I'm Latina. SURPRISE! And although I typically write about diabetes, I'm taking a break today to tell you about the insensitivity that exists within our state lines. I live in Chicago (for those of you who don't know we're on a ChicagoNOW site), which is typically tolerant of many different types of people: black, white, yellow and brown; documented, undocumented; gay, straight; male and female. But sometimes (well, more than sometimes but we won't get into that) there are glitches in the system. Big ones.
Take for instance, Hispanic Heritage Month. The one lopsided block of 30 days where we get to go all out (UNLESS you're Boricua, then you get to do it in July, too, or Mexican; that happens in September), wave flags and be extremely proud to come from Latin American descendants. I say lopsided because if you know anything about Hispanic
Hell, I mean, Heritage Month, you know it goes from September 15 to October 15. Not kidding. Many people say it's because Latinos are always late. Go figure. Or that all of the independence days of the Latin American countries fall in that time frame. Either way, we get the "month." This is also when things start going nuts.
Let's look at how this happens. Publications feel that if they don't cover something about being Latino, they're out of the loop. Some big goof-ups made come from Latino publications. They make sure not to miss the "month" and feel that they have to tell the ENTIRE story of Mexico and mention all of the other Latin American countries and their pivotal stories of independence. If you don't write about the month, don't worry! Your WHOLE publication is dedicated to Latino pride, so chill. I saw El Guapo repost an article that he had written for Cafe magazine some time ago about Mexico's independence. I suggest we all do that.
Then you have the non-Latino publications who hire writers, who just happen to be Latino, to write about what they know. Cha-ching! But these tidbits of information are so superficial and surface-skimming that they could've gone unpublished.
But the biggest goof of all are government agencies. That's right, folks! Because they feel that if they DON'T celebrate Latinos with rice, beans and a cartoon stereotype of our culture, they're not doing their job. Take a look at that photo, kids. Enjoy it. That's coming from the Governor's office, by the way.
Like any blogger would, I posted this to my Facebook page. And my Twitter page. And my Facebook Fan Page. I would've put it on Foursquare but I didn't go get tacos at the Governor's office. Anyway, my good friend and hermano from Minnesota was one of the first to comment on the photo. I can always count on Rodrigo.
Its insulting, degrading, offensive. Are they are selling food to celebrate our heritage?? There is more things that can be done. Then on top of it they use a character with a sombrero to blanket what we all look like?? Is his name bandito?? Seriously...
I jokingly answered that I think this year they named him Pedro. After seeing all of this so often and so much, sometimes you just have to laugh at it. Although, it is true. What does the little man with the mustache and sombrero have to do with me? And I don't even eat tacos! (Ok, that's a lie but I had to fight off the stereotype, didn't I?)
So what are my suggestions for improving this? Why does there have to be a person on it?! Put pictures of walking tacos on the flyer, not the head of a "Hispanic." Just because the dude (who can be Russian or Middle Eastern, for all I care) is wearing a sombrero, doesn't mean Latinos are going to go buy tacos or rice! This is more for the people who are not Latino, than those who are. By showing this off, the State is saying that's it OK to profile people the way they just did and because they have a little "Hispanic" man holding the sign, it's GOTTA be authentic and good, for that matter. That's the anger that settles in the community. By continuously reinforcing the stereotypes and allowing our community to be portrayed this way, we're telling the world that we're all the same, that we're not culturally or colorfully diverse and that we don't care how we are viewed as a culture. We're as white as the Poles and black as the Kenyans. We can speak Spanish, not always, and fit in in any part of the world. We're NOT ALL MEXICAN (although, I am)! Well, now I'm saying, "Ya BASTA! STOP IT!"
If you think this only happens during Hispanic Hell Month and it only happens to Latinos in Chicago, then you must have missed the last 200 plus years of United States history. Illinois is not all blue, you know. Once you go south, the situation is different, very different, especially for people of color. I'm not going to write any more about my experience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Instead, I'm going to let Antonia Darder, former professor at the U of I, who is now teaching at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, do the talking. She's a Puerto Rican activist. Please watch the videos and you'll see what history has to offer.