“Is Speaking Spanish Cultural Appropriation?”
To be fair, I don’t care that much about this topic.
I speak Spanish all the time – I live in Mexico.
Got a problem with it?
Eat my dick.
Still, it’s one of those topics that you forget about when you live abroad in Latin America long enough.
Mostly because not a single local down here truly gives a fuck if we speak Spanish or not.
Sometimes, they even are HAPPY that I can speak any bit of it at all!
Mostly in areas with no tourists though.
It’s one of those topics that, for the most part, only Gringo Latinos seem to give a fuck about.
And, if we’re being honest, only a minority of those anyhow.
Anyway, this article will cover my own thoughts on this subject but, as you will see, it'll cover a wide range of related topics as well brought up in the articles I find online talking about this issue.
But let’s get to it by first defining what is “cultural appropriation.”
So I had to look up what they mean by “cultural appropriation.”
To be honest, I never really gave a fuck about this topic.
But here’s what it means apparently according to the Ultimate Academic source of Wikipedia here:
“Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from minority cultures.”
Then we have some other sources like this article here that provides a definition:
“Cultural appropriation refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that doesn't respect their original meaning, give credit to their source, or reinforces stereotypes or contributes to oppression.”
Then we have this source here from Cambridge Dictionary on the topic:
“The act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture”
So now we have 3 definitions to work with just so we can try to get some consensus on what it means basically.
The last two definitions are basically the same while the first one has no mention of trying to give respect or credit to the culture that elements are being taken from.
At any rate, let’s answer the question then before we get into the fun discussion.
Well, let’s break this down.
In the first definition, it could be argued, to a degree, that it is cultural appropriation since there is no mention of “respect” or giving “credit.”
It literally just says that all you have to do is adopt an element from a culture (speaking Spanish) and doing so can be controversial if you come from a dominant group (non-Latino white people learning Spanish).
With this definition alone, you could maybe argue there is some cultural appropriation here.
But you could also demonstrate more severe levels of autism against the folks accusing you of such by mentioning how Spanish actually came from Spain.
And Spain is a European country full of white people.
Also, "Latin Culture" has plenty of European influences.
There's plenty of white Latinos with some countries, like Argentina, which has a majority of there people being white or white passing.
In that sense, it's a bit ignorant to claim also that all Latin countries have exactly the same culture, that European influence doesn't exist down here and that every Latino is brown.
So are you really in a dominant position here?
After all, you simply might just have an interest in Spain or places of Latin America where there's plenty of white locals!
I got an aunt who is from Spain – I’d have a good reason to be curious about Spain!
And I once had sex with a white Argentine woman named Tami as you can read here.
So I'm all about Argentina! It's a cool country!
It made my head explode!
But then we have the other two definitions and they both have the additional details about respect and giving credit.
Essentially, if you adopt an element of a culture (speaking Spanish) without giving credit or respect to that culture.
Or, like in the second definition, they talk about “reinforcing stereotypes.”
So let’s think about this….
What could a non-Latino do while speaking Spanish that would be considered “not giving respect or credit” to Latinos/Hispanics or could be considered “reinforcing stereotypes.”
Honestly, most folks learning Spanish aren’t doing crazy shit with it to disrespect the language.
Unless maybe they want to lecture Latinos who live in Latin America about how they need to change their language to always say “latinx.”
That might be considered disrespectful by some….
Otherwise, the most obvious example would maybe be a gringo who goes into a Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo with the full sombrero hat, fake mustache and running around saying on repeat “NO MAMES WEY NO MAMES WEY MAS TEQUILA WEY NO MAMES WEY ME GUSTAN TACOOOOOOOS”
Yeah alright, that might be a little bit cringe for some folks.
But such a scenario would involve doing many other things outside of speaking Spanish and it wouldn’t really be the speaking Spanish bit there that pisses people off.
So is speaking Spanish cultural appropriation?
And even if it was somehow arguable that it was….
Who gives a fuck?
OK, so you speak Spanish – who cares?
Did someone die as a result?
Your mom got infected with AIDs?
ISIS burn down your house because the guy next door spoke Spanish?
Get fucking real, will yeah?
And even if the gringo was speaking Spanish while dressed in a stereotypical fashion like how these guys are in Mexico….
If I saw a bunch of Mexicans in Mexico going to a “Gringo Restaurant” and pretending to be stereotypically gringo…
Like eating hamburgers, dressed up in costumes that make them look fat as fuck and yelling “AMERICA!” several times a minute.
Eh, that’d be funny to see.
And you can’t really argue the “well you are part of the dominant culture!”
