- Personal Stories & Opinions>
- The Latin American Annoyance at the Gringo Obsession with Social Justice
Over a year ago, I was living in Roma Norte of Mexico City and there was another American named Alex who moved into the building.
He seemed like a cool dude overall and it was cool to meet another American given I actually don't meet too many unless I go to expat events (not that common) or unless I meet up with one that I am already friends with.
In the early days of Alex moving into the apartment building that I was living at, there was a funny moment that is worth mentioning.
Alex happened to know Spanish well enough but he wasn't perfect at it.
And he got along well anyway with anyone else in the building (it was a pretty social place).
On one night in particular where we are all upstairs by the balcony area drinking and playing some card game, Alex (who was new to Mexico) said something that was strange to some of the people listening.
Given I was a bit drunk at the time, I don't remember exactly what he said but I remember what caused the confusion.
Alex was saying something in Spanish that didn't sound right.
And, like I said, I truly don't remember to this day what exactly he said and only what caused the confusion.
Where, for those who speak Spanish, we all know how the ending of words can end in an "o" (masculine ending) or an "a" (feminine ending) depending on the gender of the word.
Anyway, it was something like that where Alex took the word "chico" or "chica" and replaced the "o" or "a" with an "e."
So if we had to invent what Alex said, it could've been something like "el chice tiene dos gates."
Something like that.
You get the idea.
For non-Spanish speakers, the reason anyone would do that is because there is some sensitivity to like 0.1% of Spanish speakers (almost always those born outside of Latin America) that dislike how the Spanish language is gendered.
It's some major offense to trans folks but really, for whatever reason, some non-trans, non-Latino folks picked up on this latest "woke" trend of not using the "o" (masculine ending) or "a" (feminine ending) and prefer the "e" or the "x" instead.
It's something I wrote more about here.
Anyway, mixed in with Alex's gringo accent and imperfect Spanish, the "cherry on top" with his attempt to be "woke" with the Spanish language only added extra confusion as to what the hell he was trying to say.
Now, to be fair, I don't think Alex was the type to be the overly woke "social justice" type.
He was a cool dude overall who seemed normal.
Just that, for whatever reason, he felt he had to add the "e" to the ending of the words because he didn't know if doing otherwise would offend people in Mexico City.
While he had experience in Puerto Rico and wasn't a complete stranger to Latin America, I guess he just somehow got the memo that it could somehow offend some people and was just like "fuck it, sure I'll an "e" to the words if it doesn't rock the boat."
And, to his unfortunate luck mixed with ignorance, it "rocked the boat" in that nobody knew what the fuck he was trying to say and had extra difficulty in understanding him.
Now, to be fair, nobody gave him real shit for it.
It wasn't a major moment to shit all over Alex.
A Mexican or two intervened with broken English asking "what?"
Got the idea of what he was trying to say.
And Alex clarified he thought he was to add "the e" or it was "chice" or whatever the word was.
He was corrected.
Life went on.
Still, it's a funny moment and thankfully the people of the group didn't find any offense (or express it anyway) at Alex's attempt to butcher the Spanish language in the name of "social justice."
It is, however, a point of contention among some Latin Americans.
That is when gringos export their idea of "social justice" or even when they export their understanding of race down here to Latin America.
Let me give you a different example.
"Don't Say Negro"
There was a funny moment I saw in Roma Norte of Mexico City not too long ago that I'm sure I wrote somewhere else on my blog at one point.
The situation at hand involved a black American woman who got mad at hearing a local Mexican person use the word "negro" but in the Spanish language.
However it happened, she seemingly heard someone use the word "negro" in a sentence.
Now, to be fair, I don't remember how the word "negro" was used.
In the Spanish language and the Spanish speaking world, "negro" just means black and has no real negative connotation to it nor does it share the same history of how it was used in the US over years.
Still, said Black American tourist lost her shit.
Berated the individual Mexican who used the word "negro."
