa to cool before attempting to consume.
5. Laughing with your siblings during misa.
6. Accidentally telling your Mom that you’re “embarazada” when you actually mean to say you’re embarrassed.
7. Parents use a lesson from the old country. You respond “But we’re not in El Salvador! We’re in the United States!”
9. Riding in the back of a pickup truck.
10. Laughing when your parent translates a Spanish idiom to English but it makes no sense.
11. Rooting for the U.S. team when they play your parent’s home country in soccer.
12. Kicked in the nalgas by a bota picuda.
13. Making too much noise in the room when your abuela is trying to hear her horoscope from Walter Mercado.
Update! Related Link: #101HispanicWaysToDie Shows True Colors on ModernMami.com
The other day my 13 year old son was out in the front yard pulling weeds, which is a weekly occurrence in the summer. He’s a good kid and took on the responsibility of cutting the grass, weed-whacking, trimming bushes and doing other yard maintenance. Carlos appreciates his help since he’s physically tired from work and our son does a good job.
So, the other day while our son was pulling weeds where the lawn meets the street, I didn’t think anything of it until I checked on him and found him engaged in a conversation with an elderly man who had stopped his car in the middle of the road. The man talked to him out of his rolled down window, my son stood with a hand on his hip, the other arm he pulled across his forehead to wipe off the sweat that rolled into his eyes. I figured the old man was asking for directions.
“Guess what?” my son said, coming into the house, the screen door slamming unintentionally behind him.
“That guy offered me a job cutting grass and pulling weeds at his house. He lives on the other side of the neighborhood.”
I was happy that my son had the potential to earn some spending money since he’s been bothering me lately about letting him get a job when he turns fourteen next month. (Carlos says it’s out of the question because he wants him to focus on his studies – but that’s a discussion for another day.)
While I was happy for our son, I couldn’t help but wonder if the elderly Caucasian gentleman would have stopped to ask the blond-haired white boy down the street to cut his grass if he’d seen him out pulling weeds. I’m not offended that the man asked, but I can’t pretend the question didn’t enter my mind. You could say I’m being too sensitive or too paranoid, except that last year when Carlos was out cutting the grass, another Caucasian neighbor stopped their car and called out to him.
“Excuse me!” he said, waving his arms to flag Carlos down.
Carlos shut off the mower and walked over to the car.
“Excuse me,” the man repeated, “Do you cut grass?”
Carlos took a moment to understand what this guy was thinking.
“I cut my own grass,” Carlos said, “This is my yard.”
“Oh,” the man said, “…Would you want to cut my grass? I’ve been looking for someone.”
“I’m sorry,” Carlos said, “I have enough work doing my own yard.”
“Okay, I understand,” the man said, “…Do you know anybody who would want to cut my grass? Do you have any friends that might want to?”
“No,” Carlos said, becoming annoyed.
“Oh, okay,” the man replied before driving away, “Thanks anyway.”
Would these Caucasian men have asked another random white person to come cut their grass? There’s really no way to know, but somehow I doubt it.
Last week the United States lost to Mexico in the final Gold Cup game. My husband and I were both rooting for the U.S. team. We had even bet money – which was my unfortunate idea. Carlos has Mexican co-workers who give him a hard time for being the only Salvadoran amongst them – so I thought this would be a good way to get a little revenge and make some cash at the same time… well, it would have been if our team had won – instead, it lead to us being $40 poorer and some marital discord.
You see, while I was disappointed by the loss, Carlos, a Salvadoran by birth, was more than disappointed – he was angry, and it wasn’t about the money – it was about the Mexicans teasing him, the Mexicans who had beat our team, and, apparently, the entire country of Mexico itself.
When I told him to calm down he said, “You don’t understand! You don’t know how they are! I’m going to have to put up with that shit all day!”
“Don’t let it get to you,” I advised. “They just want to see you get upset. If you pretend it doesn’t bother you, they’ll stop,” I told him, repeating the same advice my mother had given me a million times when my sister’s teasing had gotten on my nerves as a kid.
“You don’t know how it is,” Carlos said. At that moment, his cellphone buzzed with a text message. Carlos cursed then held the screen to my face. “See?!”
The text message was from a Mexican co-worker. It read:
Ey pupusa, ganó México. Mañana tienes que llevar el dinero! jajajajaja!
I tried not to smile because Carlos was obviously really upset, but even their nickname for him, (“pupusa”) – I found funny, cute, and totally harmless. It was just guys being guys – but Carlos didn’t see it that way.