Yes, American culture has more influence worldwide but I’d still be (and am actually) a minority in this country where my culture isn’t dominant.
At any rate, this is the boring part of the article.
Now let’s break down the arguments some folks have made regarding this topic that I could find on the internet…
And I warn you: this is one long ass article.
So if you want the summary of what my final arguments are, skip to the very end under “Final Thoughts.”
And you might disagree with me also – I encourage all comments as long as they are respectful.
But these are just my opinions obviously.
Let’s get to it.
Gatekeeping Latin America & Spanish
The first resource I could find was this video here.
So, if we are being honest, most of the folks who complain about “Spanish being cultural appropriation” do not care if another non-white person who is not Latino speaks Spanish.
Like a non-Latino black or Asian person for example.
It’s often characterized as being problematic only when a white person is speaking Spanish.
And I emphasize saying “white person” and not non-Latino white person because a lot of these folks who get angry about this tend to not realize that there are plenty of white Latinos also.
They really just get angry at the sight of any white person – Latino or not – speaking Spanish it seems.
Then when you mention this to them….
They go “oh yes yes, I know! Spain exists too!”
Even those those from Spain would be Hispanic and not necessarily Latino but regardless…
But they never think about literally anywhere where white Latinos exist.
Which is literally every Latin country.
Every country down here has white Latinos who speak Spanish.
Some much more than others like Argentina, northern Mexico, Southern Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, parts of Colombia like Bogota, etc.
Venezuela has plenty of white nationals.
So on and so on.
Consequently, they tend to perceive Spanish as being “just a thing for brown people.”
The same attitude exists also when it comes to who should live in Latin America.
Many odd months ago, I remember I got into some weird argument online with some stranger who got mad actually when I suggested that white Latinos exist…
And also told me word for word that “I don’t belong in Mexico.”
I wonder if we could say if he belongs in the US or not by his logic…
In the same way should English only be spoken by white people?
Regardless, this is really all just a form of racist, tribalistic gatekeeping.
Similar to some rural beer belly spitting at non-white people in stereotypical rural Alabama saying “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!!”
Does it make it any better when done in reverse?
Saying white folks (Latino or not) can’t speak Spanish or live in Latin America?
One of the key differences between the two is that there is less mainstream backlash against the person mad about us living in Latin America speaking Spanish than the Alabama guy.
At any rate, here’s an interesting comment that I found on that Youtube video you can find here that is relevant to this part of the topic:
“yeah it does, I think Latin America is the true melting pot. Everything about our culture, our people, the food, the music takes roots from nearly every corner of the globe. The US likes to think they are so diverse, when Latin America has been doing this shit for years. I’m not going to say Latin America is perfect, because it really isn’t.
It just bothers me when people act as if all of Latin America is one homogenous race, and culture. It just feels... racist? If that’s even the right word. I think America’s obsession with race politics puts the rest of the world down. Racism is a conversation that we have to have, but it sometimes bothers me how we do it. Idk if my tangent even made sense, or was even relevant, but those are just my thoughts.
“We Were Oppressed For It! So You Can’t Do it!”
Next up, we’ll take on this argument from this 2010 article here.
And we’ll dissect the story laid out by the author who goes by the name Tassja.
To summarize, it involves 3 people in a car (Tassja, her brother and a non-white friend) with a white woman.
In the story, it turns out that the white woman had spent an unspecified amount of time in Latin America with her church.
Doing whatever church work she did, white woman observed how “happy the poor people are” in whatever community she was in. Based on her positive experience, she wanted to learn Spanish to make her travels easier.
In the car, the white woman decided to speak Spanish to the Latino friend who happened to not speak Spanish very well. Her boyfriend also doesn’t speak Spanish either.
And that’s the story basically in a nutshell.
Random white chick speaking Spanish to two people who couldn’t speak Spanish well or not at all and talking about her days traveling Latin America.
Personally, I find the story a bit weird.
If the two individuals didn’t speak Spanish, why the hell is she speaking Spanish to them and how could she maintain a conversation with them if they weren’t able to contribute much back?
Wouldn’t she notice that they are not contributing to the conversation (since, assumingly, they couldn’t understand her) or was Tassja translating her Spanish into English?
Which is all around just a funny and strange image to think about.
It almost sounds like a fake story to a degree.
But also one in which I feel Tassja, in the quotes we’ll see below, comes across as looking for an opportunity to be angry and on a moral high horse to look down on people she has racial prejudice against.
To summarize why Tassja got angry about it, we’ll quote some key sentences from the short story.
