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Letter to a Bigot

2003-09-18 - 11:34 a.m.

This was, once again, going to be the second part of my Hispanic Heritage Month Entry, and in a way it will be. Today, I went on one of my favorite websites, Tomato Nation, to find a bigot in the advice column. Sars, the Goddess of Tomato Nation, gave her the smackdown, but I didn't feel it was enough of one. So I sent Sars my thoughts, and I wanted to reprint them here. The woman in question, "SO wigged out," was concerned about her deadbeat ex-husband and her daughter being around his new roommate, whom she hadn't met.

Querida Sars,

As I have expressed many times in my fan-mail, I adore your site and think The Vine should be adapted into a relationship handbook. Usually, my daily glance at The Vine gives me plenty of laughs with which to enjoy the day. Today, it chilled me to the bone, more literally than you'd think. My hands are shaking, because what one woman wrote felt like a slap in the face. To quote "SO wigged out" regarding her husbands roommate:

"It also doesn't help me to know that this young man is Hispanic. Not that I'm prejudiced, mind you, but I have known some of that persuasion and they were a LOT left of center, if you know what I mean. Even the women."

If you'll allow me, I'd like to respond to La Wigged Out:

Ms. Wigged Out, it may surprise you to know that you wrote your letter to Tomato Nation during Hispanic Heritage Month, which lasts from September 16th-October 16th. Yes, I know most celebratory months begin on the first--and feel free to make a joke about Latinos always being late, because it certainly couldn't make you seem more ignorant than you already do--but September 16th is Mexican Independence Day, as well as, I believe, the Independence Day for a number of other Latin American countries, so you'll understand why it has the odd starting date. Or, then again, it might be beyond your grasp.

Now, despite your claim to not be prejudiced, you describe Latinos as "some of that persuasion," which I find interesting, because you describe being Hispanic as though it were a matter of choice or preference, the way that some people, who are often just as bigoted as you are, describe sexual identity. When I think about it, your comment might be more apt than even you think. After all, being Latino is not a question of racial identity, it's a question of cultural identity. Many if not most Latinos in the US have a blend of European, Native American, and African ancestry. Being a Latino is far more about your language, the food you ate as a child, the music you grew up listening to, and the where's, what's, how's, and why's of your family's history. A person could easily abandon their Hispanic heritage and keep only a last name. However, I know that giving up the poetry of Pablo Neruda, making tamales with my mother on Christmas Eve, Celia Cruz, and a family that has lived in Texas since it was New Spain would leave me with nothing.

You said that we were "a LOT left of center" if we knew what you meant, finishing with the extremely classy, "even the women." You know, I don't know what you mean, but then again I am a Mexican, so that might explain things. If you're speaking about politically left of center, you may have a point. We Latinos are notorious revolutionaries; it seems no matter how many times the US sends troops in, we just keep fighting back. Go figure. However, I think you were just speaking about being bizarre in general, and how you were worried about your children being exposed to a possible child molester. Well, we Latinos are very bizarre. There's this whole literary genre called "magic realism" that's very bizarre. We're really into that. If you read Jorge Luis Borges or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you'll get a lot of bizarre stories, but then again something tells me you don't read Nobel Prize winners. You would probably never touch Mario Vargas Llosa, or Octavio Paz, or Carlos Fuentes, of Federico Garcia Lorca, or Rudolfo Anaya, or Oscar Hijuelos, or any of the other innumerable Latino and Spanish authors respected around the world. And you're right, the women are just as bad. Gabriela Mistral landed herself a Nobel prize of her own, and if Laura Esquivel, Isabel Allende, and Sandra Cisneros keep writing the way they do, they'll probably have a few in the coming century themselves.

Who knows? If I ever finish the novel I keep working on between doing invoices at work, I might have one of my own.

I've grown up hearing from people like you, who, like Latinos, have come at me in all colors. Because I'm light skinned, I usually get the "Oh, you're not like THEM" comments, at least from Anglos. I'm probably never going to stop hearing, in my lifetime, that Hispanics are lazy and stupid and "a LOT left of center," that we take American jobs and yet, at the same time, are a drain on the welfare system. I'm going to have to put up with seeing Latinos cast as maids, junkies, and whores in mainstream cinema, only to find that Anglos have been cast to play the Latinos that were heroes, martyrs, and artists. I'm going to have to put up with going to gay movies only to find out that the evil slut has a Spanish accent, because, as John Leguizamo put it, "we fuck too much."

Well, I probably do fuck too much. I'm damn good at it.

I will put up with all this, because we are the fastest growing minority in the country, and more and more movies like Real Women Have Curves are being made, and movies like Once Upon a Time in Mexico will rule the box office, and even Republicans have realized that we are going to be one of the most powerful voting blocks in the coming century. Today, you're going to have to deal with a Hispanic roommate at your ex-husband's place. One day, you just might have to deal with the Hispanic boyfriend your daughter brings home. You might think he's "a LOT left of center," but chances are that he'll have dealt with people like you before, and be all the stronger and smarter for it.

He'll probably be stronger and smarter than you, and that won't be hard.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Un Latino de la izquierda (A Latino from the Left)

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