The thing is, I know Carlos doesn’t hate Mexicans. We have Mexican friends – people he really likes very much. He listens to Mexican music right along with me, without complaint, (usually), and likes Mexican food. When I cook Salvadoran dishes he puts Valentina hot sauce on it, (authentic Salvadoran food is not traditionally spicy, but Carlos likes everything picante.) He loves Pedro Infante, Cantinflas, El Chavo del Ocho, India Maria. As a proud Salvadoran, he even confessed that he knows a few bars of the Himno Nacional Mexicano and sang it for me! (Although he only learned it so he could pass as Mexican if stopped while immigrating through Mexico on his way to the United States.)
Even while I try to convince Carlos that he really does love Mexicans after all, I know animosity between Mexicans and Salvadorans isn’t imaginary – it’s real, and there are real reasons for it. If you ask a Mexican or Salvadoran why they don’t like each other, they may give you one of the following reasons, or they may offer no compelling reason at all. Here is what I found – (The content below is quoted from various sources. Sources are included. Latinaish.com does not necessarily agree with or endorse the opinions below.)
“El problema con los mexicanos es [que] quieren tener de menos a los salvadoreños y centroamericanos, nos subestiman… cual crees [que] es el mayor desafio para un salvadoreño o centroamericano al emigrar a USA, es el temor a ser asesinado, secuestrado, mutilado o violado por mexicanos, se aprobechan de los emigrantes centroamericanos cuando ellos tambien tienen la misma necesidad de nosotros de emigrar hacia USA…” – Salvadoreño, Yahoo Answers
“Yo vivo al norte de méxico y el otro día viendo las noticias comentabamos mi mamá y yo como era posible la discriminación de razas sobre todo al sur del país con los salvadoreños ó guatemaltecos que cruzan la frontera, siendo que el presiedente de méxico va cada rato a USA a pedir que no traten mal a sus indocumentados, yo viví en USA una temporada y ví como en USA no los tratan tan mal como dicen los de la “migra” a los mexicanos indocumentados, y me pregunto yo ¿con que cara los méxicanos tratan mal a los salvadoreños ó guatemaltecos que cruzan la frontera?, vi en una entrevista al presidente de guatemala diciendo que había ido con el presidente de mexico para pedir por sus indocumentados y le comentó este que el acababa de llegar de USA por lo mismo y cuando llegó de ahi tenía una llamada del presindente de belice para lo mismo y cuando llego a su pais el presidente de guatemala le esperaba una llamada del presidente de el salvador y era para pedirle por sus indocumentados. Imaginate dijo todos estamos abogando por lo mismo….y me dio una pena ajena con la gente del sur de mi país enterarme que los tratan tan mal y que todavía se quejen que en USA los tratan mal con que cara piden respeto si no repetan… todavía recuerdo un día que llegarona ala casa unos salvadoreños pidiendo comida eran una pareja con dos niños como llegaron hasta sonora solo dios sabe, les dimos todo lo que pudimos y les dimos la bendición cuando se fueron. No todos odian a los salvadoreños aqui hay gente que es del salvador viviendo y los tratamos muy bien saben porque? porque al norte no se vive como al sur del pais, es triste pero cierto.” – Mexicana/Yahoo Answers
“Shortly after Central America gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico tried to swallow the region into its burgeoning empire. The fiercest opposition? El Salvador. Eventually, republic-minded Mexicans stopped their country’s ambitions and allowed El Salvador and the other Central American provinces to create the United Provinces of Central America. That lasted into the 1830s, by which time Mexico was too busy dealing with another imperial power to care much about recouping its former holdings. And if you know anything about Mexico, it’s que we don’t take thefts of our lands lightly.” – Gustavo Arellano/Ask A Mexican
“The Mara Salvatrucha gang originated in Los Angeles, set up in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants in the city’s Pico-Union neighborhood who immigrated to the United States after the Central American civil wars of the 1980s…Originally, the gang’s main purpose was to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other, more established gangs of Los Angeles, who were predominantly composed of Mexicans and African-Americans.” – Wikipedia
JEALOUSY: TPS (TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS)
El Salvador became a “temporary protected status” (TPS) country in 2001, following two earthquakes that killed 1,000 people and destroyed more than 200,000 homes.
After intense lobbying by the Salvadoran government, the TPS was just extended for another 12 months. That means Salvadorans who were living in the United States in 2001 – many of them illegally – can stay and work for another year. TPS comes up for renewal or termination every 12 to 18 months.
