What Is A Latino?

In a post discussing a dispute about Jeb Bush touting the "assimilibility" of Latinos (or Hispanics, if you prefer), Matt Yglesias writes:

At any rate, it’s perhaps worth mentioning that Ezra and I are both examples of English-speaking people of partially Latin American ancestry. It seems to me that one of the roots of the problem is precisely that the general public doesn’t recognize the Matt Yglesiases of the world in this way. Only highly un-assimilated Spanish-dominant people “present” to the bulk of the country as genuinely Hispanic [. . .]

(Emphasis supplied.) I chalk this up to poor phrasing by Yglesias, but this is not true. Indeed, I discussed with Yglesias the issue of the bigotry faced by Sonia Sotomayor, who is clearly English dominant, and he clearly recognized it went beyond who "presents" as Hispanic. Sometimes you get "presented." For Sotomayor, her complexion`more closely fit the stereotype. For many, Latino or Hispanic means "brown." Not just "Spanish." But sometimes just a name, like, say Yglesias, is enough.

Speaking for me only

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    Not really for those of us who (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:46:00 PM EST
    have no Latino/Hispanic ancestors to say.  

    [Wiki emphasizes after Native Americans, Latino/Hispanics were the first to occupants of the U.S.  St. Augustine FL and New Mexico.]

    Yglesias's father was born in the U.S.  Photos of his mother (Margaret Joskow):  appears to be Caucasian.

    My almost 13-yr. old tutoree was born in U.S.  Speaks fluent English and Spanish.  His parents were born in interior of Mexico.  Mom doesn't speak English, but probably understands English.  Dad speaks some English.  All their children are bi-lingual.    

    IMO, most Americans... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:05:40 PM EST
    ...think Hispanic means Mexican, Latino means everywhere else Spanish-speaking. They also think Iranians are Arabs, Obama is doing a pretty good job, and that heaven literally exists.

    Snarks aside, someone like Justice Sotomayor, obviously, "presents" as TOO Hispanic for plenty of Americans.  Poor phrasing is being generous.  Oddly clueless is how it read to me.

    A Latino is someone who speaks Latin; (none / 0) (#2)
    by observed on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:14:46 PM EST
    a Hispanic is often someone who works in Chinese restaurant, nowadays, which is awfully confusing for some Southwestern Republicans running for office.

    re "Latin speaker": (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:02:32 PM EST
    I don't (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:26:10 PM EST
    think the word "Latino" is even in the dictionary down here in GA. I don't even know if Hispanic is a word used that often. They are always screaming about the "Mexicans". To me, it's all a bunch of nonsense.

    It's been an interesting journey for me though. When I lived in another part of GA everything was black vs. white. Now in the county I live in now, which is pretty heavily Hispanic, it's more white vs. Hispanic. It seems they've always got to have some "other".

    I personally like the bonus of having Hispanic neighbors because the grocery stores now have Latin food sections that carry more than the Taco Bell brand.

    Maybe the skin color thing is what it's all about here in GA.

    Well (5.00 / 0) (#50)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 05:51:36 PM EST
    as someone who's lived among these nuts just being a Christian isn't enough. You have to be "saved" which is a bunch of hooey IMO and I don't think that you understand that these people are against Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians and other Christians because they aren't "saved" in the minds of fundamentalists.

    It isn't even about race with these people. It goes beyond that. They don't like many mainstream Christians and certainly not Jews and Muslims.

    Also, having lived among these people, it's one of the reasons that I think Obama is playing a fools game trying to bargain with them. You can't bargain with them only defeat them at the polls completely.


    BTD, how do you answer the question? (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:52:42 PM EST

    Depends (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:58:06 PM EST
    As the son of immigrants, I was and emmersed in my Hispanic culture. My kids? Hardly at all.

    But clearly by the book definition, we are all Hispanic/Latinos.

    In the Sotomayor sense? I feel Hispanic/Latino and believe I have been treated as such, for better or worse.

    For the Klein/Yglesias strand? I get the feeling they feel it more now than before as they became more aware of how people like Sotomayor were treated.


    I plan to spring this question on my tutoree. (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:03:14 PM EST
    Immersed (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:05:19 PM EST
    not Emmersed.

    In case that it is a tutoring word.


    He beat me at Scrabble last week! (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    Credit to his race . . . (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:13:46 PM EST

    This discussion is old hat (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:05:52 PM EST
    for Jews. We long ago learned that wearing a nice suit doesn't turn you into a non-Jew.

    yes but (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by CST on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:47:30 PM EST
    changing your name, lying to your kids, and marrying a "gentile" goes a long way.

