Stuff Latin People Like


Stuff Latin People Like no longer exists.

It all started last January when I started reading the Stuff White People Like. I really enjoyed reading it and so I commented on a few of the posts. Okay, I also left the link to my website, although I’m not sure if that attracted any readers. Anyway, different groups started commenting about their group and also put links to their websites. One of them was Stuff Latin People. Soon, I was also commenting on the SLPL posts, and adding a link to my website, too. My readership increased rapidly. Because of my comments, Ariel Delgado asked me if I wanted write some posts. Of course, I volunteered. He even paid me exactly what I was getting paid for my website: Nothing! I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

Now I thought this would provide a site where different Hispanic groups would get together.  Well, the posts were easy and fun to write, but reading the comments was unbearable. I couldn’t believe all the dissent. Everyone hated the term Latin People because they didn’t feel it included their particular ethnic or cultural group. Many refused to acknowledge their Spanish legacy because of this deep-seated hatred of Spain by Latin America. Talk about complete denial. Despite all my gripes about the site, I really enjoyed writing posts and reading the comments. Unfortunately, the site fell by the wayside. I keep meaning to write another post on my own blog, but I put off doing things I’m supposed to do for myself.

Well, for the sake of posterity, and against my better judgment, I have compiled all the posts I wrote for the short-lived Stuff Latin People Like and posted them below.

Latin Fun Facts

  • The nickname for José is Pepe. In convents and monasteries, during the reading of the Scriptures, Saint Joseph was referred to as Pater Putatibus, or simply P.P. (Pronounced pe pe in Spanish), meaning Padre Putativo, or putative father of Jesucristo.
  • Nachos were invented by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México, in 1943.
  • The tortilla is a type of flat bread made from corn called tlaxcalli in Nahuatl by the Aztecs. The Spaniards called it a tortilla because of its circular shape that resembled the Spanish tortilla.
  • About 25% of all Major League Baseball players were born in Latin America, the most from the Dominican Republic.
  • Venezuela was named by Amerigo Vespucci, after whom America is named. In 1499, he saw a village on stilts during high tide and was reminded of Venice (Venecia in Spanish). So he named the region “Little Venice” or Venezuela.
  • The name for the Mercedes-Benz automobile originated from from the Spanish word mercedes that means grace, gift, favor, or mercy in its singular form of merced. In 1901, Wilhelm Maybach designed the Mercedes 35 hp for Emil Jellinek who named the car after his ten-year-old daughter Mercedes.
  • The word “avocado” comes from the Spanish word aguacate, which derives in turn from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word ahuacatl, meaning “testicle”, because of its shape. (Okay, this Latin Fact wasn’t that much fun.)
  • Legend has it that the last name of Guzmán comes from the last name Goodman. There was once an Englishman living in Spain who tried to tell everyone that he was a good man.
  • The suffix of “-ez” found in many Spanish last names comes from the Visigoth language and means, “son of.” Thus, Ramírez literally means “son of Ramiro,” González means “son of Gonzalo,” etc.
  • The state of Florida was named in Spanish. Florida was first seen by the Spanish explorer Ponce de León on Easter Sunday on April 2, 1513. He named it, although he thought was an island at the time, Pascua de Florida, meaning “Feast of Flowers,” and claimed it for Spain.

Famous Latin Quotes

  • It’s not my job, man! –Freddy Prinze, USA, (Puerto Rico).
  • ¡Yo quiero Taco Bell! –The Taco Bell Chihuahua, USA.
  • Poor Mexico! So far from God, so close to the United States. –Porfirio Díaz, México.
  • Sí se puede. –César Chávez, USA, (México).
  • I am my own woman. –Evita Perón, Argentina.
  • We belong to our families. –Dolores del Río, México, Flying Down to Río.
  • I request nothing beyond the thickly crucial luxury of seats available even in soft, Corinthian leather. –Ricardo Montalbán, México.
  • To the people here, we are outsiders. Foreigners. –Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico.
  • Lucy! I’m home! –Desi Arnaz, Cuba.
  • I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges! –Alfonso Bedoya, México, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
  • ¡Azúcar! –Celia Cruz, Cuba.
  • ¡No más! ¡No más! –Roberto Durán, Panamá.
  • Baseball has been very, very good to me! –Fernando Valenzuela, México.
  • Look at me and tell me if I don’t have Brazil in every curve of my body. –Carmen Miranda, Brazil.
  • Hasta la vista, baby. –Arnold Schwarzenegger, USA.
  • ¡Cuchi, cuchi! –Charo, Spain, (But White People think she’s a Latina!)