Though you can read it here since the story isn’t long as all but let’s quote what I find interesting:
“Many of us have had our parents’ languages forced out of us through English-privileging education systems. Or, we have internalized so much shame and hatred about our native languages from the white colonial legacy, that reclaiming our mother tongues is a lifelong, painful, complex process.
Language anchors our history, our memory, our connection to community; the loss and dispossession of language entails a lifetime of anguish. For the Latin@/Chican@ community in the US, English-only programs and corporal punishment by white teachers ensured that entire generations grew up without the words to speak with their grandparents.
Reclaiming language and celebrating bilingualism is therefore tied to the collective decolonization of communities of color.”
So there’s a bit to unpack here.
First, if I was to really go full autism on this chick, I'd ask her if Spanish is really her "mother tongue?"
After all, it came from Spain -- A COUNTRY OF WHITE PEOPLE WHO COLONIZED LATIN COUNTRIES!!
So, if we are sticking true to going against "white colonial legacy," shouldn't we be focused on learning some indigenous language that came from Latin America?
Again, this is the type of thinking that only an American would come up with. Most folks in Latin America (almost none) think this way.
Second, we obviously don’t know Tassja’s personal life story.
Was she an immigrant who was forced not to speak Spanish? Did she grow up in a time where it was not acceptable?
And in what context (time and place in the US)?
Because you could argue pretty effectively, in my opinion, that Spanish doesn’t seem so demonized nowadays especially with Spanish language music being quite popular in the radio at times.
Yes, you have bigoted people still in the US who make the news berating folks for speaking Spanish but the amount of backlash you'll get depends heavily on where you are.
Even in my home state in a place like Iowa City, it's not uncommon to hear someone speaking Spanish and not getting heat for it.
When I read stories like this, I always question if the author is recounting personal experiences they lived through or the stories of their parents or grandparents of which they wouldn’t have as many emotional scars from due to not being part of the story.
Because, to a degree, you have folks like that in the US who basically ride on the traumas of their ancestors in order to feel like they went through as much of a struggle as their ancestors and to be on a high horse to a degree.
That isn’t to say that she hasn’t experienced discrimination but much of the above mentioned is something I’ve noticed with some of these folks.
Third, she goes on about the “English-privileging education systems.”
Meaning schools that teach English in which the teachers want you speaking in English in class.
Again, I’d ask if English was her native language or was it not? If it was, then I’d argue there wasn’t much discrimination against her here because it was her native language.
You might say “well, she is Latina and Latinos speak Spanish in Latin America. Her ancestors did.”
Sure, but if she spoke English natively, then she isn't struggling to communicate in the school system.
That isn't to say though she has hasn't had a racist teacher who picked her out for being Latina and berated her for saying something in Spanish to another Latino student. That would be wrong and does happen.
But I would argue that's more of encountering a dickhead than suffering a type of systematic oppression that would traumatize her for life.
In the same way that, in a few parts and circumstances of Latin America, you might find someone who bitches at you for speaking English.
That's very rare to be honest in my experience since a lot of Latinos down here want to practice their English.
But I had a case like that in Bolivia where some dickhead gave me heat for talking with a gringo friend of mine.
Was it so traumatizing that I yelled out in anguish "I'M BEING SYSTEMATICALLY OPPRESSED BY A SPANISH CENTRIC SOCIETY!!"
No, I told the guy to piss off and that was it.
Also, most countries in the world have a standard language they use to instruct in the classroom. That isn’t new. That’s expected.
If I was to raise a kid in any typical school in Latin America, I'd imagine that Spanish would be the main language.
Though, from what I've heard only, private schools do supposedly have more English language instruction.
So I could see the argument here that, for sure, on a global scale, English has more value and respect certainly over Spanish.
At any rate, while I find her to be a bit melodramatic quite possibly, I agree with the obvious statements that plenty of individuals have felt shame about their heritage and how folks have felt pressure to conform to English.
In the same way how, in Latin America, you have plenty of indigenous folks who feel the same shame and pressure to make sure their own kids only know Spanish.
Just like with my last girlfriend in Mexico who told me about that among her family history.
Still, this is only part of her argument in which she is establishing the foundation for why it is bad for white folks (and only white folks it seems) to speak Spanish.
Let’s get into why now the white woman speaking Spanish was bad from Tassja’s perspective with these quotes:
“She was displaying her ignorance of the history of the Spanish language in the United States. So here’s someone who’s studied Spanish for years, without ever considering the issue of appropriation and privilege that reap her Genteel White Lady self adulation for being ‘well-rounded’ while stigmatizing the same language in brown-skinned people.”
