actually, i’m not 100% sure about the census

I’m a person that gets road rage. Intense, shrieking, cursing at the top of my lungs, threatening violence kind of road rage, and it’s not mitigated by the fact that it’s primarily as a backseat driver, and most of my rage is directed at Other Half, the usual driver in the car I’m sitting in. Other Half drives like a geriatric hell-bat, which is to say, somehow both slow and reckless. I don’t know how to explain it. He weaves in traffic but drives far less than the speed limit; blows through stop signs but rubbernecks at parallel parkers, driving so slowly by them I finally feel compelled to scream, “WHAT are you doing? GO!”

“You scream too much. What’s wrong with you?” Is his reply.

“I can’t help it! It’s my Latin temper, you know that.”

“You’re not Hispanic,” he says.

Oh. Oh, he knows, this is a sore spot for me. I am too Hispanic. My grandfather was Mexican, my father is half Mexican, half American, and that makes us 1/4 Hispanic, which totally counts in census surveys. It’s just hard for most people to realize, because my siblings and I are LOLs, less obvious Latinos, what with our being overly Caucasian and not speaking Spanish and all that. That last part is extra tricky, we know. Still, it’s apparently impossible for most people to understand that Hispanic is an ethic designation, not racial; they want you to look a certain way, and that way is, for example, Sofia Vergara. Which is hilarious, when you think that Sofia Vergara is a natural blonde and had to dye her hair brunette to get work as “Latina Woman”. Only when I joined the Hispanic Law Students Association in school was this not a problem; all the other LOLs in the organization seemed unfazed.

I have an American mother and was raised on a farm in Tennessee, all in English, so I have no real connection with our Mexican roots. This used to make me furious. I distinctly remember coming home from school the day we learned about the Day of the Dead festival, slamming my backpack to the kitchen floor and shouting accusatorily* at my parents, “Why don’t WE celebrate Day of the Dead? Why don’t we speak Spanish? We are the most half-assed Mexican-Americans in the country!!”

 “Eh,” my dad says, “Day of the Dead isn’t big in Mexico.”

This is what we had to deal with.

Several of us studied Spanish in high school or college, but we’ve never become fluent. My brother lives with a fluent Spanish-speaker (she is more obviously latina…show-off.) and I am pretty sure he still speaks the same 5 or so words he would’ve remembered from Lesson 1 of a Learn Spanish in the Car! tape set that I may or may not have given him back in the mid-90s. Another brother somehow found himself head of the Latin American division of a large corporation, the only non-Spanish speaker in the department. They had to run the meetings in English when he was there.

I know it’s not too late, of course. People do learn foreign languages as adults. We could actually apply ourselves and try to be slightly-more-obviously-latino, though I am not sure what to do there’s about all the blue and green eyes in the gene pool. Learn Spanish in the Car! must be floating around in someone’s glove compartment. Plus it might distract from Other Half’s mind-boggling driving skills (and I mean mind-boggling in a maddening, insane, wholly negative way) – I know, he’s probably right about me screaming so much. If I’m going to have a Latin temper, I should at least be screaming at him in Spanish.

 [* Enjoy that virtually unused adverbial inflection of the rarely used adjective “accusatory”.]

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  1. Trackback: yoga ptsd. it’s real. « angelaperalta
  2. Trackback: travel day: my childhood « angelaperalta

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