- Personal Stories & Opinions>
- The Mistaken Latino
When traveling through Latin America, you’ll occasionally meet the foreign white dude who isn’t from the US.
And I repeat myself – he IS NOT from the US.
When I was in Potosi of Bolivia, I was basically stuck in the city because some big protest was blocking anyone from leaving the city as you can read here.
While there, I met some German dude in a hostel and got talking with him every day about whatever.
Mostly stuff related to Latin America.
One of the things that REALLY pissed him off was how people confused him for “a gringo.”
Meaning someone from the US from his perspective.
This isn’t uncommon.
The foreign white guy traveling in Latin America who HATES being thought as an American when he isn’t!
The Canadian, the Brit or the German who reacts the same.
It goes both ways.
The Mexican Who Isn’t Mexican
In college, there was one Latina chick I remember who went to some of the same classes I did on the history of random Latin countries.
There was a professor on campus who was one of the best I ever had who gave great classes on anything Latin American history.
So I always took his classes and she was often in them also.
To seeing her around also in frat parties and other spots.
If I remember right, I think she was of Peruvian heritage?
She was actually born in the US from what I know but happened to have some parent or two from somewhere in Peru.
And there was a frat house I went to often in my sophomore year of college especially.
On one night, I just remember drinking some beer watching this movie here with other people in the room while other folks were doing other shit outside.
The Room Funniest Scenes
Side note: Buy this movie when you can. It’s not available on Google Play. I’ve been waiting for it to be available anytime now.
Anyway, I heard some noise outside the room but ignored it.
But it was some random chick from what I could hear getting angry at some random dude about something “Peru Peru Mexico Mexico.”
I was a bit drunk so I don’t remember what the hell it was about.
The movie went on.
Anyway, from what I found out later, the chick mentioned got all bitchy at some dude named Kevin that I knew about how he confused her for a Mexican.
Or someone of Mexican heritage.
He was part of the fraternity and I knew him a bit.
And she lost her cool.
I don’t remember seeing her at that frat again but it was one of the first times I ever saw some Latino get pissed at being confused for someone of Mexican heritage.
Mostly because, in my hometown of Iowa, we don’t have THAT many Latinos and almost all of them were of Mexican heritage (outside of one Puerto Rican chick and a Brazilian chick who were both exchange students).
Still, the more I got to know about Latin America and meet other Latinos, the more it became obvious that some Latinos seem to hate being confused for other Latinos.
Though I haven’t been guilty of confusing someone for being a Mexican, I have been guilty of confusing a Latino for another nationality.
The Lone Uruguayan in Colombia
Now, to be fair, my story isn’t as exciting.
It’s lame as fuck.
Nothing really happened.
No frat movies, no beer and no big tittied Peruvian women storming out in anger.
But when I lived in Colombia, I did make a trip to a city called Pereira after spending most of my time in another city called Barranquilla.
When I travelled to Pereira, I noticed right away how MUCH EASIER it was understanding the accent of people in Pereira than Barranquilla.
And also how much easier it was to understand Latinos of other nationalities than those from specifically Barranquilla, Colombia.
That’s another side point – if you can understand whatever the fuck a Barranquilla person is saying or a Dominican, then your Spanish is top notch.
Anyway, I remember hiking around Pereira checking out the Coffee Triangle of Colombia as you can see photos of here.
And I happened to meet other travellers in the area because it’s a popular area for tourism to some degree.
While hiking around closer to that bird house area of the hike in the Coffee Triangle, I remember casually meeting a dude who was taking a break from hiking at that house.
I don’t remember spending that much time in the house but got caught up chatting casually with the guy for just a few minutes.
Right away, I noticed his accent.
It reminded me of my time in Argentina.
Which, funny enough, was only a few odd months before my time living in Colombia.
I asked the dude in Spanish “are you from Argentina? What part? I was just in Buenos Aires.”
And the look of disappointment washed over his face.”
“No, soy de Salto.” He said.
And, funny enough, I misunderstood him.
I thought he said “Salta.”
Which is an Argentine area as you can see here.
And I said something like “oh cool. I’ve never been to Salta but I heard it’s a beautiful spot of Argentina.”
He responded with something like “no, I said SALTO.”
And he wasn’t a complete dick about it but he did almost seem offended?
He said SALTO again and it seemed like the dude was legit kinda pissed based off how he said it.
Then, funny enough, he tried being a dick about it kinda by explaining how “Uruguay is NEXT TO Argentina.”
I nodded away “Si si. Es un país diferente.”
Which, funny enough, I have been to Uruguay as you can see here.
But it looks nice as you can see here
Anyway, the dude wasn’t a complete ass about it but it was funny to see how the dude felt the need to clarify how URUGUAY is NOT Argentina.
In this case, I feel like he was taking an opportunity to exploit a stereotype about how us Americans are SO not worldly and understanding of geography.
Because you have folks who think that way about all of us even though most of their people probably haven’t seen as much of the world as I have and I have been to Uruguay.
I just misheard his SALTO for SALTA.
And, on top of that, maybe he got pissed at being confused for an Argentine?
In the same way an Australian doesn’t want to be confused for a New Zealander and a Canadian doesn’t want to be confused for an American.
But let’s wrap this up now.
First, the main point is you do have Latinos who get pissed at being confused for a nationality of another type of Latino.
Second, I feel the anger comes mostly from American Latinos and maybe Latinos living in other non-Latin American countries?
Despite the Uruguayan dude, most Latin Americans do not have a stick up their ass about this.
But you do have some Latinos in the US who get pissed about this confusion.
Mostly I feel it comes down to racial stereotyping.
Brown dude? MEXICAN.
In the same way that the white foreign dude gets pissed at being confused for American when he’s German or whatever else.
Third, I can see maybe how some Latinos in Latin America could get pissed at this but also, in our gringo defense some nationalities are legit kidna similar to us.
The Puerto Rican does seem similar to the Dominican to us.
The Guatemalan does seem similar to the dude from Chiapas in Mexico to us.
The Colombian does seem similar to the Venezuelan to us.
The Argentine does seem similar to the Uruguayan to us.
The Peruvian does seem similar to the Bolivian to us.
So on and so on.
Fourth, how should you go about this then?
Well, I think the most socially accepted way is to never assume in case someone cries in their panties at whatever perceived injustice you’ve done to them.
The Latino shouldn’t assume every white guy is American.
The gringo shouldn’t assume every brown guy is Mexican.
Just ask “where you from?” if you are curious during the conversation with a stranger.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
It’s a small topic but worthy of mentioning.
If you have any comments, drop them below in the comment section.
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Thanks for reading.
You have that in the British Isles also – calling an Irish person ‘British’ or a Scots or a Welsh person ‘English’ which would be quite a common mistake in Spanish I suppose – I should imagine all Brits are ‘Ingles’ in the Latin American, Spanish speaking world. The one that annoys Australians is that Americans seem to think they are from London – or is it that they think Londoners are Australians – there are similarities in the accent so I can see why Americans might get confused with that one.
There are a fair few you need to be careful the world over Russians/Ukrainians, Koreans/Chinese, Pakistanis/Indians… best off asking first, eh?