A Strenuous Irish Objection to the Latino Use of 'Anglo'
By Maribeth Bandas
If you must, you can call me Gringa, but please, don't call me Anglo. It's offensive, and has all my Celtic ancestors spinning in their graves.
To my Peruvian high school friends, I will always be Gringa, but that's my mother's doing. My Irish-American mother named me after everyone she could think of, and ended up with too many th's in my name for Spanish speakers to pronounce.
Maribeth Catherine is a mouthful, even in English. Hence, when I was a child growing up in Lima, my best friend, Lourdes, started to call me Gringa. I protested vehemently, but have been called Gringa by all my Peruvian friends since.
'GRINGA' AS A TERM OF AFFECTION
Gringa, in Lima at least, is used as a term of affection, like Gorda, Flaca, Negra orChina, names given to anyone foreign-born or blond, chubby, skinny, dark or Japanese, as the case may be. My parents decided to immigrate to Perú when Nixon was reelected, so my sisters and I grew up bilingual and culturally Peruvian.
We prefer ceviche to corned beef and cabbage, we put mustard on our french fries, and we drink Inca Kola. We speak English en familia, Spanish to kids and cats, and Spanglish with a privileged few.
We are Bolivian, Guatemalan, Irish and BANDAS Mexican, nary a full-blooded Anglo among us. The only one to come close is my husband, Héctor Ericksen-Mendoza, who was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, the son of a Zapotec mother, Sebastiana, and a U.S.-born father, Charlie. Suegro Charlie's mother immigrated to the United States from Yorkshire, England, as a teenager.
But I would never call Héctor an Anglo.
Our family gatherings are flavored with tortillas, ajíes, and arroz con polio, but no Yorkshire pudding whatsoever.
Anglo is a colonial term, ultimately referring to the conqueror's language. This is why Africa is divided into Francophone and Anglophone.
Many U.S. Hispanic activists use the term Anglo to refer to all white English speakers. So do reporters of all stripes.
Such loose use of language bothers a great majority of us Irish Americans. Among ourselves, we complain. We take offense at being equated with Anglos. Anglo is to Celtic what Cortés is to Moctezuma.
Do Hispanics who no longer speak Spanish cease to be Latino and become Anglo? .
Curiously, Hispanic and Irish culture share many traits. Some say that Catholicism, the love of family and a flair for blarney unite so many of us. That may be why my two sisters and I, an uncle and a cousin, all married Latinos.
My sister Christine, however, swears there was something in my mother's water. My other sister, Meg, and my cousin Amy are tall, beautiful güeras, and their husbands, Willie, from Guatemala, and Fernando, of Spanish-Canadian descent, are correspondingly tall, dark and handsome men. Both couples are very striking, and who can resist movie-star beauty? Just look at Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas.
OUR HUSBANDS ARE 'CHATOS,' SHORT AND DARK
The rest of us are very well matched, too. Christine's husband, Oscar, from Bolivia, and my husband, Héctor, are chatos, short and dark, just like us, so it's not only opposites that attract.
All the children from these Celto/Hispanic marriages are gorgeous, proof that mixtures are the most beautiful of realities.
So many mysterious and fascinating cultural combinations abound. As offensive, misused terms like Anglo disappear, so will our children's identity cease to be an urgently "either/or" equation. They will know better than we do how to live -- to find personal enrichment -- in this kaleidoscope of cultures. Their value systems will go far beyond skin color, mother tongue or stereotype.
As they are growing up, we will call them by whatever endearing Spanish- or English-language nicknames fit. What we won't call them is Anglo.
(This was reprinted from a March 8, 1999 article written by Maribeth Bandas for Hispanic Link News Service)