First, how do you know she never considered any privileges she has? She might’ve sat around a campfire talking with the people she met in Latin America all night about her privileges!
Because, as we know, there are plenty of white folks who can’t stop talking all day about how privileged white people are.
Some of whom come across like they are self-hating.
It’s not unusual to see.
So she’s making an assumption there that the white woman never assumed her privilege and also that she doesn’t know the history of the Spanish language in the US.
From learning Spanish, it might be the case that she has learned a thing or two.
In fact, during my 8 years studying Spanish formally, I learned a shit ton in class about the history of Spanish in the US and also about various Latin countries.
It was often the case that each chapter of whatever textbook was dedicated to a certain country.
"This is the Mexico chapter. The Cuba chapter."
Including all the learning I did actually living down here for 6 years and counting.
And, from what we know, this lady has supposedly done a bit of traveling herself away from the typical Cancuns of Latin America.
The question I would also have is “how much learning of the Spanish language in the US and her privilege” does she need to do to make her speaking Spanish be OK?
Also, as I said before, Spanish isn’t just a language of brown people.
Then, if I’m understanding that last sentence correctly, assumingly this white woman is also “stigmatizing the same language in brown-skinned people?”
But how is she "stigmatizing" the language?
According to this source here, to stigmatize is to "set some mark of disgrace or infamy upon."
This doesn't sound like putting a "mark of disgrace" on the language.
She has respected the language so much by wanting to and putting in the effort to learn it so she can give proper respect to the people she works with in Latin America by being able to communicate with them properly.
The story we were given didn’t show any "disgrace" to the language to me but let’s move on.
“So, not only is Genteel White Lady benefitted immeasurably by the same historic conditions that ensure people in certain countries “have nothing”, but she is able to speak for those people and assure herself that they are, indeed, happy and content.”
Well, she definitely has benefited from these historic conditions.
And quite possibly the author has also but we have no idea who Tassja really is.
For example, let’s assume Tassja is an American citizen.
If that is the case, then she also benefits from easier movement around the globe from being able to get a US Passport (something she herself pointed out about the white woman).
Plus, by being from the US (like many non-white people are), she benefits from being from one of the most powerful countries in the world that, from her perspective likely, exploits other non-white countries.
Like the war we had with Iraq as a famous example of our lifetime.
So let’s not pretend that Tassja doesn’t have any privilege herself in this regard if she is from the US.
I’d argue she does to a degree.
Reminds me of this CIA video here where they had this Latina chick talk about working for the CIA and her family history.
Might’ve well as said “my parents moved from Latin America during a time of CIA funded coups. Now I am the coup!”
Is she privileged?
Quite possibly in some ways.
Then Tassja goes on about how the white woman is “speaking for” the people she met in Latin America.
Arguably, that is true.
As I wrote here, I sometimes think the assessment gringos make down here about how “the poor people in villages are so happy!” is often bullshit.
So I’d take her side on this one when it comes to calling that out.
Still, I don’t see much harm here.
People meet others all the time in a wide variety of communities and then recount their experiences and their impressions of others when talking about it later.
I guarantee you that if Tassja had met some indigenous folks in Chiapas or wherever, that she’d likely have made observations about them that she would tell others about.
As a result, could you argue that Tassja is speaking for marginalized people?
Because Tassja comes from a more privileged point being a resident or citizen of a more comfortable country than the average individual living in the Zapatista communities as you can read here.
But, because Tassja isn’t white, I guess it’s OK then even though she comes from a privileged point relative to them.
“The day when all peoples have equal access to large-scale media, when all peoples can travel with the same freedom, when all peoples have equal and humanized representation in the global cultural landscape, THEN we can talk about cultural exchange and how cultures can benefit from influencing each other.”
Well, we don’t necessarily need all of that to understand how cultures benefit from each other.
Our ability to talk about how cultures benefit from each other isn’t important to if it actually happens or not.
And, truthfully, such a world wouldn’t likely ever exist as it never has.
People from all races, nationalities and cultures have discriminated against other groups over the course of history.
Take for example the people of Latin America.
Throughout Latin American history, you’ve had countless cases where non-European groups before the arrival of Columbus genocided and enslaved each other.
Even to this day, you have discrimination against indigenous people by white and non-white indigenous people from Latin America.
Among all the cases of discrimination in Latin America against white, Asian and black people.
Discrimination all around!
You also have plenty of people in Latin America who are not necessarily marginalized but live healthy lives.
In fact, a shit ton of people are like that!
