A few weeks ago, XicanoPwr tagged me to open one of the books I was reading. I was specifically asked to look at page 123 and sentences on that page, but I thought I would start closer to the beginning of the book since I have a lot to say about the subject matter. I was given Los Republicanos by Leslie Sanchez for the holidays, and I flip through it at my leisure. I can’t bring myself to read it all at once, but I’m trying. I just have other reading material that is currently higher on my priority list.
But I was particularly struck by this passage on p. 42:
“Not only are Latinos thriving in this country, but we’ve actually become avant-garde–we’re “where it’s at!” Everyone else wants to be like us. How else could salsa have become the new ketchup? Why else would folks in Kentucky celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
Not only is everyone eating our food, they’re learning our parents’ language, they’re listening to our music, they’re dancing our dances. Take a trip to Adams Morgan, a trendy Washington, D.C. neighborhood, and you can get ten-dollar salsa lessons from an excellent instructor–who happens to be Persian! The new salseros are people who don’t have so much as a Latin twig in their family trees.
Gone are the days when Hispanic actors like Ramon Estevez (now known as Martin Sheen) changed their names to fit into the American mainstream. Americans are eagerly watching and reading about famous Hispanics, whether it’s J-Lo in the NY Post’s Page Six, the accomplished A-Rod in the sports section, the powerful Carlos Gutierrez in the business section, or Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on page one.”
I don’t think that everyone wants to be like “us,” especially those of us who are incarcerated at higher rates than whites, experience dropping out of high school at alarming rates, and are tail spinning into foreclosure because we have been sold higher interest loans, specifically for “us.”
I become more discouraged by Ms. Sanchez’s insinuations that we are so hip because we have music and dances that the mainstream is finally taking note of. So what? All cultures have their own food, dances, and music. These cultural characteristics could easily not be in favor with whomever finds them fashionable tomorrow or next year. Eating our foods, dancing our dances, and listening to our music cannot be equated with “wanting to be like us” or living our struggles.
And then, this whole bit about “gone are the days when actors changed their names.” That may be the case on a certain level, but we still aren’t represented very well in Hollywood within the acting and film production ranks. And then there’s this ingrained notion among many in the entertainment elite that we Latinos must be downtrodden or live in barrios. We can’t possibly be portrayed in characters other than those showing us as exotic spitfires, cholos, or maids. Just read the referenced blog post by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, and you will sense the frustration that our creative community is feeling because our stories don’t quite fit into the “American mainstream” or the stereotype that studio executives think will sell for the masses.
And don’t get me started on J.Lo. This book was published in 2007. I don’t think that J.Lo has dominated tabloid news for the past couple of years.
Alberto Gonzales on the front page?! Yeah, he really made me proud last year. Accusations of perjury and being GWB’s lapdog endear former attorney general Alberto Gonzales to me and the rest of the American public. The Department of Justice has been left in shambles thanks to this guy.
So there you have it, the nearest book! I’ll be writing more about Los Republicanos in the future. I think that we all needed a break from presidential politics for a day or two.