    Not every minority group can pull off that kind of transformation.

    FWIW - this is not a hypothetical situation.  Gotta love sordid histories.


    Not everyone does all of the above (none / 0) (#27)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:56:45 PM EST
    but my recently departed Grandfather (and MIT grad) picked a new last name out of the phone book so he would work at GE in the 1950s. At least, that's the story.

    *could work (none / 0) (#28)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:57:01 PM EST
    My mother's 60yr old (none / 0) (#30)
    by CST on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 02:06:45 PM EST
    cousin found out he was Jewish at my grandfather's funeral (our side of the family knew, but apparently my mother's uncle had some issues).

    Talk about awkward.  When he exclaimed "so the Germans were Jews" my mother didn't have the heart to tell him they were really Hungarian.


    God forbid, they could have (none / 0) (#31)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 02:09:29 PM EST
    been Polish! ;-) (I think all of my people are from Poland, but when they left it was just "the Pale").

    But a nice suit... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:53:40 PM EST
    and a new last name can.

    Same goes for latinos...Martin Sheen comes to mind.


    Thinking of Madeleine Albright (none / 0) (#32)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 02:14:14 PM EST
    and the accusations from the right when she stated she learned long after her parents immigrated to England that the reason they immigrated was because they were Jewish.

    How about an Italian/American (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:08:56 PM EST
    playing Shylock?  

    Haven't seen it (none / 0) (#14)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:13:08 PM EST
    But theater is theater.

    Back in the day... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 02:02:40 PM EST
    Al might have had to drop the vowel at the end of his last name to get the role.

    What did you think I was writing about? (none / 0) (#39)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 03:17:25 PM EST
    IMO, Pacino didn't overpower the (none / 0) (#59)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 11:13:36 PM EST
    other members of the cast, especially the actor who played Portia, who played the part as a more human, less marble statue.  Terrific production, which made more sense of the play to me than any other production I've seen.

    Nice line (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:13:09 PM EST
    Unintentional pun. Really. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:40:34 PM EST
    So what are those (none / 0) (#13)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:10:13 PM EST
    from a Brazilian background?  They speak Portuguese, not Spanish.  So are they "Hispanic"?  Or perhaps "Latino"?  Portuguese comes from Latin, after all, as does Spanish (but by that criterion, the French, Italians and Romanians would then be "Latino").  Brazil is in what is known as Latin America, so in that sense, I suppose they would then more properly be called "Latino."  How do Brazilian-Americans self-identify?

    Wiki says Brazilians aren't "Latino." (none / 0) (#17)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:20:54 PM EST
    Not the bestest source.

    Well (none / 0) (#18)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:21:01 PM EST
    all I can tell you is from my one acquaintance who is Brazilian is that she calls herself Brazilian or South American. She refuses to go to a Catholic Church with Mexican-Americans and travels on the other side of town to a Brazilian Catholic Church. Don't ask me what the difference is though between those two churches.

    The Brazilian Catholic Church is not (none / 0) (#21)
    by me only on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:27:19 PM EST
    part of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Do you (none / 0) (#22)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:29:47 PM EST
    know what is different about it? Does it hold the same doctrines?

    A little, not much (none / 0) (#23)
    by me only on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:39:35 PM EST
    it separated during or slightly after WWII.

    Many of the reforms that it undertook (mass in native language) were part of Vatican II, but pre-dated that event.  Similarly, I think the divorce rules are now similar.

    The single largest difference that I am aware of is that Clergical celibacy is not required.  Like the Anglicans, the priests can marry.  I am not sure, but I don't think they allow female priests.  In my mental notes it stratles the American Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  (Meaning all the Catholic/Catholic lite services are very similar, but the priest rules are noticeably different.)


    If they hold service in Spanish (none / 0) (#36)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 02:58:53 PM EST
    at the Mexican-American Church, that would explain a lot of the reason that your Brazilian friend would go to a Brazilian church.  Brazilians speak Brazilian Portuguese which is actually different enough from European Portuguese to be classified as its own language - at least that's the case when you go to learn Portuguese - there are two different courses.

    No (none / 0) (#40)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 03:17:49 PM EST
    she speaks Spanish too. It's probably more like what me only explained above: the Brazilian Catholic Church is not part of the Roman Catholic Church and that would probably make it pretty different from the Hispanic Catholic churches around here.

    I was in Brazil shortly after the (none / 0) (#47)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 05:34:11 PM EST
    Pope visited years ago.  I don't know that the Roman Catholic Church is exactly persona non-grata in Brasil.  In fact, he was very warmly welcomed.  Very warmly.