Not everyone in Latin America is some poor indigenous person living on 50 bucks a month and suffering immensely.
Also, does literally everyone in the whole world need to have access to all of these things for there to never be cultural appropriation?
What if you have two individuals from two cultures that are not marginalized simply having some “cultural exchange?”
Whatever that would look like.
Like myself interacting with a local person in Mexico City who isn't suffering.
When I walked outside of my apartment today, I said "buenas tardes" to the neighbor next door. He was cooking eggs and some shit while listening to Pink Floyd.
Is he oppressed?
I don't know but he looks fine to me.
Haven't seen him weeping into the night all alone in a dark corner muttering to himself "I AM SO OPPRESSED! THE KING OF SPAIN HAS MURDERED MY FAAAAAAMILY!"
But I could be wrong -- he might be oppressed.
Just the other day he was bitching about how the 7-11 nearby ran out of Captain Morgan Rum.
Anyway, most people I have met down here in Latin America in every country I have been to (almost all of them) seemed like pretty chill folks who were not oppressed.
Maybe struggled a bit financially in some cases but you got people struggling financially in every part of the world.
And I've often lived outside of the touristy areas and don't hang out ever at all with richer locals.
Having said that, you also have plenty of locals who have a shit ton more money than I do!
A Mexican friend of mine named Angie -- who is VEEEERY brown -- makes more than I do most likely as a computer programmer.
Her oppression these days has been not being able to attend EDM festivals because of public events being cancelled and all these days.
So, in short, not every Latin is necessarily the most marginalized place in the world and not every person in Latin America is suffering immensely.
Finally, I’ve dated chicks down here whose families had more money than me.
Not marginalized at all!
And I’ve dated others who came from poorer backgrounds but we spoke Spanish.
Is that cultural appropriation?
What if she doesn’t speak English?
What should we do? Sign language?
What if I was black? Could I speak Spanish with her then? After all, I do come from a more privileged and powerful country where I have more money in my pockets.
Oh wait – we can’t have a cultural exchange with this chick until we achieve the following standards:
- Equal access to social media (she does have Facebook and Whatsapp but not Twitter so I guess we’re not equal here)
- A passport comparable to the US for easier travel (she doesn’t have that and Bolivia will likely never have that).
- Equal and humanized representation in the global landscape (what the fuck would that look like? How do we know she doesn’t have proper representation to begin with?).
And still, let’s say some chick I dated down here like Mariana of Bolivia didn’t have any of those things (or anyone else I’ve met down here).
How are we still prohibited from a “cultural exchange” that produces value?
I can still respect the fact that she isn’t able to travel the world as easily, doesn’t use Facebook and somehow CNN fucks up the representation of her country…
While, at the same time, have respectful communication with her and we can learn from each other.
Yes, not everyone in Latin America has the benefit of those things above (which shape how cultures are represented at large).
But we’re talking on an individual to individual interaction here – we can be respectful of each other and exchange in Spanish (or English) different ideas that are valuable to one another.
The dangerous part here is really, from my perspective, you could take Tassja’s argument and find a way in which it would argue for cultural nationalism.
That if we aren’t going to exchange culture (like speaking other languages) until everyone is equal (which will likely never happen)…
Then screw it – we aren’t interacting!
In that sense, it’s arguably more dangerous because people not interacting with those of other cultures in their languages will only lead to people being more closed minded and not hearing perspectives from others.
Of course, in the mind of Tassja, I think she’d prefer any interaction to be a one way street in which white people should only listen and never contribute to a conversation with non-white people dictating it.
That’s not really an interaction either but instead a very closed minded approach to life where you don’t want to be open to the possibility that the people you are prejudiced against might have a point or not be as antagonistic as you imagine them to be.
In large part because, if we are being honest, I feel much of this stems from her having a prejudice against white people in general.
In the same way she seems to like gatekeeping everything Latin America and Spanish to just brown people (even though plenty of white people live down here also).
Here’s an interesting quote from her to end that point on.
“I’m sorry white peeps. I know it’s hard having an identity that’s negatively defined.”
Anyway, let’s move on.
Round 2: Another Critical Piece
Next, we have this Tumblr piece that you can read here.
Supposedly, a lot of this talk about “speaking Spanish being cultural appropriation” came from Tumblr but I couldn’t verify that.
Anyway, someone poses a question asking the author if it bothers them if someone speaks Spanish and if it is cultural appropriation.
I find this Tumblr piece to be a little bit less antagonistic and a little bit more fair in its take.
But let’s dive in.