El paseo

Nothing is more enjoyable to a Latino family than el paseo. Perhaps, that’s because Latino families rarely take a vacation like most Americans. What is el paseo? It’s actually very difficult to describe to a non-Latino. As with many things that Latinos do, it involves the whole family. Generally, the father or mother announce to the whole family, “¡Vamos a pasear!” and the whole family immediately gets into the car, minivan, van, or pickup truck. And by family, most Latinos include everyone living in the house, including the dog and the neighbor’s children. If you are fortunate enough to be with a Latino family when they announce “¡Vamos a pasear!” you must tag along. Es la ley.

Keep in mind that no one has actually planned any activities or destinations. El paseo generally involves wandering around aimlessly from home to home of family and friends–but no one is actually home because they, too, decided it was a good time for un paseo–or from park to park looking for their family and friends. If el paseo begins on a Sunday morning, it is obligatory to go to mass first and then go on el paseo. Equally important is the fact that little or no money will be spent on el paseo, except for the donation at church and el domingo for the children. So it is forbidden for the Latino family to eat at any type of restaurant. They are required to bring their own food and they will picnic whenever and wherever they get hungry.

Time

Many Latinos are never, ever late for work. Some will even show up to work an hour early. They pride themselves on their job as part of their identity. Since they have no concept of time, they would rather arrive an hour early rather than risk being late. However, being punctual for everything else is unimportant. When socializing with Latinos, keep in mind their concept of time. They have none. Often, they won’t arrive on time and they’ll say, “I’m not late. I’m running on Latino Time.”

If you ever have a party and invite some Latinos, make accommodations for Latino Time. If you want them at your house by four, tell them the party’s at three. To a Latino, 3:00 o’clock lasts until 3:59! 3:59 is still 3:00 in the mind of a Latino. Say 3:59 out loud. Go ahead. Did you hear all three digits? If you did, you’re not Latino. A true Latino will only hear the initial digit “3″ and then block out the rest of the digits. That’s just how Latinos process time.

When Latinos throw a party, they decide to invite everyone they know, and at the last minute. Usually they invite everyone only one or two days before, but don’t be surprised if they invite you only hours before. If invited to a Latino party, never, ever show up on time. No one will be there. Sometimes even the family throwing the party won’t be there either because they’re doing some last–minute shopping for the party. Don’t be surprised if no one shows up until two hours later. In fact, some Latinos will show up when the party is almost over. Occasionally, some will show up for the party one week late. The advantage of planning a party at the last minute is that no one will show up a week early.

If a Latino arrives late to the party and asks, “Am I late?”, simply say, “No, you’re just in time to say, ‘Adiós.’ The party’s over!”

You know you’re Latin if …

  • Your whole family goes to the laundromat.
  • You grow corn in your garden.
  • You have a birthday party for your son or daughter and you invite more adults than children.
  • You beep your horn instead of ringing the doorbell.
  • You hate being called Latino by other Latinos.
  • You took Spanish in high school for an easy A and got a C.
  • You take your family on un paseo through the car wash and tell them that the ride is called “The Tidal Wave.”
  • You’re married, but your mother still hits you in public.
  • The police pull you over and you pretend not to speak English.
  • You have a statue of la Virgen in a half-buried bathtub in your front lawn.

Spain

Nothing weighs more heavily on the Latino psyche than the topic of Spain. Latinos constantly think of Spain. And that’s why Latinos never talk about Spain. When associating with a Latino, Spain is a perfectly acceptable topic if you keep two things in mind about Latinos and Spain:

  • Latinos hate Spain.
  • Latinos love Spain.