    Maybe you should ask your friend, though.  We can all speculate until the cows come home on her motivations.  :)


    probably (none / 0) (#19)
    by CST on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:23:05 PM EST
    depends a lot on wether they look more like Giselle Bundchen or Ronaldinho.

    As Brazilians? (none / 0) (#20)
    by me only on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:23:26 PM EST
    The individual who married us was Brazilian.  He is now an American.

    Carlos Eire is still working this out. (none / 0) (#34)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 02:40:31 PM EST
    His first memoir:  Waiting for Snow in Havana.  Newest installment:  Learning to Die in Miami (2010).

    Professor at Yale.  Came to U.S. from Havana as a young child with his brother and w/o his parents.  

    We need to realize (none / 0) (#38)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 03:08:27 PM EST
    that "evolving" in the way you state requires awareness.

    The All in the Family exchange is a point on that.

    When All in the Family was on the air (none / 0) (#42)
    by ruffian on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 03:56:39 PM EST
    the word "ignorant" was more in vogue. I think it's time to bring it back. Some are willfully ignorant based on their prejudices, some prejudiced based on ignorance. I think learning and exposure is the key, which is of course why diversity in schools and society is so important.

    So what about Chicano? (none / 0) (#41)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 03:21:45 PM EST
    I only ask because George Lopez has a new stand up routine coming out on Comedy Central called "Tall, Dark and Chicano".

    Chicano actually (none / 0) (#60)
    by jeffinalabama on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 08:57:03 AM EST
    means 'poorest of the poor,' in north Mexican vernacular. It can be a worse insult than calling someone a campesino. Campesino is insulting if it's meant to be, but not in general...

    Interesting (none / 0) (#62)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 09:29:12 AM EST
    It appears to be the "n-word" in usage for Mexican-Americans.  Ok if a Mexican uses it, racist if someone else (especially an Anglo) uses it.

    From Wiki:

    Long a disparaging term in Mexico, the term Chicano gradually transformed from a class-based term of derision to one of ethnic pride and general usage within Mexican-American communities beginning with the rise of the Chicano movement in the 1960s. In their "Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia," Vicki Ruíz and Virginia Sánchez report that demographic differences in the adoption of the term existed; because of the prior vulgar connotations, it was more likely to be used by males than females, and as well, less likely to be used among those in a higher socioeconomic status. Usage was also generational, with the more assimilated third-generation members (again, more likely male) likely to adopt the usage. This group was also younger, of more radical persuasion, and less connected to a Mexican cultural heritage.[8][9]

    In his essay "Chicanismo" in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures (2002), Jose Cuellar dates the transition from derisive to positive to the late 1950s, with a usage by young Mexican-American high school students.[10]

    Outside of Mexican American communities, the term might assume a negative meaning if it is used in a manner that embodies the prejudices and bigotries long directed at Mexican and Mexican-American people in the United States. For example, in one case, a prominent Chicana feminist writer and poet has indicated the following subjective meaning through her creative work.

        * Ana Castillo: "[a] marginalized, brown woman who is treated as a foreigner and is expected to do menial labor and ask nothing of the society in which she lives."[11]

    Ana Castillo has referred to herself as a Chicana, and her literary work reflects that she primarily considers the term to be a positive one of self-determination and political solidarity.[12][13][14][15][16]

    The Mexican archeologist and anthropologist Manuel Gamio reported in 1930 that the term chicamo (with an "m") was used as a derogatory term used by Hispanic Texans for recently arrived Mexican immigrants displaced during the Mexican revolution in the beginning of the early 20th century.[17] At this time, the term Chicano began to reference those who resisted total assimilation, while the term Pochos referred (often pejoratively) to those who strongly advocated assimilation.[18]

    In Mexico, which by American standards would be considered classist or racist, the term is associated with a Mexican-American person of low importance class and poor morals.[19][20][21] The term Chicano is widely known and used in Mexico.

    I've gotten mistaken for Latino ... (none / 0) (#43)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 04:05:42 PM EST
    by Latinos on a number of occasions.  And more than once they've gotten mad at me for not answering them in Spanish, and accused me of "passing".  All in the space of a few moments.

    Poseur . . . (5.00 / 2) (#44)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 04:24:55 PM EST
    I get that all the time. (none / 0) (#45)
    by vml68 on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 04:42:15 PM EST
    When I had just come to this country, I attended a local art fair. The artist came up to me and started speaking in spanish, so I politely told him that I did not speak the language. He proceeded to lecture me in front of everyone on how I should be ashamed for not being true to my heritage. I was totally confused and too intimidated to speak up. When I kept being mistaken for a latina, I figured I needed to learn spanish.
    The funny thing is when people just don't want to believe you when you tell them you are not latino. Last year my husband was out walking the dog, one of my neighbors came up to him and asked him what nationality I was, when he told her, she replied that when I had told her I was not a  latina, she thought I was lying!

