Something about getting a toasted roll with butter and coffee with three sugars (tostada y cafe con leche for those keeping up) in the morning makes me feel Latino, especially when the guy who I just heard speak Spanish looks up at me and says, “One seventy-five.” Or when I’m in an elevator and two people opt to speak Spanish to say something private to each other; one of them makes a tonsil-hockey joke, embarrassed because I cracked the hell up without looking at them. Or when my name goes from Jose to Joe on my nameplate at a really inopportune time (I know people on my side didn’t do it).
As often as I claim “Latino,” I’ve come to accept that being Latino is equally as much about what I think as what others may think.
Yet and still, I want to win. I’m going to force parents to speak to me in Spanish, and dance merengue where they least expect it. I’m going to blend Juan Luis Guerra and Wilfredo Vargas with Jay-Z and Kanye on my iPod, just because I can. I’ll make culturally inappropriate jokes, but only Dominicans will get it. I’m going to order in Spanish even when the Latino waiters are asked to speak in English. I’m going to assume people are Ecuadorian or Venezuelan only to have them tell me they’re indigenous Americans.
I’m going to walk to the grocery store with socks and sandals. Or no socks with sneakers. And point a middle finger at the style blogs who reject it.
And who doesn’t want to be Latino? With all the “moving up” we’re doing and the hopeful statistical expectation that Latinos as a whole may become the majority minority lately, we might as well act like everyone’s Latino until they get annoyed with reports of them crossing borders and acting as mules for drugs or having to memorialize Columbus, the man responsible for us being in this position … or disposition. Everyone can listen to media label Latinos only in dropout specials and music galas, or when the network anchors need to un-stiffen their necks a bit and shake a bit when mentioning the latest Latin craze.
I suppose that’s what comes with being Latino. It’s not always the negative, not always the positive. It’s as much In The Heights as Maria Full of Grace, Alex Rodriguez as Roberto Clemente, Julia de Burgos as Salma Hayek. I can’t really do much with my Latino card other than what I already do with my life as a whole. That’s how I’m celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
Appropriately, it’s two sets of 15 days over two months. A celebration from an end of one time period to the beginning of another.
Jose, who works on non-work days …