On Wednesday night the wife and I were doing the usual—sitting on the couch, her scrolling through TikTok, me checking Instagram and Twitter, something playing on the big-screen TV—when she showed me this video of that Spanish singer Rosalía.
In the video she’s on stage at a concert talking to the crowd. She singles out someone and asks, “Eres de México?” I guess the person says yes, cuz then Rosalía goes, “Me gusta mucho tu tierra.”
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It gave off a bit of that conquistador vibe. A Spaniard telling a Mexican that she likes their “land”? Not the country… Not the culture… Not even the people… But the “land”?
Even my wife, who was born in Mexico, goes: “I’m not about that political correctness stuff… but ‘tierra‘”?
It was her whole posture, too, when she said it—Rosalía—standing up above and leaning forward, the Mexican crowd member looking up at her in awe. I felt like I was back on the beach watching Cortés and them step ashore. Me gusta mucho tu tierra were probably the first words out of his mouth, too, before he gently explained to the Natives that he and his friends had sailed across the ocean with gold-sick hearts.
Then there’s the tone in Rosalía’s voice: “I really like your land.” Not “I really like your land!” but “I really like your land”—period.
She likes it how exactly?… Like how a thug says to a guy on the street, “I really like your watch and that gold chain”?… “Now RUN it!”
To be fair, maybe she was trying to use “tierra” the way Mexicans and other Latinos do when they say “mi tierra” when referring to their homeland. Like, “Voy para mi tierra!” or “Estoy en mi tierra!” or “Como amo mi tierra linda!”
Like how Natalia Lafourcade sings, “En mi tierra veracruzana…”
Beautiful, with love and tenderness.
Latinos are pretty touchy about “tierra,” though—both the word and the actual thing. They’ve seen their tierra invaded, fought over, exploited, poisoned, bought up, and outright stolen.
So Latinos are understandably sensitive when it comes to tierra. It’s like a stranger saying, “Hey, I really like your mom.” Seems innocent enough, and yet you’d have to fight the urge to dropkick them in the teeth.
“That’ll teach you to like my mom, motherfucker!”
“Tu tierra”… Maybe it’s a Spanish thing—something I can easily look up, but it wouldn’t make me feel any better if it were a Spanish thing. I’d only think, “Welp, them’s Spaniards for you—always talking about other people’s ‘land.’”
And Rosalía isn’t really Spanish, not like from Madrid or Sevilla, but is actually Catalonian—she was born and raised near Barcelona, anyway, where the people are almost as touchy about “land” talk as Latinos are—so you’d think she’d know better.
“Me gusta mucho tu tierra”…
“I really like your land.”
There is never any need for a Spaniard to tell a Mexican or anyone from Latin America how much she likes their land. We know how much Spain likes the land—we had to fight the assholes for it, remember?
The year 1810 or 1898 ring any bells? No? How about Guerrero, Bolívar?
Betances?… Martí?… Maceo?
In fact, it ain’t only a Spanish thing: NO white person should ever tell a brown one how much they like their land—at least not for another 500 years or so, till the sting is gone and the bruises have healed.
Europeans should refrain from using the word “land” in any form. I don’t want to hear no Euro talking about “land” or “landing” anything or anywhere unless they’re flying or sailing around Europe. And if they’re talking about places outside of Europe, then it’s country, but never land.
In the meantime, Spaniards especially should tread lightly whenever they’re in Latin America. And try not to touch anything—you’ve done enough touching in the Americas already.
Listen? Be our guest.
But hands off.
And when us Latinos go out to Spain—as Ro and I plan to do next year, taking a good little tour of the place like we did Italy—it isn’t to admire the land so much as to check up on all the impressive artwork and architecture that was paid for mostly by our “land.”
But let me not just pick on Spaniards or the Europeans in general, because some of their U.S. descendants can be just as bad. A lot of them will explore a neighborhood, eat at a restaurant or two, decide they like the area, and move right the fuck in in droves. You blink, and the next thing you know, all the families that were living there for generations have been kicked off the land. Rosalyn from the suburbs or whoever and all her friends can live anywhere in the world, no problem, but they choose that land to have.
It’s worse in Puerto Rico.
Featured image by Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía (Vimeo/LA ROSALÍA/CC BY 3.0)