    Me, too (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 05:05:09 PM EST
    I get mistaken for Latina all the time (and on a couple of occasions in the past, while visiting relatives in Texas, as Native American).  I've also been mistaken for Arabic.  If anyone starts speaking to me in Spanish (which I know a bit of, but I'm not totally fluent), I respond in Greek.  That confuses the heck out of them.   ;-)

    Too funny...:-) (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by vml68 on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 05:35:03 PM EST
    I've sometimes been mistaken for Italian, which I don't see and sometimes for Filipino, which I really don't see.
    I find it amusing when Indians don't realise I am Indian. The first time I met some of my husband's friends was at a dinner party at one of his friend's house. I assumed they knew where I was from. Well, when it was time for dinner his friend's wife told me she would be serving indian food and wanted to know if I had ever tried it! It took me by surprise and before I could set her straight, she launched into an explanation of the various dishes. So, I just bit my tongue and supressed a smile and played along.

    LOL! (none / 0) (#49)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 05:43:17 PM EST
    Well, I guess if we've got dark hair and an olive complexion, it gets people confused.  I mainly get "mistaken" when I have a bit of a tan.  I swear that I've been pulled over for "enhanced screening" at the airports more than once because they think I'm Arabic.  I just try to roll with the punches.  To me, people are just people.  (And if you follow the genetic population studies that the scientists have been doing, most people don't even realize that they're not necessarily what they thought they were.  Lots of interbreeding, and in the end, we're all related, and all human.)

    give up affirmative action (none / 0) (#56)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 10:07:54 PM EST
    You're not assimilated until you are ready to give up your affirmative action advantages.  Why a child of BTD should have a big advantage getting into a college over a child of Jeralyn is beyond me.

    Aren't you assuming without factual support? (5.00 / 1) (#58)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 11:10:36 PM EST
    having worked in college admissions (none / 0) (#61)
    by CST on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 09:16:47 AM EST
    that statement is not entirely wrong.

    Then again, I distinctly recall reading a note by an admission's officer on an application stating "this person is from Wyoming, we don't have ANYone from Wyoming".  Needless to say, that student (white), would also have a much easier time getting into that college than say, someone from New York.

    Is it fair?  Maybe not.  But what is "fair" anyway?  There are any number of arbitrary things that can be the tipping point for a college.  Race is one of them, so is location, and there are many others.

    A lot of students also look to go to a more diverse school.  So in a way you have to do it to remain competitive.


    Agree. My comment was as to (none / 0) (#63)
    by oculus on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 12:28:01 PM EST
    reference to BTD's kids.  

    I know (none / 0) (#64)
    by CST on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 12:45:41 PM EST
    The whole "affirmative action" re. college admissions argument really bothers me though.

    Because the admissions process is sooooo fair otherwise.  No one seems to cry about legacies.  But god forbid some rich hispanic kid gets a break too.


    How did a high school grad from Iowa (none / 0) (#65)
    by oculus on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 12:47:10 PM EST
    get into U of M?  Diversity.  

    yea (none / 0) (#66)
    by CST on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 12:59:04 PM EST
    I got a bit of a break too.  Being a city kid from public (using that term loosely) school.

    Note to parents - you want to give your kids an "unfair" edge - don't move to the suburbs.  "Everyone" who applies to 4-year colleges grows up in the suburbs.


    Matt Yglesias if full of it! (none / 0) (#57)
    by mexboy on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 11:02:04 PM EST
    Only highly un-assimilated Spanish-dominant people "present" to the bulk of the country as genuinely Hispanic [. . .]

    This speaks more of his state of mind than anyone else's. He is presenting himself as a victim; perhaps he is uncomfortable with his heritage and claiming to be assimilated and English-dominant makes him different - in his mind- from those Spanish speaking un-assimilated Latinos, and therefore normal.

    Being Latino has to do with culture, since Latinos are White. If Yglesias doesn't value his heritage but instead wants to be part of the Borg, then that is his choice. No one should have to give up their heritage and culture to belong. But I suspect Yglesias is more concerned with class and where he ranks those "un-assimilated Hispanics."

    On another note, I refuse to use the word Hispanic because that is an invented word, by the Nixon administration, when they decided we were no longer white.

    I am a fully bilingual and I embrace my Mexican heritage and my US culture. I would be incomplete if I gave either one up.

    The Borg sucks!