Saturday, May 12, 2007

I am NOT Hispanic.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) loosely defines Hispanic as someone of any race whose ancestors were born in a country where Spanish is the official tongue. According to this definition, Brazilians, Portuguese and Andorrans are not Hispanic, but Catalans are. As minorities we supposedly have all kinds of advantages in what is called positive discrimination.
Many Americans (and this includes governmental employees) still confuse race and ethnicity (even in the official forms) and think that all Hispanic are what ethnically is called mestizo, that is to say, a brown skin mixture of white and native American.

But I have to tell you, I am a Catalan. Yes, I have a Spanish passport, but I am not Hispanic and I do not want to be. My mother tongue is Catalan and about my race, plain white. So, thank you very much, I do not need any positive discrimination, I do not want any help. Do you mean that if I had been raised in Spanish, I would be handicapped and I would need a favor? Absolutely disgusting!

When asked, I always tell the truth, race: white (most probably a mixture of Celts, Iberians, Greeks, Romans, Franks, north European Barbarians with some drops of Arab and Jewish blood), nationality: Spanish (that’s what my passport says), ethnicity: Catalan. I assume that some of the federal agencies have put a working group together to find out what Catalan ethnicity is (OK, the reality is that Catalan ethnicity appears under Hispanic in the US census with the code 204).

Luckily my color, my family name (Llorens) and my slight accent (Catalan, but most of the people confuse it with French or French Canadian) keep me off the Hispanic-targeted telemarketing campaigns.

I see many people in USA who are very worried about Spanish taking over from English. Two months ago, the congress quickly put together a law declaring English the official language of the United States. Calm down, do not worry too much, the Spanish spoken on the streets of USA is terrible and it is getting worse and worse, as we speak.
Phrases as: “Aplicar pa un trabajo” (Apply for a job), “Llámame p’atrás” (call me back), “El interé de tu mortgage”, make me sick. I cannot help it, I am a language purist.
However the government does not seem to have any kind of remorse when using Spanish to recruit people for the military (I took the attached picture in my town, where the Hispanic population is close to zero).

I have also observed another interesting phenomenon. When I talk in Spanish to people from South and Central America who live in USA, most of the times, they refuse to answer back in Spanish, even if they were talking in Spanish among themselves. Also very often, they switch to English when I get close by (by the way, most of them speak an American English 10 times better than mine). I dislike this attitude. Even if I do not consider myself Hispanic, I am proud to speak standard Castilian Spanish, and I would never switch language, just because a perceived Anglo is walking past.

To summarize, I do not need any kind of discrimination, neither positive, not negative. Look at my green eyes and judge me for what I am. But if I need to identify myself, I will always proudly say, I AM A CATALAN.

15 comments:

Guirilandia said...

Hey Ian,

This reminds me of a story about a Catalan friend of mine. He was living in Berlin a few years ago, and, as you well know, Germans, like most everyone else, do not distinguish between Catalans and Spanish. Everybody from over here is "Spanish".

So far, this probably confirms your understandable irritation with the state of affairs. But my friend, who some would probably consider an "oportunista", made the best of it. Because, in case you don't know, "latin lovers" are all the rage, not "catalan lovers". By mashing together all the latin/macho/flamencero stereotypes he was able to flirt with a phenomenal amount of sexy blonde frauleins, merely under the supposition that he was a typical "latin lover". This entailed plenty of Spanish speaking, and "palmadas" and tortilla making. According to him it was worth it.

Dunno. Just food for thought ;)

Garci said...

More food for thought:

I felt a bit the same when I was living in the US. As a Basque-Old Castilian, I never felt the ethnicity system of the US would match my situation. I remember actually the first time I had to fill one of these questionnaires and I simply asked the woman in charge: 'I am from Spain, should I put Caucasian or Hispanic?' she just said: 'Whatever you want', so I put Hispanic for the same reasons guirilandia is talking about (well, not for the 'latin lover' stereotype, but to take advantage of any positive discrimination). Anyway, I feel a bit the same with other stereotypes@ for example, when people call me Mediterranean. Neither me nor any of my ancestors (as far as I know) come from any close to the Mediterranean, although some of them come from the Mediterranean basin in Nafarroa and Burgos, but in Old Castile (and Nafarroa) most of the historic trade was driven to the Atlantic coast, Cantabria (montanyeses) and Bizkaia-Gipuzkoa. If you define Mediterranean as the climate then I am mostly Mediterranean, since much of my territory (the one I identify with) perceives summer droughts regularly. But everything depends on the definition they want to put, and they usually don't go into detail, so I come stranded again in a categorization gap that only myself can fill in according to whatever I want to say, so actually the situation is quite good, since I can choose where I want to be depending on the context...Something I have to fight against always? I ALWAYS have to teach people that Celt tribes actually occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula. Ian, your spreadsheet is actually quite interesting..I could put myself in three categories, one in Western Europe (except Spain)-basque, Spanish...and the other one as Hispanic (including Spain)-Castilian or Hispanic-Spanish...who knows what they are talking about, anyway!

ian llorens said...