TPS is designed to aid countries reeling from a natural disaster, civil war or other destabilizing situation.
…Some of the seven TPS-designated countries get extensions though their disasters happened long ago. Christopher Bentley of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says “assessments” and “studies” help decide whether to extend TPS and whether holders can return safely home.
Jose Romero, a 31-year-old Charlotte construction worker [now] earns three times what he did in his native El Salvador.
He got TPS five years ago after living in the U.S. illegally for five years.
Romero told his fellow construction workers, most of them Mexican, about his TPS. They were happy for him, but jealous.
“They’re never going to give us anything,” he said the Mexicans told him.
- Article by Tim Funk and Danica Coto / McClatchy Newspapers
RESENTMENT: CULTURAL DOMINANCE AND TRYING TO FIT IN
“Juan Carlos Rivera knew that if he wanted to get a dishwashing job at the MacArthur Park hamburger stand, he would have to pretend to be Mexican. But the thought of lying made the Salvadoran anxious.
He paced outside the restaurant, worried that his melodic Spanish accent, his use of the Central American vos, instead of the Mexican tu, would give him away.
…In his best Mexican Spanish, the Salvadoran asked: ¿Tienen trabajo? (Do you have work?)
When asked where he was born, he swallowed his pride and answered: Puebla, Mexico.
The job was his. For three days, Rivera scrubbed plates in conspicuous silence. He knew the Mexican cooks were onto him. Especially the one from Puebla.
…Juan Carlos Rivera struggled to keep up his ruse even when the suspicious cook began to quiz him on popular Pueblan food, including Puebla’s specialty, the cemita.
“How do you like it?” the cook asked.
“With pineapple,” Rivera said. Little did he know that what Salvadorans knew as caramelized sweet bread, Pueblans knew as a meat and avocado sandwich.
“I knew you weren’t Mexican,” the cook said smugly before running off to tell the manager.
- Article by Esmeralda Bermudez/Los Angeles Times
“It’s always Mexico, Mexico, Mexico,” said Jorge Mendoza, a 42-year-old painter, one of a group of Salvadoran men who gathered recently at MacArthur Park. “I turn on the radio and all I hear is Mexican music. If I want to watch a soccer game, I have to watch a Mexican team play.”
- Article by Esmeralda Bermudez/Los Angeles Times
“Salvadorans don’t hate Mexicans as much as Mexicans hate Salvadorans…This isn’t a generalization of all Mexicans, but many of them do this. Mexicans are the majority in most places where Salvadorans live, like San Fran, L.A., and Houston. In Long Island and Miami Salvadorans get along with the Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans fine. The problem is that Mexicans always usually display an arrogance that rubs all Latinos the wrong way. Not the Argentine, snotty type arrogance. The fist pumping, I’m a Mexican! arrogance. They insult us b/c of our accents, and feel they are superior. They don’t understand our history but we have to understand theirs.” – Enrique/Topix.com
“Pues supuestamente todo fue por culpa de un partido de futbol. En las eliminatorias para un mundial El Salvador le gano a México y lo descalifico para llegar al mundial. Esa es una explicacion ya que El Salvador nunca a tenido un buen equipo y a los mexicanos les dolió que un equipo como El Salvador los descalificaran…si no me equivoco fue en 1976.” – Salvadoreño/Yahoo Answers
PUPUSAS vs. GORDITAS
(Okay, not seriously, but while we’re arguing, I thought I’d throw it in there for fun.)
(Thanks to Juan for letting me use his video here to bring a little levity to a heavy topic.)
WORDS OF WISDOM
“Esto no es mas que pelear por tonterias … todos somos humanos, somos de la misma especie y los único que nos hace “diferentes” es una simple ubicación geográfica …somos humanos no somos ni mas ni menos, todos iguales … me parece bastante inmaduro pelear solo porque vivimos en distintos lugares del mundo … por cierto soy salvadoreño y ya dejen de pelear por tonterias.” – Salvadoreño/Yahoo Answers
NOTE: As always, comments are welcome below, but comments containing violent threats or hate speech will not be published. (This message is for both Salvadorans and Mexicans equally.) Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences on the topic in a thoughtful, intelligent manner that avoids name-calling or inflaming tensions. This post is not intended to stir up resentment but rather to point out the problems so they can be put aside.
I’m over it. I really am… but when it happened yesterday I wasn’t okay. At first my feelings were hurt… After about an hour of that, I got angry. I’m slowly letting that go today – but I dislike that a 10 second interaction I didn’t ask for can waste my time and energy in this way.