“Like honestly my automatic reaction when people tell me they’re learning Spanish is to roll my eyes. Because first of all why are you telling me”
Though I think some of these folks in question might simply be trying to relate to you however you can (given she is Latina)….
I agree with the sentiment here and really can’t disagree – I find it just as annoying when a local upper-class fresa Latino runs up to me and goes “i SpEaK eNgLiSh!!!!!!1!1!!1!!”
It gets fucking annoying.
But, over the years, I try to be a little bit understanding in that some just want to be nice and find a common thing we can relate to.
Others, however, are ignorant jackasses who can’t comprehend how a foreigner could learn Spanish but that’s a topic I’ve already beat to death in my blog.
“Obviously, there are many great reasons to learn Spanish (it’s a beautiful language, there’s a lot of amazing poetry …….”
Normal reasons to learn Spanish!
Reminds me of my high school days before I was introduced to the world of severely autistic PUAs running to Latin America to have sex with everything that moves.
I almost forgot that there are other reasons for why people learn Spanish outside of trying to smash the pussy walls of the local Latinas down here.
But I agree!
It’s a beautiful language and there’s a lot of good reasons to learn it outside of collecting STDs like Pokémon cards.
“I do have a level of resentment to the fact that both of my parents have lived in this country for almost thirty years and still catch shit for their pronunciation of English, while I’m supposed to throw a frickin’ parade for some kid with two years of high school Spanish for deigning to make the effort and stumble through inquiries about where the bathroom is”
Is every kid who vomits on you his broken Spanish looking for a parade?
But as I said, I think it’s likely a case of your friends just trying to find a commonality with you.
Granted, I understand again the shit she is talking about her – pronunciation of the foreign language.
Once in a blue moon, I get shit on for my pronunciation also down here.
Though I would also ask if her resentment comes from the issue she brings up or does it come from, in part, something else?
One thing I’ve always suspected when going through this content about cultural appropriation online in the last few hours…
And thinking about some of the Latinos I’ve known from the US…
Is that, from my impression, some of you all really seem insecure as shit when you meet a non-Latino speaking Spanish better than you do.
Granted, she might speak Spanish perfectly and no resentment comes from that.
But, like I said, it’s always been my impression that some Latinos back home are like that when it comes to their insecurity about their Spanish ability relative to a non-Latino.
Imagine the resentment then when one comes out of the shadows throwing at you Spanish on a level with Eddie Murphy in this video here.
“Also the fact that efforts continue to be made to exclude Spanish and Spanish-speaking people from public schools and public spheres, while little white kids are encouraged to take it as an elective because it “looks good”, does bug me.”
Again, I’d wonder if she is cool with her non-Latino black or Asian friends throwing at her some Spanish.
More prejudice against white folks?
Well, let’s not beat the dead horse again.
Though I agree with the point she makes here about efforts against the Spanish language.
The article she quoted anyway was a Huffington Post article about Mexican-American Studies being banned in Arizona.
Which that is stupid.
And I get the contradiction she sees in which efforts are made against things like Mexican-American Studies or Spanish but yet you see individuals wanting to speak Spanish with you or other examples like that.
Still, like the point made before, her high school friends are not responsible for that action taken against Mexican-American Studies.
Their parents might be though (depending on who they voted for)!
“the real reason most people learn Spanish as opposed to another language in the US is that it’s usually offered at schools, it’s considered easier and more “useful” than French”
That and they are forced to if they want to graduate normally. In high school and college, they had it required that we learn a foreign language.
Most wouldn’t take it at all if they didn’t have to.
“And in my experience people with public school/resume level Spanish are…not great at it. Which is fine! (I mean it’s not; how much bullshit do you think Latinx Americans who learned a bit of English in school before coming to the US get? A LOT”
I agree that it is bullshit to give bullshit to those trying their best in whatever language.
Granted, if we are being fair, not all of them ever try to learn English in the same way plenty of foreigners go to Mexico without ever learning Spanish.
And, if we are being fair here, let me introduce you to that other side of the coin: foreigners like myself living in Latin America and getting shit for our Spanish.
In my experience, it depends heavily on who you are dealing with and where.
In some countries, like Colombia, Bolivia or Nicaragua, I found the people very friendly despite how good or bad my Spanish was.
In other countries, like Argentina or Uruguay…..
Or specific cities like Mexico City…
I can, more often in those areas, find more pretentious people who can act very snobby and give me a lot of shit for it also.
It goes both ways.
Truthfully, if you go to any country in the world, you’re probably going to find dickheads who will shit all over you because of your language skills (no matter how hard you try).