Andrew,
My try-to-date-as-many-blondes-as-you-can Costa Brava times are long gone. But I promise that I never played the flamenco/bull-fighting card, even in the most critical occasions,
To tell you the truth, even the dumbest bimbo would have spotted the fraud, even after 3 jugs of sangria.

Habibi said...

This is very interesting Ian. When I was living in the UK I was often mistaken for an English or something, thankst ot my blond hair and my pale skin. Then I opened my mouth and an intermitent Castillian J would appear every now and then. "Oh, you are not from here?", they couldn't guess where I was from cos my Italic/Spanish accent didn't match with my skin.
I remember once having a convo with a mate at work. He is from Perú and he was very offended when I said that he and I were not from the same race. C'mon mate, you are almost olive colour and your eyes look more like if you were an esquimo! Well, do you want to be white, fine, no probs about me, then I have to be arian white, and this, conceptually, I don't like.
I am proud to be European, that's for sure. But my race, I couldn't care less. I was born in 1981 and have enough with my gayness. I don't think that being "Hispanic" would matter that much to my life.

I keep saying that through my veins I have the blod of the Califa Omeyas. But this is as true as whisky is good for driving. My father (who is from Andalucía) was a "señorito" and all the generations above where the same. On mother's side I had nobility, even a king. So pure Castillian white. And this is how it is. I accept that my family used to have slaves and such, why can't other accept that they used to be? I think my position is worse.

But what bothers me the most between this is thas every time I say I study Hispanic Studies (cos if I say philology no one understands me) they keep correcting me to Spanish. No, dear, I study as well the Spanish language spoken in America (also US) and its literature.

BTW, about the language spoken in S A, funny you talk about that, cos they should stop being ashamed (also in Andalucía they have the same shame), cos we (the ones who speak Standard Castillian) are the smallest percentaje. It is like the discussion between how to pronounce the 'c' and the 'z'. The pronunciation you and I use is a foot note in most of Spanish manuals.

Anyway, I talk too much, just one quick thing: I like the Spanglish, but only when we can use either Spanish or English normally as well. Then it becomes a new language. I use it and is becoming normalized. 'Aplicar' and 'chequear' is now widely used.

trevor@kalebeul said...

I'm with Guirilandia.

I was born in Belfast, so when I lived in Holland, to get bigger portions at meals, I used to tell left-wingers that I was a nationalist-socialist oppressed by British colonialists and right-wingers that I was an Enlightenment liberal endangered by ethnic revivalism.

If someone tells me they are serious about their ethnicity I figure they're either mad or they're trying to distract my attention so they can steal my wallet.

Anyway Ian, if you're so Catalan, why aren't you prepared to come and live here, like REAL Catalans like me?

ian llorens said...

First, there's more Catalans per square foot in Massachusetts than in Barcelona, based on my visiting experience.

Second, my "Catalanity" has grown abroad, because I am not the kind of Spanish that the Spanish government is trying to portray overseas.

Third, I have developed allergy to Catalan politicians, especially Carod-Rovira, Vendrell, Huguet, Duran and Mas.

Forth, I love to live in the States and move around the world. Why can't I be a Catalan in the diaspora? Wasn't Guririlandia who recently equated Jews and Catalans?

Garci said...

Ian:

I am interested in one of your sentences:'I am not the kind of Spanish that the Spanish government is trying to portray overseas'. Could you elaborate on that? I don't recall seeing any official or unofficial position from the Spanish government arguing about Spanish people are overseas and would be extremely interested to know. Thanks

Neil said...

"First, there's more Catalans per square foot in Massachusetts than in Barcelona, based on my visiting experience."

If you believe that, I'd hazzard a guess that your visiting experience of Barcelona consists of Irish bars around las ramblas, just like the majority of other tourists that frequent the city.

Ox said...

You ARE hispanic, Ian.

Current Catalonia was part of "Hispania Tarraconensis" regardless of what you feel to be.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarraconensis

ian llorens said...

Garci,
Just go to a Spanish embassy or consulate and you will not see any signs of Spain being a multi-language country. Zero. Try to get anyone talking in Catalan to you, just out of nostalgia, zero. Monolithic Castilian whether you want it or not! The forms do not even allow you to determine the desired usage to inscribe the family name of newborns, you have to ask it as a favor to the consul. It is assumed that everyone will inscribe the names in Castilian (without the "i" between family names. And so on.

