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The Latino Namesake

by Jose Vilson on July 8, 2012

in Jose

I landed in Orlando / Cocoa Beach a few hours ago, and had the fortune of getting a van all to myself to escort me to the hotel. On such occasions, I usually don’t think about the privilege I have to work in an environment where my boss places cultural barriers on my person.

As for my driver, that wasn’t the case. I read his name tag: Domingo, same as my uncle. As we walk away from his dispatcher, I start to notice his English isn’t too fluid. Noticing his struggles, I wait until the elevator to code-switch.

I said something in Spanish. He kept quiet. We start walking to the car. He asks where I’m from. I tell him he is my uncle’s namesake, or tacayo in Spanish, and thus, he can infer from there. He kept chatting me up in English until we got in the van. Once in the van, I switched interchangeably from English to Spanish just to see if my suspicious were true. He replied in English.

As we started to pull into the hotel, I started to wonder aloud whether his bosses’ insistence that he speak in English was just a useful technique to ensure his employees learn how to speak the dominant language or a manifestation of the debilitating acculturation in the name of so called professionalism. That is to say, what would a Dominican in Miami need to speak to help customers?

Presumably both.

To that extent, I have to be of the belief that we don’t have to suppress our language of choice in order to survive in this country, no matter if you’re speaking Spanish, Cantonese, or patois. The United States of America we strive for should let people be themselves. Wholly. Without judgment.

Solo diciendo …

Jose, who has a book giveaway coming up soon …

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And Who Doesn’t Want To Be Latino?!

by Jose Vilson on October 10, 2010

in Jose

Chapulin Colorado (hardcore)

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 …

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Because My Commenters Rock, Even In Spanish

by Jose Vilson on December 8, 2009

in Jose

Spanish Inquisition: Just When You Least Expect Them

Spanish Inquisition: Just When You Least Expect Them

Please check the first gem spilled upon my blog yesterday concerning my discussion on Spanish (with some edits from me):

So here’s the funny part of all this: in English, the Spanish language is called, duh, Spanish but (I was discussing this with my dad who’s a brilliant, highly-educated man and Dominican) in Spanish there is no such thing as Espanol to mean the language. Now we commonly say “Hablo Espanol” but really it is Castellano. Back when Spain wasn’t a unified Spain yet and it was all kingdoms (Aragon, Castille, etc) and they were breaking their heads with the Muslims, forcing them to unify, Castile was the more dominant from the union with Aragon. So when Spain began to romper culo all over the world, Castillians (?) had more pull. Like Columbus’s voyages were apparently full of men from Castille so they spread Castellano. There was no Espanol. Even today, Spaniards will say they speak Castellano or Gallego and they sound very different yet they are both speaking Spanish. So are Castellanos speaking “proper” Spanish as opposed to Galicians? They’re both from the “mother” country, right?

Also, if you go even further back, Castellano is a dialect of Latin from when the Romans introduced it to the area, after which it got even more convoluted with a crapton of invaders and especially with the Arabic language the Moors brought. So Castellano is itself a dialect. It’s fascinating stuff (my nerd-ass thought it was interesting when my pops was telling me). You always have to wonder about people under the delusion of being some sort of purists. It’s some sign of insecurity I think. And really what are you insecure about? Who sounds more like the conquistadors that broke everyone’s will to live wherever they went? Yeah, I want that prize. Anyway, I love hearing Dominican Spanish, it’s kind of robust and jolly and then you have the sing-song of Puerto Rican Spanish, Mexican Spanish (which is different depending if you’re from el D.F. -they have some awesome curse words- or if you’re from Puebla or Guerrero). They all have their respective charms. C’mon son. (Had to do it, been itching to, sorry.)

Glendaliz dropped the bomb.

Are you kidding? And then that’s followed up by CK’s great twist on the topic:

When you first spoke about this on Twitter, my first instant reaction was like yours — what the fuck?

But this reminds me of a very common people among my community. The Deaf community. The primary language of use is American Sign Language. There’s this whole camp called “Deafhood” where some radical deaf people believe only those born from deaf parents/went to a deaf school/live in the deaf community/use ASL all the time belong.

And there are others who believe everyone belongs, no matter what their communication mode is — as long as they have a hearing loss.

Because of this “label”, things get complicated quickly, and often uneasy.

I’m going to use the onion as a metaphor here. You have an ordinary yellow onion. You peel away the outside, it’s still an onion. You peel away another layer, it’s still an onion. You keep peeling each layer off until you get to the core. It’s still an onion.

You do the same with a speaker of Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, English, ASL, Russian, French, anything. They all are the same. There’s no such thing as a “better” way of using a language.

But don’t take it from me. Keep reading for yourself. You’ll be happy you did.

Mr. Vilson, who has yet to address the issue of Spanish. Soon come.

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My Spanish Is Way Better Than Yours

December 7, 2009 Jose
Dora The Explorer and Diego

Scenario: Let’s say there are two native Spanish speakers, both of whom don’t come directly from Spain, but have Latino backgrounds, one comes from a South American country and the other from a Carribean-based country. While discussing language, the first comments that their Spanish is “better” than the other. After the second suggests the lack […]

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