Even if your language skills are perfect!
Got an accent?
Prepared to get shit on.
And if you speak the language too well as a foreigner, I'd be willing to bet some of the locals will somehow take that wrong and start analyzing the living shit out of your language skills to find AT LEAST one mistake.
In the same way that, from what I've been told, Latinos coming from countries like the US to a country like Mexico are likely to get that treatment from someone down here.
“I had a conversation about it with my mother once, when I was still in, like, middle school and being really pissy about it, and she loves it when people tell her they’re learning Spanish. She thinks it’s valuable that they’re trying to connect, either with her or the broader culture, and thinks they should be cut some slack and encouraged.”
This reminds me of these videos here.
Where basically they have the older parents who are literal immigrants to the US try food of whatever country it claims to be from…
And then the children who are not immigrants themselves.
Here’s a fun quote from one of those videos:
“It's because younger people are less secure with their culture so they want to assert that they are actively a part of their culture and know things about it, while the older people are very secure with the fact that they're Chinese, like they don't need to let anyone know, they just are. Which makes them more open to trying new things because they see it as a compliment to their culture that we tried to make their food instead of an insult.”
You can substitute the word “Chinese” here for Mexican or Colombian or really any nationality from Latin America.
That’s what is going on here with the main quote above in my opinion.
The young kid who is insecure about her heritage living in a community where she isn’t part of the majority but also knows she might not be entirely accepted in whatever country her parents came from.
We all know that if the author here or if most American Latinos were to visit the country of their heritage, many of the locals would see them as being gringos.
Same thing happens at times to deported folks living down here in Mexico from what I’ve seen and heard.
And so, as I said before, I do believe that this insecurity fuels some of the resentment of seeing non-Latinos (especially white non-Latinos)…
Or even maybe white Latinos since not all of them believe Latinos can be white…
Especially if their Spanish is better than her Spanish.
For some of these folks, that might be a painful stab to feel when you see someone not from the heritage speak the language better than you do.
Which, as I said, is part of where much of the tension surrounding this topic comes from in my opinion.
Anyway, let’s move on.
“So I guess MY basic answer is if you want to learn Spanish, nothing’s stopping you. But like anything else, respect the context (the context being: not every Latinx person you meet is going find this particularly interesting, so stop bragging about it and expecting backpats. Also, honestly, NOT EVERY LATINX PERSON YOU MEET IS GOING TO SPEAK SPANISH,
Love the use of the word “Latinx.”
As I wrote here, it’s really a special few who use it.
I agree anyhow that context matters and to not speak Spanish to every Latino person in the US.
“And even if they do speak Spanish, if they answer you back in English, GO WITH THAT:”
Now can we get upper class fresa Latinos in Latin America to do the same?
Also, respect that some people are going to have personal concerns about why you’re doing it, and be kind of sore about their own issues speaking Spanish in a predominantly Anglo sphere. (Of course my absolute favorite question following the “Oh I’m learning Spanish!” conversation is “Can I practice with you?”, and the answer, obviously, is “Yes of course, my going rate for Spanish tutoring is $17 an hour, cash only, and I round up.”)”
In the same way that I have my own concerns about not wanting to converse with you in English down here.
And I love the response about demanding 17 dollars an hour – that’s exactly how I’ve always phrased it among my friends down here when complaining about locals looking at me like a free fucking English tutor.
If they want me to practice with them, they should pay me! A month’s worth of black tea and vodka!
“As for the cultural appropriation issue, I don’t 100% that’s the right term for it. I think the appropriation applies more accurately to white people celebrating Cinco de Mayo without a) knowing what it signifies and b) while being bang-up in favor of deporting Mexican immigrants.”
I agree it’s not cultural appropriation.
Though I love how again her focus is literally only on white people.
We’ll never have a productive conversation on race in this country if half the population believes that only white people are capable of doing dumb shit racially.
Otherwise, you’ll continue to fall on deaf ears to a significant portion of the population while never being open minded yourself.
I disagree though on finding it problematic for folks celebrating something like Cinco de Mayo and wanting to enforce standard immigration protocols.
And plenty of legal immigrants in our country would agree.
Nothing wrong with celebrating other cultures but every country in the world (including Mexico) has immigration laws.
Mexico, for example, deports plenty of immigrants itself.
Still, I’d agree with the sentiment of that sentence if we were to phrase it differently like “it’s cultural appropriation if you celebrate 5 de Mayo but literally just hate Mexicans.”
Which, no, someone who is cool with legal immigration and maybe even loosening immigration rules (but not getting rid of them) is not hypocritical if they also like aspects of other cultures.