First of all, Latinos hate Spain because of certain encounters between the Old World and the New World that historians have labeled as “atrocities.” Let us reexamine that moment in history, about 500 years ago, when one side of our family set sail from Spain to meet the other side of our family in what is now known as Latin America. Well, it was a love / hate relationship even back then. The Spaniards, also known as the Conquistadores, used the pervasive, persuasive tactics of the era–which were common throughout Europe–to claim land that no one ever owned in the first place as their own. These “persuasive tactics” are now identified by historians as imperialism, genocide, torture, execution, enslavement, etc. as seen through the modern lens. But back then, the Conquistadores were merely having the time of their life! Despite these “atrocities,” also known as “human rights violations” by modern scholars, Latinos have adapted and adjusted quite well. However, they still haven’t forgotten.

On the other hand, Latinos acknowledge the contributions and legacy of Spain. The most obvious, of course, is the Spanish language as the lingua franca of Latin America. Many customs have remained the same over the centuries, and to this day, Latin America and Spain still practice many of the same customs, such as the use of names. In order to witness a Latino’s love for Spain, look around the home of a Latino. You will find many artifacts that represent ancient and modern Spanish society. For example, many Latino homes will have a painting of a toreador in his traje de luces as he fights a bull–usually painted on black velvet. Some homes proudly display a Conquistador’s helmet and a plaque with a red velvet background that holds two miniature swords and a spiked ball on a chain. Latinos are so proud of their Spanish heritage and may even have a framed picture of the coat of arms for their last name with an explanation of their name’s rich history and famous people with the same last name.

Latinos also like to have dolls or figurines of Flamenco dancers, both male and female, usually in la sala on an end table tapping their little feet on a doily knitted by abuelita herself! And let’s not forget about Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the most famous knight and his squire of not just Spanish literature, but of world literature! Many homes display sculptures made of scrap metal of Don Quixote on horseback and Sancho Panza on foot beside him. Some Latinos also have a leather-bound Bible alongside a fancy leather-bound edition of Don Quixote. Latinos also love Spaniards who are successful in America, such as Charo, Placido Domingo, Julio Iglesias, Antonio Banderas, and Penelope Cruz. Such is the importance of Spanish culture in the Latino home.

When socializing with Latinos, be aware of this love / hate relationship between Spain and Latin America. In order to gain the acceptance of a Latino, ask–with a pained facial expression to indicate that you understand the conflicted feelings that Latinos feel toward Spain–if he or she has ever visited Spain, the mother country. More than likely the answer will be no, but some Latinos have visited Spain and actually enjoyed the trip because it connected them with their heritage and made them aware of the origins of certain customs that they now practice. If he or she says no, ask if he or she will ever visit Spain. “Of course!” will be the response. “Right after I go to Disney World!”

Names for White People

Sometimes when Latinos speak, White People feel a certain paranoia that they are the main topic of the Latinos speaking. Most often, they’re right. When talking about White People, Latinos rarely refer to them as “Whites” or “White People” unless they intentionally want to make them feel uncomfortable. They usually refer to White People in coded terms that aren’t so obvious, even when speaking English. If you’re around Latin People and suddenly you don’t understand what they’re saying, they’re probably talking about you.

One of the most common names for White People is “Anglo Sajón” or “Anglo” (but never “Angla“). However, White paranoia being what it is, White People have learned to understand “anglo” and so Latinos often resort to one of the many other names in their repertoire. Also rarely used is “caucáseo / caucásea” because it sounds too much like “Caucasian.” “Yanqui” and “norteamericano / norteamericana” are also obvious references to White People. In the right context, they are practically swear words in the mouths of Latin People. “Yanqui” usually refers to White People, particularly those of the United States, who appear imperialistic and would love to annex all of Latin America. Ditto for “norteamericano / norteamericana” that refer to all people north of the Rio Grande, Canadians included.

This brings up an interesting difference between north and south, White People and Latin America, and translations from Spanish to English. The river that serves as the border between Texas and Mexico is called the Rio Grande River. Its name is redundant since río means river anyway. However, that is merely the English name for the river because all Spanish-speaking countries call the Rio Grande River, el Río Bravo (del Norte). Perhaps something was lost in the translation and now the river has two names in Spanish.

Another obvious reference to White People is “gringo / gringa” because they live in Gringolandia. Gringo is probably derived from the Spanish word for Greek, “griego,” as in “It’s Greek to me.” Another possible source comes from the era when General Pershing was pursuing Pancho Villa along the U.S.-Mexican border. Whenever Mexicans saw the American soldiers, they used to yell, “Green coats, go home!” and later just, “Green, go!” Either way, gringo is here to stay.

