Juan Goytisolo


Juan Calduch, Juan Goytisolo, and Dr. D. in 1999.

There are famous people and then there are famous people you never heard of.

As a graduate student in Hispanic Studies, I had to read a novel, La saga de los Marx, by Juan Goytisolo for a seminar on Modern Spanish (as in, from Spain) Literature. I had never even heard of Juan Goytisolo. Then the professor who assigned the novel assured the graduate seminar that he was world-famous. I just took her word for it. But I was suspicious of just how famous he was.

Well, regardless of his claim to fame, I began reading La saga de los Marx. I was captivated by Goytisolo’s writing. I couldn’t identify a protagonist or a setting. He inserted foreign languages sans translations. There was no storyline to speak of. Or standard punctuation, for that matter. He seemed to have studied grammar and stylistic rules only so he could break as many rules as possible. However, the writing piqued my curiosity and I read the novel in a mere two sittings.

When the class met to discuss the novel, only one other student said she had read the entire novel. But she wasn’t sure if she really liked the novel. I, on the other hand loved it! I immediately decided that I would write my seminar paper on this novel. I was intrigued by the postmodernist style.

As I was writing my paper, I decided to reread the novel to find supporting citations for my paper. Curiously enough, I enjoyed the novel even more upon reading it a second time. I loved it so much that I decided to write a letter to Juan Goytisolo, c/o of the publisher. Imagine my surprise when he wrote back! Usually when I like a writer that much, he or she has already been dead for a long time. Sometimes dying even before I was born. How rude!

Well, this paper inspired me to further my studies and become a doctoral candidate. I showed Juan Goytisolo’s letter to the seminar professor and she asked me to invite him to speak at UIC. He accepted the invitation and spoke at our university, with me as the guest of honor because he came on account of my letter and I was writing my doctoral dissertation on his novels. I was truly honored. I was also surprised at how many people came from miles around to hear Juan Goytisolo speak and plug his latest novel. He was a fascinating man, as I discovered while giving him a tour of the Chicagoland area.

Well, Juan Goytisolo truly is world-famous. Every year he gets nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of these days, he may actually win it. But to think I had never heard of him before that graduate seminar!

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.

Narnia


Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Today, I saw the second movie of the Chronicles of Narnia with my sons Adam and Alex. Adam was worried about watching the movie because he never read the book. I was glad that I saw the first movie last week before seeing this one because I wouldn’t have understood some of the allusions otherwise. I thought the sequel was actually better than the first movie. And my sons enjoyed it even though they couldn’t spoil the plot for me. Even though this is a generally serious movie, I laughed at many scenes that were intentionally funny. I was surprised the humor was successful.

One thing that bothered me about the movie was the depiction of the “bad guys.” In most movies, the plot revolves around the conflict between the good guys and the bad guys. That’s just one of the few available movie plots.  However, these bad guys look as if they’re from Spain, they have Spanish accents, and they wear the helmets and body armor of the Conquistadors. I mean, these are my ancestors. Spaniards have always been hated from the Middle Ages on. In fact, until about a few hundred years ago, Spain was considered part of Africa by most Europeans. Some of this residue hatred is still present to this day in the U.S. toward all Mexicans. Many things that happened in Europe carried over to the New World. So this xenophobia toward Mexicans in particular is just an extension of a trend that began in Europe.

I suppose just analyzing this juxtaposition made watching the movie worth my time. That alone gave me plenty to think about! Of course, I didn’t even discuss this issue with my sons afterwards. But someday I will.

Tortillas


Ancient tortillas in a modern tortilla warmer.

A Mexican meal without tortillas is not really a Mexican meal. You can mix and match different entrees, but you always need tortillas with every meal. Tortillas have been around since Aztec times and are the equivalent of bread in many cultures. The tortilla, tlaxcalli to the Aztecs, is flat, round, made from corn, and may serve as a plate or an eating utensil such as a fork or spoon. When the Spaniards first encountered them, they called it a tortilla because it was circular like their Spanish dish of the same name.

Tortillas have always been part of my life. My father could eat a bowl of soup using only corn tortillas! My abuelita and mother were always heating up tortillas at the stove for every meal. They even made their own. They would use a rolling-pin to flatten the masa out, or in case of an emergency, a Coke bottle. My mother once bought an aluminum contraption that flattened the masa into a tortilla, but everyone agreed that they didn’t taste the same.

When we went to Mexico, I used to like going to the Tortillería to buy tortillas. They had a giant machine that would just make hundreds of hot tortillas for the customers waiting in line. You didn’t need directions to find the Tortillería because you would find it by following your nose. I would always eat at least one or two before I took the rest home.

Tortillas were also good for an afterschool snack. I’d sometimes come home and heat up some tortillas on the stove and eat them with butter. I rolled them up very tightly like a flauta. Sometimes I would eat them with just salt inside. Sometimes I would just heat them up and eat them plain. I really loved tortillas. When we kept the tortillas too long and they got hard, my mother would fry them and use them to make tostadas or chilaquiles. No tortilla was ever wasted in our home.

Occasionally, we ate flour tortillas, tortillas de harina, but they were always store-bought. We just preferred the taste of corn tortillas. Mexican restaurants use giant flour tortillas to make burritos. Other restaurants use them to make chicken wraps, where the “wrap” is actually a flour tortilla. Tortillas also evolved into the tortilla chips in Mexican restaurants, Frito’s corn chips, Tostitos, Doritos, thanks in no small part to capitalism.

