This I Believe

Samuel - San Antonio, Texas
Entered on February 19, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Recently Latino U.S.A explored the state of Black and Brown relations. How about Brown and Brown relations? I believe the Latino population is fractured. Many times over Latinos have scolded me because I do not speak Spanish. Typically it goes like this as it did when I was fifteen waiting for a bus:

I asked in English a seemingly pleasant elder Hispanic lady a question about the bus. She responded in Spanish.

I told her, “I’m sorry,” and explained to her that I did not speak Spanish.

She looked at me with a scowl and asked, “What’s your last name?”

“Flores,” I replied.

“And you don’t speak Spanish,” she raised her voice. “You should be sorry.” She shook her head, turned away, and ignored me.

Equally upsetting are the times art-going, theatre-loving Latino virtuosos have scorned me for not knowing about Cesar Chavez and El Che, immigration reform, and the hardships of migrant workers. These Latinos seem to have made it their personal responsibility to sneer and make snide remarks at other Latinos who are detached from the Mexican culture and know very little about its history.

It’s true, I roll my ojos better than I roll my Rs, but I’ve never scolded Latinos who can’t speak English. I always feel bad, like I’m deficient. I could say, “You don’t know English and you live in the United States of America. You should be sorry,” but this would only push them away and make them feel like outcasts, as I have been made to feel by my own people. It’s also true that I’m not up to speed on what’s happening along the border or in Mexico; I’m overwhelmed simply by what happens here in the States.

I understand and respect Brown pride. What I don’t understand is why American-born, American-educated, and American-employed Latinos divide and deride their own people. I don’t speak Spanish, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about my heritage. I am Mexican, or Latino, or Hispanic. I’m not even sure which Brown to call myself, but I am sure about one thing—I am American.