It’s happened before – the headshake. (I wonder if other interracial couples have encountered it?)
What is “The Headshake?” – It is, in my own experience, something older white males do when they see a white woman with a non-white man.
Carlos has never seen the headshake. The headshake is always targeted at me, as if older white males have the right, the authority, or even the duty, to let me know that they disapprove of my relationship. Funny, they don’t have the cojones to let Carlos know they disapprove. They may be ignorant but they aren’t stupid. Apparently they don’t want to get their ass kicked.
This is how it happens. Carlos and I will be in a public place – usually shopping. We’re holding hands. An older white male will make eye contact with me, and I will feel cold all of a sudden, because this isn’t the kind of eye contact that precedes a smile, nor is it a simple curious glance from a fellow human being. The stare is one that makes me feel immediately ill because the negative energy is palpable. And then, keeping eye contact, the man will shake his head as if chastising a naughty child.
Carlos will turn to see what I’m looking at – the man will look away … usually even walk away – disappearing within seconds. Again, where are your cojones? If you’ve got something to say, say it to my husband’s face… In fact, say it to my face because though I usually would promote a non-violent solution, if you catch me on the wrong day, I have no qualms about taking off my earrings and setting things straight if needs be.
So here is my question – If you’re an interracial couple, or an otherwise “non-traditional” couple, have you ever experienced “The Headshake?” If you have, how did you respond? Do you think such an individual should be confronted or ignored?
We went to Pollo Campero for the first time in El Salvador. Since then, my only taste of it has been from buckets of cold chicken smuggled on Taca flights brought by visiting family.
(Fun fact: Carlos’s sister used to work at a Pollo Campero in El Salvador.)
I knew that the fast food Guatemalan chicken restaurants had been popping up in the United States for quite awhile but I just didn’t get around to visiting one until last weekend. The Lakeforest Mall location in Gaithersburg, Maryland has been open for several years.
Lakeforest Mall is where my mother took us for back-to-school shopping – It’s across the street from the townhouses I lived in for the first year of my life. It’s where I skipped class and went to watch Jackie Chan movies, (there used to be a theater where the food court is now.) … Lakeforest Mall is 5 minutes down the street from where I met Carlos and it’s where Carlos and I spent time walking around as novios… In other words, it’s a familiar place – so when I heard rumors that Lakeforest Mall had become “ghetto” – I wanted to check it out.
(“Ghetto” – not my word, by the way, in case anyone out there is offended – I’m quoting.)
Anyway, visiting Pollo Campero was a good enough excuse for me. Off to Lakeforest Mall, pues.
So first we eat. Honestly, I can’t even remember what Pollo Campero tasted like in El Salvador, so I can’t compare them. The chicken was spicy and really good. The horchata was good though slightly watered down. The platanos were okay, (A little too ripe for my personal tastes and I prefer mine cut differently – that’s just me being picky though.)
The yuca frita dipped in this spicy Campero sauce was awesome. I will definitely go back for that.
I also liked the decor of the restaurant. This Spanglish sign was the best. “Flavor you can’t CAMPERO” – get it? … Clever.
And a little educational Latino pride never hurt.
Now, as for Lakeforest Mall itself – is it “ghetto”? In my opinion, not at all. It was clean, and though some high-end stores have been replaced, the quality and selection are still good. Maybe it isn’t as beautiful as it once was, (I remember there being fountains but they were turned off), but it’s still a nice mall.
So, what has changed the most? … The demographics of the shoppers. It felt almost like being in Miami again – the shoppers at the mall were an obvious Latino majority. This is drastically different from just 10 years ago, and worlds different from 20 years ago.
I tried to look at this from a gringa point-of-view. My conclusion is that maybe “ghetto” is just a code word that some people use when they really mean “there are more brown people than white people and that scares me.”
So, here’s the deal. The gringos who are now uncomfortable shopping at Lakeforest Mall, you can drive on over to Montgomery Mall instead.
As for me – Yo me quedo aquí…Pass the yuca frita.
“…results of a new study [by Univision] called “Why Latinos Look So Good”…revealed [that] 34% of Latino men shower twice a day vs. 16% of non-Latino men. Now, that statistic can be partly explained by the fact that Latinos predominantly live in warmer areas of the country (mainly the South and Southwest) or that their line of work may require a second shower in a day. But who cares why? All I hear is ka-ching! Calling all marketers of soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, after-shave, face cream, etc… ” – Chiqui Cartagena
My husband, Carlos, takes at least two showers a day – sometimes three, even in the winter time and even on weekends when he hasn’t gone to work. Our older son is the same… our youngest son is another story. He forgets to shower if we don’t remind him, but I think he’s just being a typical little boy at this point.
