Latino? I’m Mexican!

By: Giovanni Escalera

Are Argentines the same as Brazilians or Colombians? The answer is yes and no.

The first time I told an Argentine friend that I loved to eat conchas for dinner (Mexican bread), he could not stop laughing. I didn’t see what was funny about it. When he calmed down about five minutes later, he explained to me that “concha” means vagina in his country.

The first time someone asked me if I was Latino, it felt weird, like a term that had nothing to do with me. I tell people I’m Mexican, and it would never occur to me to introduce myself as a Latino. We’re from the same geographical region, and we were colonized by Europeans. We’re mostly Catholic and mostly soccer fans. But should we be lumped together so consistently? We’re not even all Spanish speakers and you’d never take me for a Brazilian. Argentines don’t eat tortillas or spicy salsa, and their most famous musicians—Fito Páez or Charly García, for instance—would never sing duets with Pitbull.

“Latino” has a particular connotation that doesn’t take into account the diversity among the different countries that fall under its umbrella. Television stations and marketers want to unite all Spanish speakers (and even the non-Spanish speakers with Latin American roots) and they do this by presenting and reacting to a stereotype: the salsa-dancing, loud, dramatic, hair-product-aficionado, hot-tempered guy or girl.

Picture Sofia Vergara. It’s an image that doesn’t fit, for example, Mexico City fashion designer Paola Hernandez, electronic music producer Matias Aguayo or Dominican-American novelist Junot Díaz.

Using “Latino” indiscriminately is like saying that everyone in the United States loves country music, eats BBQ everyday and drives around in white Cadillacs, (Dynasty style).  Perhaps when the ideas associated with “Latino” broaden to encompass our true richness, I’ll become more comfortable with being called one.

Giovanni Escalera is a music producer, writer and DJ based in New York City. He released four albums with his band Sweet Electra, and is currently producing a solo project called Too White to be Mexican in collaboration with other artists from Latin America.