What Exactly Constitutes a Real Latino/Hispanic etc…?


Around two weeks ago, I was called a fake Puerto Rican, by a wet-behind-the-ears, 16-year-old. Not sure what really prompted this statement. I can only guess, it had something to do with music. My daughter and her friend were sitting on the couch, listening to an Ipod, when the statement was made. I was in the kitchen and not really privy to the conversation. First of all, she’s lucky I didn’t backhand her. I’m one of those people who believe, I’m not a friend, I’m a parent, and should be spoken to as such. She’s also not my kid, so in this day and age I’d be arrested for assault. I just gave her a “whatever” response. Secondly, what makes her think she has a firm grasp of what I am and what I’m not?

Then again, I was reading some discussion boards and the question came up. Is speaking Spanish required to be considered truly Latino? I don’t know if it’s just me, because of my situation but, I think the answer to that question is no. Quickly about my background, I was born to a Puerto Rican father, who was actually born there, and came to New York. My mother’s parents were both from Puerto Rico and settled in New York, where she was born and raised. She was number 9 of 10 kids. They spoke Spanish to each other and English to the kids. So all of the cousins and so on, were brought up with English as their first language. Most of us understand Spanish very well but, speak it horribly. That was my upbringing.

So, should I gather that, I’m less Latino than a Spanish-speaking Latino? If I’m not Latino, then what am I? I’m pretty sure I’m human, at least last time I checked, I was :D…I know I’m American because, I was born in the United States. But am I a real Puerto Rican? Okay, maybe a Nuyorican ;)?… Of course speaking Spanish would be ideal. I don’t have anything against speaking it, or even learning to speak it more fluently. Am I less Puerto Rican, even though I was brought up with the culture, customs, food, dance and music? I just happen not to speak Spanish very well. Am I less, Latino because I’m not great at Latin dancing and Spanish music is not my preference? I love it! But I prefer Alanis Morissette, Evanescence, Sade, and not to mention, some alternative and rock music more. I was raised Catholic but, choose not to practice it, in favor of a more Eastern philosophy. I meditate, I believe in past lives, I consume a vegetarian diet, and love “new-age hippie” stuff.

Does this teenage girl have a right to call me a fake Puerto Rican? Does anyone? Isn’t it all about your heritage and how you embrace it? The feeling  you carry inside, as well as the DNA? It reminds of the issue in the African-American community about not being black enough. What the hell does that mean, really? Fake Puerto Ricans, “acting white”, not black enough etc…It gives me a headache! I suppose, my Nuyorican, rice and beans eating, Spanglish speaking,  fake Puerto Rican self, should end this post. 🙂

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