Using “blanco / blanca” is used only if the speaker intentionally wants White People to notice, since most White People will remember these words from their high school Spanish class. Much better are terms like “güero / güera,” “gabacho / gabacha,” or “bolillo / bolilla” when referring to White People. Some White People actually like these names and continue using them for themselves. Just listen to Beck’s song “Que onda Guero?” (sic). He actually seems to be proud of the fact that he’s a güero in the barrio of East L.A. talking to the homeboys and vatos.

All these names may also be used for Latinos. For example, if a Latina has light skin and/or light brown hair, everyone calls her Güera. If a Mexican acts too “American,” his family might start calling him bolillo because he is brown on the outside but white on the inside. And let’s not forget that famous Nuyo Rican reguetonero who calls himself Daddy Yankee (English spelling).

One term that should be used with extreme caution when referring to White People is “la migra.” There is no middle ground with la migra. It’s either whispered in hushed tones to avoid attracting attention. Or, more than likely, it’s shouted at the top of one’s lungs: ¡La migra! When la migra shows up, everyone runs and tries to escape. Legal citizens will act as decoys to impede la migra.

El domingo

El domingo is a time-honored tradition for Latin People, but especially for the children. As its name implies, it always takes place on a Sunday, usually when visiting the family on un paseo. All the children are given money that is called el domingo (It may also be called la paga de la semana, la semanada, por la semana, or la mesada, depending on the Latin American country of origin). This is money given to the children, usually by all the adult males present, with no strings attached. Unlike an American allowance, the children do nothing to earn this money. It’s their birthright.

Sometimes, the adults forget to distribute el domingo to the children. However, Latin children are taught not to beg. Only when all the adults forget about el domingo may the children respectfully remind them of their bad manners: “¿Dónde está mi domingo?”. If an adult forgets about el domingo, he is considered mal educado. If he intentionally “forgets” about giving el domingo to all the children present, it’s permissible for all the adults to call him, “¡Pendejo!“. This is the only time that children may ask for money and not appear mal educados. In fact, this situation reflects badly on the adults who appear to have bad manners. This time-honored tradition must be respected by all male adults present: grandfathers, uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, pretend relatives, and male friends who tagged along when the family announced, “¡Vamos a pasear!

Women are not required to give el domingo to the children, but they are not prohibited from giving money to the children either. Children are usually cautious before accepting money from a female relative because she generally makes an unusual request. For example, abuelita will give you a nickel, but only if you let her nibble on your ear! And why only a nickel? Because that’s the most she ever received for her domingo!

Hinting

Latin People never ask for anything. You must offer it to them before they accept it. Even if they are starving to death and they will still be too proud to ask for food or money. However, don’t be surprised if they show up at your doorstep for a surprise visit right around dinnertime! When they do, you must invite them in to eat with the family or risk appearing impolite, or worse yet, mal educado. If you are invited in to dinner, you must accept the invitation because refusing to eat with a family will also earn you the title of mal educado. Nothing is more shameful to a Latin person that to be called mal educado. Please use the term carefully because under certain circumstances a fight may ensue. But you may drop hints as the dinner guest leaves that they were totally unexpected and not hurt anyone’s feelings. For example, you could say, “Visit us for dinner anytime! But next time call ahead so we can add water to the soup.”

Since childhood, Latin People are taught to work hard for everything they need or want. Begging or asking for free handouts is forbidden, although hinting is permissible under the right conditions. Only after some begging by the donor or giver will the needy Latino accept. If a Latin person wants a new TV, he or she will save up for it or buy it on credit, but it’s also permissable to hint to a very close family member that he or she would like the TV on sale for $299 at Wal-Mart for his or her birthday. He or she will simply put the Wal-Mart sale paper in plain view, say in the bathroom library, with the sale TV circled. And he or she will say things like, “I hate when we all can’t watch our own novelas in peace.” But you must never ask for anything outright! It looks like begging. Latin People are a proud people and are therefore not beggars. The ones you see begging are just lazy and mal educados.

Béisbol


Chicago White Sox Promotion in Spanish.

I’m watching the World Series even though neither the White Sox nor the Cubs are playing. “World Series” is a misnomer because it’s not really a world competition at all. However, there are many players from many countries such Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Japan among others.