Said Mexican was confused as fuck.
For a similar story but in Argentina, check it out here.
It's a rare moment to be honest as I rarely see this but it does seem to happen once in a blue moon among black Americans (not black British folks or any other nationality) who don't know Spanish.
Still, said American woman was, in a way, exporting her knowledge of race to Latin America.
Though, in this case, one could argue that it was also just a simple misunderstanding of what "negro" means down here and what connotation is has.
Which, as a side point, isn't entirely uncommon for black Americans to shit themselves in pure anger when hearing the word "negro."
Most don't and keep their cool but you do find that confusion in the same way white folks sometimes get confused or annoyed at the word "gringo" without understanding always the word itself.
Anyway, her anger at this random Mexican obviously caused problems in the moment.
Maybe said Mexican even concluded all of us Americans are crazy.
But let's move on.
Americans & Latin Americans: The Opposite of Each Other in Race Extremes
As I wrote here, sometimes you hear Mexicans say that "in Mexico, we are not racist but instead classist."
"No somos racistas. Somos clasistas."
And the Mexicans in question who say that are full of shit.
You got racism AND classism in any Latin American country and both issues tend to work together (though not always).
Still, regardless of my opinion on the matter, this is another example of contention between the Latin American and the American (or Canadian, Brit, Australian, etc).
....It usually is a bigger issue between Latin Americans and those of more "anglo" backgrounds.
And, to be fair, I get the counter point.
I think it's points of extremes really.
The Latin American who is insecure about negativity of their country, is in denial and insists that no racism whatsoever EVER happens in their country.
Versus the American (or Canadian, Brit, Australian, etc) who is OBSESSED AS FUCK with seeing race in every single topic.
Truth be told, I think the stereotypes of both are extremes of each other.
And so you got examples where the gringo will bring up accusations of racism when they are not warranted and confuse the fuck out of the Latin American.
While there are moments of racism in Latin America that get overlooked for longer than they should, it should also be said that the American (or Canadian, Brit, Australian, etc) needs to be called out too sometimes.
For example, when I lived in Bolivia, there was an American chick (I think of Vietnamese origin) who I mentioned briefly in this article here.
In my time living in Bolivia, she almost seemed intolerable in terms of her constant cries of racism over every little thing.
Even to the point of pissing off the local Bolivina SJWs...
There was one moment in particular where she, as a volunteer only to the NGO we worked at, didn't like the movie they were filming one day at the NGO that you can see here and read more about here.
Ultimately, she felt the movie had "not enough racial representation" of other races while talking about Latin America.
Even though I saw plenty of non-white folks in the movie.
Anyway, there was another chick who said something -- some Bolivian chick in the NGO -- who disagreed or seemed confused anyway at her ire.
But that was it.
Nothing more important than that but not an entirely unusual sight.
The point above all of this is that you have no shortage of left-leaning gringos (or those who are not always left-leaning but who don't think about politics and bend over to whatever they think is socially acceptable to not be screamed at) who say things that are cringe to Latin Americans but they perceive as appropriate to "social justice."
A quite common example of that is the insistence to change the Spanish language to the "e" or the "x" in the ending of the words.
Or those who see race issues in every single little thing.
Like someone who holds a hammer and sees a nail everywhere they go.
You could argue a lot of Latin Americans tend to be the exact opposite (though not all) where they disregard actual examples of racism (especially if they aren't poor or working class) because they either don't notice the issue from another perspective or are sensitive to a foreigner's critique of their country.
Though I would also argue that they don't have mainstream media like CNN or Fox News bombing them with constant news of racism so it doesn't hit the radar as much.
Anyway, it's a point of contention that you sometimes see among some Latin Americans: this annoyance at the gringo who is over zealous on race or general social justice issues.
And, to be fair, there are likely other reasons for the difference between the two groups when it comes to this topic.
But that's all I got for now.
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Thanks for reading.