Everyone is Mexican

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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.

“CSI Miami?”

“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.

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13 responses »

  1. Interesting perspective. My husband (Mexican) is the opposite. His radar is very sharp on Latino distinction. His Asian radar, however, is very poor. Everyone is Chinese.

    • Oh, I should make a post about my husband and Asians one day, but sometimes I feel like I might be perceived as picking on him for writing about him so much. I’m not trying to pick on him, but he just cracks me up. However, my husband is the same as yours, in that every Asian he sees he calls Chino. It caused us some problems a few times here in the US.

  2. That guy of yours is sure stubborn! How funny that he thinks that way. What is funny is that after people visit here or see how “different” Mexicans look, they take back their ideas of what a “Mexican” looks like. You just can’t tell where anyone is from.

    • It is hilarious the things he is stubborn about. I almost always win any fight, even if I do not try because he would rather give in and make me happy than win a fight (I can’t say this is always a good thing). But then, something like this comes up and he digs in his heels.

      I agree about how different Mexicans look from what we are presented with media wise, etc. Which is part of the point I try to make to him. Such as when we are in Mexico and he points out any white person he sees and tells me, “Look, an American.” It is as though there is no room in his view for a white Mexican. Or, apparently, a white person from somewhere other than America.

      • You are cracking me up! He is SO funny! Sometimes when my husband’s views are so narrow, I just blame it on his limited knowlegde of things. Coming from a small town here in Mexico, and being from a poor family, it wasn’t like he got to experience much or learn about different cultures. Also, he didn’t finish school due to his family being poor.

        I just try to help him along the way become more “informed”. Sometimes he comes off as quite racists. Although I don’t think he is.

        These boys of ours are just plain crazy! Definitely keeps the relationship lively!

        • I get the feeling that our husbands have very similar backgrounds. Sal grew up in poverty that I honestly do not think I will ever be able to understand because it is so far outside my realm of experience. He lived in a dirt floor shack built from fallen logs and a tarp for a ceiling. He shared it with his grandparents, his older sister, and uncle, and the uncle’s entire family. Sal had to quit school in 6th grade so he could start working to care for his family. There are so many walls we come up against because his life prevented him from receiving an education.

  3. So funny! Yesterday I ran into a co-worker and I knew he was Latino he had introduced himself to me before and I asked him “What part of Mexico are you from?” he responded “I’m not Mexican I’m from El Salvador”, I apologized. I’m so used to hanging out with mostly Mexicans I forget that there are tons of Latin Americans. In my defense, when he first introduced himself to me he said he was Indian, like from India and spoke spanish because of his Mexican wife.

    • I think we all have moments like that. Sometimes, even though I obviously know better, I will call the language of Mexico Mexican rather than Spanish. It just flies out and leaves me feeling like such a culturally isolated fool.

  4. This is too funny. My javier does not try and distinguish where people are from his problem is that he thinks he is right on any issue, it does not matter what it is. This story reminded me of him because I will give him my opinion on an issue and I know that I am right, but I gave up trying to prove my point. I have learned that it is more fun to wait until he is proven wrong and then gloat about it.

    • It is funny the battles my husband picks and the things he defers to me on. Some things he is stubborn about, no matter how much I try to correct him:

      -tornadoes cannot hurt concrete houses
      -earthquakes happen in Spring
      -fans can kill you by chill
      -if I have a cold, it is because I put ice in my drink

      There is more, but no need to go on forever. You feel my pain, I’m sure.

      • Funny about tornados and concrete homes! My husband thinks that the constuction of the homes here in Mexico would survive tornados. I just let it go because it isn’t worth the fight. If you know what I mean.

        • I am terrible about fighting with him over this stuff, but I am getting better. I have pretty much reached the point where I just tell him why I disagree, and let it end.

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