In the same way that Latinos in Latin America might respect the culture of other Latin countries but don't want a shit ton of illegal immigrants from other Latin countries like you can read here.
“and to be fair: a lot of white people already speak Spanish; most Spaniards, for instance, are white, and white Latinxs exist & never tire of reminding us of the fact”
Yes, Latin America is not just a region of only brown people and there are white people who live there and speak Spanish also.
Anyway, her last point really is how about how she believes white people learn Spanish mostly because of the college credit (which is true) and also so they can speak with “poor Latin people.”
Which is false because most white people are not dying to speak with Latinos and will usually assume (though maybe not always) that you speak English if we met in the US.
Anyway, that was enjoyable to dissect the arguments of two pieces on this subject.
I only looked at what I could find on the front page of Google when looking this up so those were the two articles that I found to have the most engaging content to work with.
But this article is long as fuck!
So let’s summarize the main points I’d want to emphasize that have likely been said before in all of this argumentation.
So here are the main points that come to mind:
First, stop gatekeeping Latin America and Spanish to brown people. Latin America is a diverse region of people of all backgrounds and also Spain exists. To say that Spanish is a “non-white language” or Latin America is a region only for “brown people” is like saying only white people should be allowed to speak English or that the US is a “white country” when it isn’t.
Second, some American Latinos who were not immigrants tend to be insecure when a non-Latino person (or even a white Latino) speaks Spanish better than they do.
Third, this argument is really, if we are being honest, meant as a tool to project anti-white prejudice by some of these folks (not all) like the first author mentioned.
Fourth, arguing that speaking Spanish is cultural appropriation could logically be used to argue that white people should only stick to European languages (even though Spain is European). Consequently, this could lead to consequences like increased division between people of different races and cultures where people are even more closed minded than before due to more limited interaction between each other.
Fifth, nobody in Latin America gives a fuck about this. Nobody thinks its cultural appropriation or gets angry if you speak Spanish. It’s literally only an argument that North American Latinos who weren’t immigrants get mad about.
Sixth, on the contrary, some of the locals down here can be very excited when they see you speaking Spanish. Similar to the mother of the second author, some of them take it quite nicely.
Seventh, I agree that it’s annoying when locals want to speak your native language with you (especially if you don’t know them). Wanting to charge them money for it feels pretty natural but they never seem to have a thick wallet for such a service.
Eighth, it wouldn’t surprise me if non-Latino white liberals get more angry at this than actual Latinos do in the US. That’s just a theory anyway but they tend to get angry at things when the people who they claim are being victimized somehow are not always angry. Similar to a virgin loser going up to a woman in the street and going “iS hE bOtHeRiNg YoU?!!?!” in a nasal voice.
Ninth, is it cultural appropriation if a non-indigenous Latino in the US wants to “reconnect” with his roots and chooses to learn an indigenous language that his specific ancestors didn’t speak while the modern day people of that indigenous group are very marginalized but the US Latino in question lives in a more developed country like the US?
Especially if that person has no real ties to that indigenous group?Just asking if only white people, no matter the context, can be guilty here.
Tenth, some of the folks making this argument just want a high horse to have some moral superiority to others.
Eleventh, is it still cultural appropriation if I live in Latin America and don’t have plans on going back? Asking for a friend….
Twelfth, even if it was cultural appropriation, who gives a fuck? The real world consequences of a non-Latino speaking Spanish are non-existent. Are there contradictions in life where Latinos have been told to not speak Spanish to this day but yet non-Latino folks get by with it? Yes! But that doesn’t mean that the non-Latinos speaking Spanish is a bad thing.
Target your anger at the racists who berate Latinos for speaking Spanish in public. Otherwise, your argument breaks down to “well, my parents got berated for speaking Spanish so I’m going to berate you for it under the title of cultural appropriation.”
At the end of the day, banning people from speaking Spanish doesn’t resolve the long history of discrimination that Latinos have experienced.
Thirteenth, you could arguably make the case that telling non-Latinos that they can’t speak Spanish in the US only reduces the influence that the Spanish language and Spanish language content has in the US.
If the rest of the country isn’t learning Spanish or cares about Spanish language content, then its popularity and reach are minimalized than how they would be otherwise.
Fourteenth, I’d agree that there isn’t much point in learning a language like Spanish if you aren’t willing to dig deeper into the cultures behind it or have something deeper that motivates you. For myself, that’d be continuing my life down here in Latin America.
At any rate, that’s all I got to say.
This was one long ass article.
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Thanks for reading.