Friday, September 20, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection: Whose Identity Is It Anyway?

Tuesday’s Brown Bag was a collaboration with LASO and was aptly titled “Latin@ Identity at Colgate.”I was particularly interested in this Brown Bag because my father is Puerto Rican. That would also make me Puerto Rican for those keeping score at home. The panel of 5 students from varying identities talked about their experiences at Colgate and back home and there were several things I noted in much of the dialogue that I thought was significant:

1. Latina/o Vs. Hispanic
I think most people use these two words interchangeable unless they identify with one over the other. The panel was pretty split between the two and it’s always interesting to see how others identify. I could write a paper on the differences and implications of the two terms, but I’ll save that for a credit bearing moment. Ultimately, latina/o refers to people who speak latin based languages, but in the United States we usually use it to refer to people who are Hispanic, Spanish speaking people or people with Spanish ancestry (i.e.: all Hispanics are Latin, but all Latinas/os are not Hispanic). It is incorrect to equate the two, but it hasn’t stopped the government from putting them together on the Census. Personally, I’ve always prefered Hispanic, but it’s really just a matter of preference I think.

2. Stereotypes: What Does A Latina/o Really Act Like?
If you are Latin (i’ll use this term for the sake of this blog post since it was part of the Brown Bag title) and you’ve met more than 3 of your family members, you probably know that we all can and do look like absolutely everything. Because our cultures are so mixed with everything, there’s no real look to a Latina. We don’t all look like Soledad O’ Brien or Taylor Swift. We can also look like Kelly Rowland or Celia Cruz. Many people see me and don’t realize that half my family is Hispanic. They think my skin is too dark and my hair is too curly, even though my father, his sister and his mother are all more brown than I am. My last name is Jimenez (much like the “Sarah” of the Hispanic community) and people are still surprised. This needs to stop. It’s more annoying than offensive to me, but it’s 2013. We all need to realize that Catherine Zeta-Jones is the standard for Latinas.

3. International/Domestic Latinas/os
A common comment on the panel was the difference in being Latina in the States versus being a Latina internationally. Many Latinas I know who regularly travel to visit family outside the US say that their family consider them Americans instead of (insert your nationality here). This is frustrating for obvious reasons, especially if you were born in that country and then immigrated to the United States.

Ultimately, I think we can all agree that identifying others is a bad idea. We do not reserve the right to disregard someone’s identity because we don’t think they fit into that category. If you tell me that you’re Chilean, I do not get to say you’re not because you’ve never been there or speak Spanish. I also think that we need to work on not grouping all Latinas together as one big blob of Latina. Latinas look like everything and come from everywhere. A Mexican and a Spaniard are NOT the same. A Puerto Rican and a Venezuelan are also NOT the same. While we may speak mostly the same Spanish, we all use different sazon (but we all do use some type of sazon)...and that’s what makes us wonderful.

From Russia With Love,


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