I have been well aware for quite some time that it is offensive to assume that any person who is Latino–or even just happens to “appear” Latino–is from Mexico. Among the many things that shocked me once I began dating my husband was his utter lack of sensitivity to this issue. As far as Salvador is concerned, if he thinks you look the part, you are Mexican. This wasn’t something I picked up on immediately, but it came out with a slow reveal.
It began when we would be watching Spanish language music channels together. I knew that the music videos were from multiple countries, so I would ask Salvador, “What country is this one from?” To which he consistently answered, “Mexico.” We ended up in an argument about Enrique Iglesias one day, and he was quite forlorn when I proved to him that he was indeed from Spain (though he used to pretend to be Guatemalan and has lived all over the world). Then I came to notice that in public, he was always pointing out Mexicans to me despite not knowing them. At this point I began to challenge him quite regularly.
One day we were driving through a parking lot when Salvador pointed to a man and said, “Look, he is Mexican.”
“You don’t know that. He could be from the US, El Salvador or Guatemala or from any number of countries,” I corrected him.
“Yeah right,” he laughed in his signature dismissive tone. “He is Mexican. Definitely Mexican.”
I wanted to drive back to the man and ask him, but he had already ducked into a store.
My husband remained convinced in his ability to spot Mexicans for quite some time, despite the Enrique fluke and my protests. However, I was slowly able to reveal the weakness in his Mexican Radar. It began when he asked me to find a show he liked to watch.
“Can you find the show with the Mexican and the blonde girl?” he asked me.
“In Plain Sight? Raf isn’t Mexican, he is Dominican,” I replied.
“No, not that one. The one with guns.”
I sighed, “Honey, that is pretty much every show on American television. Help me narrow it down.”
“It is in Miami,” he offered.
“No, not that one. It has the funny mom.”
I stopped to think about all of this. A show with a bunch of guns starring a Mexican, a blonde, and a funny mother. I had nothing.
So, I turned to Google to assist me. I decided to find a list of all American television shows filmed in Miami. I went through the list, reading to him the names of shows we watch. We stopped quickly when I read aloud “Burn Notice”.
“Yes, yes that is the one, Sarah,” he said to me, as though I was just so silly for not having figured this out.
“There is no Mexican on Burn Notice, at least not in the regular cast.”
“What?” he asked, looking very confused.
“Who on there do you think is Mexican?” I asked.
“The guy who does all the stuff,” he explained.
He was speaking of Jeffery Donovan. Who, to my knowledge (and I assure you, he made me do my research), is not Mexican.
Ah, but it does not stop there.
Later on, we were watching one of his favorite movies–Desperado. During the opening sequence, he leans over and says to me, “Antonio Banderas is the most famous Mexican in the world.”
Side eying him, I stated,”Except for the fact that he is Spanish.”
He looked at me with his mouth opened. “No way, Sarah.”
I turned once again to my friend Google and proved it to him–by reading his early life bio on Wikipedia.
Salvador, however, was still not deterred. He would continue to proclaim people Mexican when we went out in public, no matter how much I tried to argue with him. Eventually, I stopped trying.
One afternoon, he and I went out for sushi. The restaurant was Korean owned and operated, but the bus boy appeared to be Latino. Salvador called him over to talk, using the word “paisano”.
The young man walked over to us, looked at Salvador, and said in English, “Actually, I am from Guatemala.”
Oh, how I laughed.