Carlos is also obsessive about his teeth. He’s a dental hygienist’s dream-come-true. Who else can honestly answer “yes” to the dreaded question, “Do you remember to floss daily?” – (Carlos does!) … The products he requires for regular maintenance may even out number mine; Soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, deodorant, body spray, body lotion, eye drops, hair gel, face lotion, foot cream, toothpaste, mouthwash… believe it or not, the list goes on.
When women have complained to me in the past about how their husbands leave stinky socks lying around and such, I never knew how to respond. “Don’t you hate that?” they’d say – but I’m more likely to leave a pile of dirty laundry on the floor than Carlos is. His side of the closet? Neat and tidy – Even his T-shirts are on hangars. My side of the closet? A complete disaster – piles of clothing, not even folded properly. It’s the same story with shoes. Carlos has sneakers which are many years old but look brand new. He can’t understand how I manage to beat my shoes up the way I do… (I’m not so sure either to be honest.)
Carlos’s cleanliness extends beyond the home and to his vehicle. It may be the last $5 he has in his pocket, but if his car looks dirty, he brings it to the car wash. I remember when the kids were little they were scared to drop so much as a Cheerio in Daddy’s car. (My car on the other hand, probably still has a Cheerio or two crushed into the carpet from their toddler days. My kids are 12 and 9, by the way.)
Over the years I decided that maybe because Carlos came from an impoverished childhood, he just values his belongings more than I do. I also decided that he is just a perfectionist, which has its benefits. (Though the disadvantage is when he tries to force his standards of perfection on very imperfect, laid-back me!)
Now that I come upon this study, I wonder, is this obsessive grooming/cleanliness a Latino male thing? Is it cultural? What do you think?
Penquear – (origin Caliche) To spank/hit/slap, golpear
We had finished eating and our youngest son had already run off to play. Carlos, our older son, Suegra and I sat around the table, our plates pushed away, and talked for awhile as we usually do.
Carlos had a small argument with one of the guys at work and was telling us about what happened. The fact that the co-worker was Mexican really didn’t have anything to do with the conversation except to identify which guy Carlos was talking about – but you can’t say “mexicano” around Suegra without her getting started. Like many older people, she has some “preconceived notions” which aren’t malicious so much as misinformed. Of course she pipes up with the usual, “Así son los mexicanos, pues.”
Carlos gives me a look that means I should bite my tongue, but I can’t keep quiet.
“No puedes juzgar a todos los mexicanos así. Tengo un montón de amigos mexicanos y son muy buena gente.” I say.
Suegra shakes her head. We go back and forth a few times. Things are getting a little heated.
“Los hombres mexicanos son muy penqueadores!” she says, as if that settles it.
I start to tell her it’s not true of all Mexican men, and that Salvadoran men have their own reputation as well, but she interrupts, as is her way.
“Y si yo estuviera una joven, jamás me voy a salir con un mexicano!”
This conversation is going no where, so I decide to tease her.
“Y si está bien meloso?”
“De eso miel, no voy a comer!” she says.
“Y si está bien guapo?” I ask.
She looks at me as if I’m an idiot.
“Los mexicanos no son guapos, vos!” she says as if it’s common sense. (Forgetting that I know for a fact she has a crush on Vicente Fernandez.)
I catch Carlos’s eye and decide not to push it further. Insisting that there are plenty of mexicanos guapos will only make him celoso and cause problems for me. The table falls quiet since I fail to return fire, and then our twelve year old, who we had forgotten was sitting there, speaks up.
“Huh,” he says, “I didn’t know Mexicans like to spank people… that’s weird.”
Because he says this in English, Suegra has no idea what’s going on when I start laughing. Carlos also isn’t sure what’s so funny until I explain. Our son managed to pick up on the word “penquear” within the word “penqueadores” – but his only reference for this word is the threat of a spanking, as in, “Te voy a penquear.” Because he doesn’t know the word out of this context, he didn’t realize it could mean “hit” or “slap.”
Of course I set him straight. I explain the word “penquear” and I also tell him you can’t judge people based on stereotypes. My son says, “Of course. I already know that!” …and I knew he did, but I just wanted to make sure. Maybe I won’t convince Suegra, but my children will know better.