I’m Haunted by Mexicans

Whenever my students are writing about Cubans, Uruguayans, Spaniards, Dominicans, Argentinians, Venezuelans, Colombians, etc., I always know that by the end of the essay, all these people will be mysteriously transformed into Mexicans. Often, I read statements like, “Jose Marti was an important Cuban thinker and the fighter for Cuban Independence. He loved his country of Mexico and worked hard to make it independent from Spain.”

The culmination of this trend was achieved in the passage I read today: “Jose Enrique Rodo, a thinker and educator from Uruguay, hated the United States and Mexico. Mexico was part of the United States, which is why he hated it. As a Mexican, he hated his own nation and wrote critically about it.”

Is there a way I can politely bring to my students’ attention the Earth-shattering news that not all Spanish-speakers are Mexican?

26 thoughts on “I’m Haunted by Mexicans

  1. I am also distressed by the way “Spanish” is often used to denote an ethnicity by a lot of people (in my experience they were all college students but that may be because this is the group I interact with most). example : “Are you Spanish?”


  2. sorry, what I posted above is incomplete. They say “Are you Spanish?” when they mean, “Do you speak Spanish?” or “are you Hispanic?” , as in they are not necessarily asking you whether you are a national of Spain.


  3. Invite guests from different countries, if you can find them locally, to speak to your classes? Maybe the individuals with different viewpoints, different accents in their Spanish, etc would help.

    I am going to Mexico for a grad student workshop for a few days later this fall.


  4. One Puerto Rican guy told me how he was irked by mainland Americans thinking him Mexican. However I thought his annoyance had a racial tinge to it, as in he complained, ” how can they say that when we Puerto Ricans look very different from Mexicans!” ( I think, he was referring to the fact that , though I am not sure if this is correct, the average Mexican is more mestizo than the average Latino Cuban or Puerto Rican who have less of an indigenous component in their genealogy). This is why I was unable to fully sympathize with his rant.


      1. But Latin Americans (particularly activists that I have heard on the radio) do frequently use Anglos as a synonym for white person, or European-american. Revenge, perhaps?


  5. It has nothing to do (or does it) with this post, but I had to share:

    student in an exam: the famous nineteenth-century Spanish writer X was a flaneur, to use the expression by the famous German philosopher Walt Whitman.

    The Rodo quote is wonderful, by the way!


  6. Tell them that in many parts of Latin America, people from the United States are referred to as Yankees. Ask them if they would like to all be referred to as Yankees.


  7. “Is there a way I can politely bring to my students’ attention the Earth-shattering news that not all Spanish-speakers are Mexican?”

    You might try pointing out that not all mexicans are Spanish-speaking?http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=MX

    In fact in Spanish when the term “mexicano” was applied to a language, it meant Nahuatl. These days of course there is a distinctly Mexican form of Spanish that can be called “mexicano” or more properly “espanol mexicano.”


  8. As a Yankee graduate student (of Spanish) said when a famous Colombian professor got the highest rank as a full professor in a very prestigious university: “Who cares? For us, s/he is just another Mexican.”


  9. When I was a child, “Anglos” would say “Spanish” for “Mexican” because “Mexican” was an insult, like the n-word.

    Since coming to live in the South I have started to identify Yankees and see them as a distinct cultural group. They resemble Americans as represented in some Henry James novels, and are from more or less the same region — the East — which I have visited but where I have never lived. Yankees, especially when Anglo, are unable to see subtlety and are very practically oriented, and they can be somewhat rude and egotistical.

    Cubans and some Puerto Ricans I know refer to Latin Americans from countries where the indigenous peoples were not exterminated, call such Latin Americans “indios,” and look down upon them.

    In California, I am technically Anglo because English is my native language and my descent is primarily from central and northern Europe. However, in fact I have very little Anglo-Saxon in me. For this reason, here in the South I am often taken for Hispanic or mulata clara, which amazes me … although I understand in a way because local white people are very pale indeed.


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