Sunday, August 26, 2007

Reaction to "Who is a Latino"

Well, that's why they call them opinion pieces ....

In addition to a number of positive responses, I also received one very negative reaction to my "Who is a Latino" piece, by someone who felt I oversimplified the issue, disrespected the reality of the Latino experience, and basically "Disney-fied" being Latino.

I can see the author's point, and obviously, generalizations about any culture can never be fully true. But I do enjoy, and observe, and write about my personal experiences in those cultures and what they mean to me.

Like many people who speak more than one language, I find I have a different personality and a different experience depending on the language or culture in which I’m operating – and part of this essay comes from these observations. My experience in Spanish is different from my experience in English – and yes, I enjoy what I call the Latinidad of that – and my experience in Italian is also quite different. In fact, I’m researching and writing on this subject to try to delve more into these issues.

One of my goals, through my writing and my work, is to counteract the negativity against other languages and cultures in this country (which has always existed, and is escalating alarmingly now). I try to do that by putting out positive messages that celebrate the contributions of all languages and cultures here.

I am the grandchild of immigrants who had all of their language and culture boiled away by the melting pot … the language disappeared, and only a few cultural traditions remained (in my family, that consisted of a few recipes and not much more).

It saddens me to see the same trend continued today, whether it’s due to xenophobic attitudes or just the overwhelming weight of societal pressure and pop culture. There's a great loss for our country in terms of our linguistic and cross-cultural expertise (very important for our future in the global market), and a huge loss for our society, which is so enriched by our combination of heritages... but there’s also a long-term personal loss as well. Many heritage language learners, including myself, have gone back to try to find the piece of their identity or soul that was lost in that process.

So I will continue to write it as I see it, and as I experience it. It’s my way of honoring the cultures that I came from, the languages that my family lost, and the multicultural and multilingual reality that I would like to see this country achieve.

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