With a green card that formally and officially names me as a “resident alien”, I’m the certified foreigner in our household, not my Hispanic partner of eleven years who is first-generation American, of Mexican descent, but who is resoundingly and red-bloodedly American.
He wears khakis and polished black loafers, loves to golf, reads business magazines like Fortune and Forbes. He works at The New York Times, arguably one of the most establishment of employers, and has for decades. He drives a Subaru, drinks gimlets, takes the commuter train to Grand Central Station every weekday with legions of lawyers and media guys and non-profit executives.
He’s just one of the guys — even if he keeps a bag of pozole in the freezer and a beloved black pottery pot of his Mom’s from New Mexico, where he was born and raised.
But that’s about it. Issues of race and identity are much less compelling to either of us than the usual mid-life, mid-career questions:
When and where will we ever be able to retire? What’s for dinner? What are we doing this weekend?
Which is why I found this Wall Street Journal op-ed, by Janet Murguia, decidedly odd:
Like others who brought demographic change to America, our presence has stirred anxiety among some of our fellow Americans. A century ago, people expressed the same concerns about waves of immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europe. It was understandable—but it also turned out to be unfounded. As the number of Latinos grows, our fellow Americans need to overcome the natural human anxiety that accompanies change and look for common ground…
It’s time for people to stop thinking about Latinos as “foreigners,” “aliens,” or “others” and start thinking of us as their fellow workers, classmates, colleagues, worshippers, neighbors, friends and family.
I’m clearly missing something here. I don’t see someone Latino and make any specific assumptions about their education or income or legal status.
We’ve attended meetings of NSHMBA, the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.
When I hit my local grocery store, in suburban New York, an aisle is devoted to Latino favorites, many made by the successful firm of GOYA, founded in 1936.
My local car wash is run by a man from Colombia, a successful and hard-working man who employs other Latinos in his community.
Two of the most talented young recent college graduates I know are a photographer and a journalist; he’s won major national awards and she’s heading off to the Los Angeles Times soon for a job there.
When I see Hispanics and Latino(a)s, I see my in-laws, friends, neighbors and colleagues, all of them hardworking, talented, ambitious — and American.
Yet when Jose and I started dating, after he found me on-line, (under the truthful headline “Catch Me If You Can”), friends started pelting me with absurd cliches:
“Does he dance salsa?” “Does he wear a guayabera?”
This is a guy whose Times colleagues dubbed “the preppy Mexican”…which left him nonplussed. Was this a compliment? Can’t Mexican men wear Brooks Brothers and Barbour and LL Bean?
I lived in Cuernavaca, Mexico for a few months when I was 14 and have been back to Mexico many times. I speak Spanish and it feels like home to me in some strange way. I have never understood why brown skin and a Hispanic surname offer license for all sorts of appalling stereotypes.
I’m aware there are millions of illegal aliens of Hispanic descent in the U.S. — while millions more, legally resident, also work hard, pay taxes and yearn for the same successes we all do.
Do you date or live with or did you marry a Hispanic or Latino(a)?
How, if at all, has this changed your life or your ideas?