I still have a comal to heat up my tortillas. Occasionally, I’ll eat them with cheddar cheese inside. Or I’ll eat them plain when I feel like reminiscing. But I definitely eat them when I make huevos con chorizo. I always keep a dozen corn tortillas in the freezer so I’ll have them whenever I crave them. They keep very well in the freezer and thaw out quickly in the microwave before I heat them up on my comal.

I can’t imagine life without tortillas!

Hispania


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Well, it’s all about imperialism. And Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. So what do they all have to do with Mexicans? Actually, it’s a long story that goes way back. I am often amazed by how events of thousands of years ago still affect us today. We should never forget the past because we are always repeating it! For example, history has a long, long history of repeating itself through imperialism and colonization. That is, one nation conquering another and then imposing their laws and culture upon the conquered (colonized) nation. Eventually,that empire is, in turn, conquered by another newer, bigger, “better” empire. So what does all this have to do with Mexicans in the United States? Actually, a lot!

On the one hand, Mexicans don’t physically resemble other European races or African-Americans. However, Mexicans assimilate into the work force without much rebelliousness or resentment. Mexicans come from a culture that has European roots. They come from a Judeo-Christian-Greco-Roman culture, much like most citizens of the U.S. It all started when Spain arrived in the New World that was “New” to the Europeans, but not to the local inhabitants who had already lived there for thousands of years. It’s all a matter of perspective. The Spaniards mixed with all the indigenous people they met in the New World resulting in the fusion of races and cultures that still affects us today. The reason the Spaniards could create their own melting pot was because they had a history of thousands of years of mixing with other races. However, since Spain was also colonized many times throughout its own history by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors, among others, Spain merely applies the lessons they learned to the New World.

But let’s look at Spain’s name. The country’s official name of España is derived from the Phoenicians who arrived there about 1100 BC and saw rabbits. They named their new colony “i-saphan-im,” meaning “coast or island of the rabbits.” When the Greeks arrived about 500 BC, they called the tribes the met “iberos” after the Ebro River, hence Iberia. Being fond admirers of the Greeks, the Romans also colonized Spain beginning in 218 BC giving the region the name of “Hispania” because the Romans didn’t bother to learn the local language and couldn’t pronounce the Phoenician name. (Does this sound familiar?) It seems like local residents always hate when foreigners come and don’t bother learning the language.

But getting back to Mexicans, what does all this have to do with the U.S. today? Well, by analogy, Spaniards–and Europeans in general–have a lot in common with Mexicans when you look back far enough in history. For example, when the Spaniards came to the New World, not everyone wanted to leave Spain to make their fortune. But some of those who left Spain did make their fortune and sent money back home. And that occurred for generations, including other Europeans who came to what would eventually become the United States of America. And Mexicans are no different. Except for some Mexicans in America’s southwest who never left Mexico but somehow found themselves living in America when the U.S. took over the northern part of Mexico, some Mexicans want to come north to America to make their fortune. Those who do come have many goals such as improving the living conditions of their family, here and in Mexico. If we examine previous generations of European immigrants to the U.S., not everyone learned to speak English. Usually the first generation learned just enough English to get by, the second generation learned their native tongue at home and then English when they entered school, and most of the third generation only learned English. However, more Mexicans than other ethnic group seem to continue being bilingual due to the constant influx of Mexicans from Mexico who are actually related to them, and therefore, have an actual need for speaking Spanish.

But aren't all Americans mult-cultural?

Rodriguez is the Spanish equivalent of Smith!


My telephone directory.

I often tell my students that my surname is as common as Smith or Jones. I have known so many Rodriguezes and only about half of them were related to me. I have often been confused for other Rodriguezes as well. Part of the reason may be that there aren’t as many surnames in Spanish-speaking countries as in the U.S. (But don’t quote me on that!) So Hispanics have to stretch out fewer surnames among more people. I also have a common first name. I just looked up David Rodriguez in the Chicago phone book and there are 22 of us listed in the directory! And that doesn’t even include the David Rodriguezes who are unlisted, don’t have a phone, have a cell phone, are minors, or reside in jail! I even argued with my wife against naming my oldest son David for that very reason. That’s why I wanted to name him José.

USA Today (May 11, 2006) states that the 5 most common surnames among U.S. home buyers are Smith, Johnson, Rodriguez, Brown, and Garcia. Why are there so many Rodriguezes buying homes? I’m not really sure. But you see, Rodriguez is the Spanish equivalent of Smith! Even the Rodriguezes are keeping up with the Joneses.

Perhaps an analysis of the etymology of Rodriguez will help explain the popularity of Rodriguez. The surname Rodriguez comes from the combination Rodrigo, the name of the last Visigoth king in Spain, and -ez. The suffix -ez comes from the Visigoth word meaning “son of.” Therefore, Rodriguez means “son of Rodrigo.” All those Spanish surnames that end in -ez actualy mean something. Gonzalez is son of Gonzalo, Lopez is son of Lope, etc. So, is it possible that someone with the surname of Rodriguez may actually be descended from the noble family of the last Visigoth king Rodrigo of Spain? If so, that means that I may actually have the blood of Spanish nobility coursing through my veins! But I seem to have lost the main point of all this!