Neil,
I admit that I share one thing with Andalusians, my indiscriminate use of the hyperbole, or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally. The other day I told an American colleague, 'the other party came with at least 20 people'. He started to count diligently all the names and ask me I can only account for 12, where are the other 8. I just meant that they came with a huge delegation.
Anyway, in this case I may not be too far away from reality and remember I was born and raised in Barcelona.
You can read my experience in one of my lasts visits in this post "Zom una nazió"

Ox,
Let me determine what I am.

Anyway following your logic, Portuguese are also Hispanic because Portugal was part of “Provincia Hispania Ulterior Lusitania”

As you well know, Hispania and Spain were used before the XVI century to describe a geographical region (The Iberian peninsula) and not a political entity. In the XIII century, James I wrote in his book of deeds (chapter: “The Reconquest of Murcia): "And by the faith that we owe to God, since those of Catalonia, which is the best kingdom of Spain, the most honoured and the most noble ..."

I agree, Carod-Rovira was not born yet.

Garci said...

Ian:

In that case you are right, indeed. And it is not a justification because I agree some of the multiculturality should be explicitly expressed in Spanish embassies, but also in British, Portuguese, Irish, Swedish, Dutch, German, French, Greek, Romanian, Czech, Russian, American, etc, etc, etc... embassies. What you are saying is right, but Ian, Spain is not the only one. And, another example of cultural injustice? how many times I had to correct official s from the Generalitat to put my name correctly: Javier (not Xavier), and my two last names WITHOUT the 'i' in the middle? For some reason, even if they understood perfectly my pronunciation, they preferred to write it with the Catalan translation. I don't mind people translating my name to the Catalan (or Basque) versions, as far as I see good will in their actions. If they are fair people, it actually sounds quite cute.

By the way, you are probably the only Catalan-speaking (mother tongue) person to whom I don't speak in Catalan.

ian llorens said...

Garci,
Note that in the consulates, I am just asking the bare minimum, general symbology, inscriptions, service in catalan if a catalan speaking happens to work there, ...,not the whole array of services, that should be mainly in the language od the host country. But as per today, there is nothing at all.
Belgium, Switzerland and Singapore are better examples.
By the way, USA is still better than Spain. Despite the controversy about national language, most of the US govermental services offer Spanish as an option in their websites, leaflets and call centers and by law, you are entitled to receive medical care in your own language. There is now a service that offers video-conference translation between patients and doctors in 40 or 50 languages. I am not kidding.
By the way, I saw a demo a couple of weeks ago and after that, I decided to stick to my English. The doctor asked the patient. Do you wear a pacemaker? The interpreter said? Lleva un paseador? The guy said No. Poor guy if in fact he had a pacemaker what in proper Spanish is called "marcapasos" and underwent an MRI scan.

And the story that people tried to change your name in Catalonia, is, in my opinion anecdotal. In general, since the DNA of Catalans and Castilians is a 100 match, people assume that you are local. I believe that the vast majority corrected when you clarified that you wanted the Castilian version. Although it is true that you can find "gilipollas" everywhere, and Catalonia is not exception.

In your case, I would go for the original Basque name Etxabier or Xabier. Had Franco known about it, you would be now Mr Casanueva (Newhouse), still better than Cucufate for Cugat.

Garci said...

Ian:

Yes, probably it is better in the US in some areas. Although I think they are being overprotective with English, it is just a matter of percentage of speakers of other languages.

Well, I was born in the Basque Country and it was my parents the ones wanting to call me Javier. There are lots of urban legends about Franco, like the fact that you should have a saint's official name. SO many people have told me that, but I was not baptised as Francisco Javier, the supposedly official name to be taken with Franco, but just Javier. Closer to the truth is that it was probably more dependent on the priest' pressure on the parents.
My story is indeed anecdotal, because I know gilipollas are everywhere and I tell the same of people putting individual examples on the contrary. For some reason we tend to generalize those situations where we feel 'victims' and give accidental cause to those that do not comply with our beliefs..It is up to us to change those maladaptive beliefs.
What was interesting in your comments was your observation that the Generalitat people thought I was a local, providing a very lame justification of why they could have changed my name to the Catalan version. I am afraid, Ian, that no matter how local you are, you would not like being translated as 'Laurence' in the US. In Catalonia the presence of western Iberian last names is largely predominant (more than the percentage of Castilian-speaking mother tongue people) and they are as locals as the Prats, the Armengol, or the Llorens, I'm afraid to say.

Joan said...

al.lucino Ian...de veritat que em quedo parat i t'animo a continuar la feina que estàs fent.
Gràcies.

menacetodasociety said...

Ox has the answer. I'm not human. Let's Write tha rest.