Latino: Is it born or done?
For Latin Americans, it is clear that they share a common history, mixing conquest, colonization, state formation, Catholic imaginary, Christmas ... when one…
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From Barcelona to Santiago de Chile, through Madrid, Puerto Rico, Mexico or Philadelphia - where more than 220,000 citizens of Latin American origin live - we all have in common that we speak in Spanish, but do we have anything else? What does it really mean to be Latino?
Between my Argentine cousins and myself - all of whom live in Barcelona - we have long had the habit of calling ourselves "Latin" or "Latinos," when some of us arrive late or cancel a plan at the last minute. "You’re doing the Latino again," jokes my cousin Andrés, born in Buenos Aires, raised in the USA and resident for more than ten years in Barcelona. "Latino," among the members of my Spanish and Argentine family, has become a sort of affectionate insult based on a sadly true prejudice, shared by Spaniards, Latin Americans and Latinos in the US: our tendency to be flakes with our commitments.
It is clear that this is a generalization. In every Spanish-speaking country there is a little bit of everything: from people who keep their word at all costs and move with the precision of a Swiss watch to people who have no qualms about arriving four hours late to a dinner or cancel their presence at a friend's birthday party without an apology. But the "Latinized" tendency exists and is socially tolerated.
Being Latino, for others, is a way of living life, more relaxed and informal than in the Anglo-Saxon countries. To be Latino is to enjoy a family lunch without looking at the clock, but also to defend the family above all else (the community, the neighbors, the authorities).
Being Latin also implies being a bit emotional. Unlike Anglo-Saxon cultures, it's good for us to get carried away by emotions and to make some drama, instead of keeping our feelings to ourselves. This lack of limits between personal and non-personal spaces often means that in the professional context "Latinos" tend to be too susceptible, to take the comments of superiors or co-workers as a personal offense.
This apparent lack of "maturity" in terms of comment and criticism, coupled with a tendency towards informality, has another consequence in the Latin character: the fact that it is difficult for us to face the conflict face-to-face. Before saying "No", "I cannot", or "I do not feel like it", the Latin tends to avoid or to look elsewhere. I've seen it in seniors and youngsters, bosses or students, in Barcelona, in Colombia and in New York.
According to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, Latin means "Pertaining or relative to the Latin language"; "Natural of the peoples of Europe and America in which they speak languages derived from the Latin". That would imply that Italians, French and Portuguese would have the Latin component, but I think there is something more in common among the people who speak 'Spanish' and who once had contact with Spain.
For Latin Americans, it is clear that they share a common history, mixing conquest, colonization, state formation, Catholic imaginary, Christmas ... when one travels to a city, it is normal to see Latinos going together. It is easy, since we share similar traditions and customs: Christmas Eve, First Communion, and Carnivals.
Cervantes, Machado, Velazquez, Picasso, García Márquez, and Vargas Llosa - shared a great deal of Spanish and Latin American culture, but today I see a great difference between Spain and the American continent. While Spain looks at Europe as a cultural reference, Latin America looks more towards the US. And while Hispanic immigrants from Philadelphia and New York sit every night in the living room of their homes to watch CNN and feel a little more American, in Barcelona, Latino immigrants watch the Catalan television and feel a little more European.
It is noteworthy that in the US, the Latino community has a prevailing need to define itself as a minority, “Latinos”, a label that encompasses citizens from very diverse countries - while in Europe politically correctness implies not to differentiate others by their origin or color, although it was not always the case, of course.
Wherever they are, Latinos make their mark. Can you think of a city in the US where there’s no bar of Spanish tapas? Maybe in Barcelona there are not as many Mexican restaurants as in Philadelphia, but we have Peruvian restaurants, local salsa and - fortunately or unfortunately, that's what I leave to you - you can now listen to more and more reggaeton everywhere you go.