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On “Looking Latino”

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The other day, as often happens, someone I just met said to me upon learning that I am Latino, “But you don’t LOOK Latino.” You have to understand how much this makes my blood boil. Just look at my picture below and you’ll see that I have light skin and green eyes, a remnant of my Catalan ancestry. non-Latino Americans have a certain idea of a Latino in their mind, a kind of Platonic form of the Latino. They have brown skin, black hair, maybe a mustache, and wear sombreros. So, they are often surprised when they see someone like me who is Caucasian or some of my friends that have African ancestry. But aren’t we all Latino? There are Asian Latinos too and some Latinos that are 100% native American and have no Spanish in them at all.

In other words, Latinos come in all shapes and colors. The desire to lump us all into one thing is strong in the United States. They want to put us in a simple box that is easy for them to understand. All Latinos have a few things in common: they were conquered by the Spanish, share similar but very different customs and food, and have as their ancestral tongue Spanish. But the truth is that the history of Mexico, Argentina, or Cuba are very different and we are made up of a complex racial and ethnic mix. So, to say that someone looks Latino is idiotic at best and super racist at worst.

This poem by Colombian-American poet Carlos Andres Gomez expresses better than I can what it feels like for someone to say we don’t look Latino.

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