Un-United We Stand This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     In Alisa Valdez-Rodriguez's novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, the protagonist pokes fun at the claim that Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority in America. An "oxymoron" to be exact. I couldn't agree more.

The truth is that Hispanics are not a unified group. Our bigotries and prejudices are so dominant that they influence our way of thinking. No, we're not a cold people. It's because we're made up of so many cultures that conflicts arise. Then there's the countless misconceptions of identity.

Lately, films like "Real Women Have Curves" and the TV series "American Family" would have you believe that all Hispanics live in a traditional family environment with moral and spiritual codes. Magazines like Latina advertise a race proud of our brown eyes, dark complexion and exotic accents.

By contrast, the Mexican media is at the opposite end of spectrum. In the popular telenovelas, light-skinned women swoon over blond-haired, blue-eyed men. These soap operas, especially those focusing on the intelligentsia of Latin American society, focus on the Spanish side of their culture. In fact, actors who play servants are usually darker in appearance and resemble the native people of their country. Even in America, Spaniards are adamant about being classified as white and not Hispanic. They obviously don't know that Hispanic means anyone descended from a Spanish-speaking people; it doesn't only refer to the Spanish tongues of the Americas.

In my and every other family, a baby's color determines the attention he receives. Light babies are cooed at and adored, while darker ones get the leftover affection. The parents of fair-skinned babies always receive compliments about how white they look and how clear their eyes are. This seems ridiculous.

Black Hispanics have it even worse. In Latin America, being black almost always connotes a position of servitude. If you live in a minority community, it's not rare to hear Latin girls say that their parents forbid them from dating black boys. Then there's the general snobbery of those in high-society. One might argue that the wealthy are stuck-up in any part of the world, but this is exceptionally true in Latin American countries. Money equals superiority, and superiority equals belittling inferiors. I can personally attest to this.

On one of my trips to a Texas border town, I encountered a wealthy Mexican family. We were eating breakfast in the dining room. My Spanish isn't perfect, but I was able to understand that they were visiting "the other side" for the weekend to shop and vacation. They were dressed in department-store clothes and drove a mini-van (a big commodity south of the border). In comparison, I was dressed as an "inferior" in my blue jeans, not-so-elegant shirt and a horrendous but comfortable jacket that smelled of travel. While on the buffet line, lo and behold, the snot-nosed kids simply pushed past me, grabbed the tongs and reached over me for the food. The parents just stood there, and when I shot them an indignant look, their noses shot straight up into the air. The caste system in Mexico is unbelievably unscrupulous. The rich sneer at the poor. Rich girls don't marry poor boys or vice versa. It's that simple.

Thinking of us as one ethnic group is as erroneous as classifying all East Asians as Chinese. Mexican Americans don't have the same experience as Cuban Americans. While Cubans were trying to flee Communism, Mexicans were fighting for equal rights. Puerto Ricans fought for street cred in New York while Central Americans sought to build communities of their own.

"Hispanic" is a generic term that is unacceptable. It implies that all Spanish speakers belong to a monotonous race, when in truth we're as diverse as the colors of the rainbow. Plus, our antipathy toward each other clearly shows that we're not united for acceptance. Maybe people should stop looking at themselves as part of a single race and rather see the broader picture: we are all part of mankind. Shouldn't that be enough?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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