When I read Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow years ago, he described a professional baseball game in the early 1900s. He noted that the ethnicity of the baseball players was representative of the immigration pattern of the period. Here’s the passage from Chapter 30 of Ragtime:

On the Giant side were Merkle, Doyle, Meyers, Snodgrass and Herzog, among others. The Boston team boasted a player named Rabbit Maranville, a shortstop who [sic] he noted roamed his position bent over with his hands at the end of his long arms grazing the grass in a manner that would more properly be called simian. There was a first baseman named Butch Schmidt, and others with the names Cocrehan, Moran, Hess, Rudolph, which led inevitably to the conclusion that professional baseball was played by immigrants.

If you look at the players of today’s Major League Baseball, you will see many Spanish last names. Of course, those, too, are representative of the migration patterns of Spanish speakers from Latin America to the U.S.

When I was in Mexico last July, I watched the All-Star Game with my cousin and her family. We laughed every time the announcer mispronounced a Spanish last name. Both announcers consistently mispronounced Evan Longoria. Well, tonight, I had to laugh when Jason Bartlett stole second base and the announcer let everyone know that Taco Bell had a promotion: Steal a Base, Steal a Taco for every stolen base. So next Tuesday, we can go to Taco Bell for a free taco. They even interviewed Taco Bell president Greg Creed who personally invited everyone to go to Taco Bell to get their free taco!

Spatiality


Wrigley Field

When you learn a foreign language, you can’t help but learn about another culture and its customs. I often remember Vito’s friend Jean-Claude von Bostal who came to visit Vito in Chicago from Belgium. Everything was so different for him. Vito asked me what we could do with Jean-Claude that would be very American. I suggested going to a baseball game. That’s about as American as you can get, if you overlook the fact that most of the players are from Latin America. So we went to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play. It was a warm day, so everyone dressed in summer clothes. A woman seated near us wore a tank top. When one of the Cubs hit a home run, she clapped with her hands over her head, revealing her shaved armpits. We couldn’t help but notice her because she was also whooping it up. Jean-Claude immediately noticed her shaved armpits and said, “That’s stupid!” Vito corrected him, “You mean that’s different.” Well, I know for a fact that women don’t shave their armpits in Europe. So I said, “Vito, I think he really means that it’s stupid.” Jean-Claude nodded and said, “Why do they shave their armpits?” Well, you see, there are always cultural differences even when you don’t think of them. They abound everywhere.

Physical distance between people is a common cultural topic of many Spanish textbooks. When you learn a foreign language, you also learn about the culture. The two are inseparable. When associating with someone from a Spanish-speaking country,  they usually get very close to you when they speak. They are more likely to greet you by shaking your hand and/or giving you a hug and a kiss. This is something that you’ll have to learn to accept. This happens if you’re in the U.S. or in Mexico. In the U.S. we’re accustomed to having plenty of distance between us when we speak to someone. And we hardly ever hug someone unless they’re a family member. For me, you have to be a family member on speaking terms. When I was in Mexico, I was hugging and kissing total strangers just because they were close friends to my cousin. I’ll be perfectly honest. With certain persons of the female persuasion,  I squeezed them a little harder with the hug and held the kiss a little longer than necessary. This is something I would never do here in America. I generally don’t like people touching me! Period. In Mexico, a hug between two male friends is quite common, but in America I never even think about hugging another man. Once, I hadn’t seen a friend for about five years. When I saw him, he immediately ran to me and gave me this big overly friendly bear hug. I said, “Whoa! I wasn’t ready for that.” I needed some distance between us. Since I grew up on the south side of Chicago, I’m uncomfortable if someone gets too close to me when speaking. I like to have ample distance between my interlocutor and me. I like to be beyond striking distance. At UIC parties, I noticed that the Spaniards used to like to talk to me by putting their face about two inches away from mine and I felt extremely uncomfortable! I usually keep back up until I bump into the wall and have to stop back pedaling. But then I discovered that if I held my plate of food about six inches in front of me, that offered me a buffer zone that kept me well beyond the striking distance of fists and/or food ejected during conversation. Spaniards like to speak to you face to face, but they respect food and will maintain a safe distance from it in order not to knock it over.

¡No me abraces ni me beses!