I Am Not Your Latino

in Politics by

I left the Latino community because it is too pro-American, and as a Puerto Rican, which is to say, a colonial subject who is only a U.S. citizen due to citizenship being imposed upon my people in order to draft us in U.S. wars, I refuse to be a part of a movement whose ideology and expressed concerns revolve around the intense desire to be a part of the United States. It would be colonial for me to support this movement, when my people have been denied freedom and sovereignty by the United States. I’d be as colonial as a statehood supporter, the most reprehensible, self-hating subset of my people, and worst of all, I’d be a pitiyanqui, the lowest form of traitor and enemy of the Marxist liberation movements of Latin American, whose ideology I support.

It took me a while to come to this conclusion. I wanted to believe that the reason I disliked the Latino community is because of bad experiences with authors, activists, and media members, but that didn’t hold up under much scrutiny. After all, I have disliked people of every race and ethnicity and gender and gender identity; being annoyed by another person is a universal concept. I then thought it was because the movement is overwhelmingly Mexican, concerned with the history and culture of that country, while I am Puerto Rican, with distinct concerns and history of my own.

That logic held up more, but did not answer the question of why? Why did the Mexican-ness of the movement bother me when I love that culture and think quite highly of Mexico and its people? Wasn’t there a growing number of Caribbeans in the community who were making themselves heard? Yes, but there was something even to that inclusion that rang hollow to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on the cause.

Then the DREAMers came along, and something about them pissed me off in a way that none of my other rationales could entirely explain. DREAMers had a compelling story, and a perfectly reasonable stance, but when they explained themselves, a deep and discerning anger grew within me, the same kind that would overwhelm me when in the presence of pitiyanquis.

The problem I had with the stories of the DREAMers is that, in order to state their case, they would say things like how they had no knowledge of Spanish, no connection to their birth country and its culture, that the only language they cared to learn was English and the only culture they identified with was American. Mexican culture isn’t like Turkmen culture, or Setswana culture, or Tongan culture—you can go your entire life in the U.S. and never cross paths with them. Mexican culture, meanwhile, is on almost every corner of this country, especially if you live, as the majority of DREAMers do, in the Southwest, many parts of which might as well still be Mexico, given how prevalent Spanish is, how many Mexican tourists visit and how many Mexican businesses are present there.

So, DREAMer, you lived in South Texas, California, Arizona, or New Mexico, and never felt a connection to Mexican culture? You were never exposed to Spanish? Really? For the record, I lived in San Antonio for three and a half years, and currently live in southern Colorado, so I can attest to just how overwhelmingly Mexican the Southwest is. Then there is the blatant anti-Mexican rhetoric in their message, which if they were white we might call racist. But because it is at the service of idolizing the United States, the Latino community looks the other way, because the attitudes of the DREAMers are entirely in line with the Latino movement. 

Observing that movement, I started seeing just how pro-American other aspects of Latino culture is, from the movies and books (which always depict “America” in an aspirational, loving, patriotic way, while depicting Latin America as either a nostalgic idyll of telenovela-style romance, or an absolute hellhole of apocalyptic proportions), to media members who, when talking about their favorite subject, immigration, would always highlight the violence and poverty of Latin America while ignoring the fact that the United States is, by a large margin, the most violent developed country in the world, with ever-growing economic inequality and the highest incarceration rate in the world. Perhaps it would just be too depressing to cover migrant journeys to the U.S. by highlighting the inevitable poverty, susceptibility to gang violence, police violence, and threat of incarceration immigrants face after leaving the war zones of Guatemala and Honduras, but the answer to that seems to be a sort of American-bred mythology that this is the land of freedom and peace, where immigrants will instead find good-paying jobs and their kids will go to college and become wealthy. This, of course, is a lie. The entire immigration narrative is a lie designed to bolster the American image as a superior culture. 

And Latinos eat that shit up. They eat it up because while activists may decry white supremacy, they do not decry American supremacy. The United States is the dream destination, the Holy Land, and for this reason, any movement that allows Latin Americans to join that Holy Land is accepted with open arms.

The breaking point for me was an episode of the show Superstore, produced by pitiyanqui and Latino hero America Ferrara, which focused on a strike at the retail store that acts as the main setting for the show. During a press conference, a Puerto Rican statehood supporter jumps in front of the camera and voices his cause. The moment lasts for just a minute, but it begs the question: Of all the political movements in P.R., why highlight this one? The answer is clear, given how often Ms. Ferrara has promoted the United States when talking about immigration–P.R. statehood is the crown jewel, the literal annexation of a Latin American nation into the American fabric. Mexicans, as much as they may love and respect the United States, would never in a million years want to be a part of it. Mexicans are proud of their country, culture, and heritage. Since Mexico will never ask for statehood, P.R. is the next best thing. This was proof to me that my beliefs are anathema to the Latino movement. The pride and nationalist fervor I have for P.R. is not represented by Latinos. 

I am Boricua, Puerto Rican, and while I may be a citizen of the United States, I am not of the United States. Puerto Rico is my home; it is the culture I love and identify with. Puerto Rico deserves its freedom from American colonialism. P.R. deserves the dignity of sovereignty. The Latino movement is colonial, self-hating, hypocritical, and conservative in how it views Latin America as inferior to the United States. I want no part in the movement.


Featured image: Flags from various Hispanic countries sit on a table with the U.S. flag in the center during the start of a Hispanic Heritage Month luncheon at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Oct. 13, 2011.  (Joshua Green/Moody Air Force Base)

Jon Marcantoni is a Puerto Rican writer and performer, advocate for the arts, and publisher at La Casita Grande Press. His newest book, 'Tristiana,' is due for release in Fall 2017.

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