I wanted this to be my first post in Spanish … but, before I start writing in Spanish, there are a few things I want to clarify.

In one sentence, it is this: ethnicity, nationality, and language are three very different things.1

“Cutting Through the Bullshit”

So no. I am not a Latino. Though plenty have been deceived. (See Mitch, CJ, Elena, Gustavo, Soul Musings) And I think that this is great. Not only that I’m deceptive, but that it’s so easy. We assume that ethnicity is such a big part in defining who we are and that someone’s ethnicity is made obvious by how they look and how they act. But the blogosphere is doing a pretty good job of testing at least the latter.

Elenamary recently wrote a post admitting that, despite her amazing intuition, she has a tough time guessing the ethnicity and gender of bloggers:

For example until recently I thought Tortilla Sandwich was written by a male and Prentisis Riddle by a female. I’ve also been wrong about ethnicity. At first (long ago) I thought El Oso was Xicano and I hate admitting it but I questioned the intentions of his writing once I found out he wasn’t.

My intentions aside, I can’t help but think maybe we’re all a bit more human than we tend to believe. Nationality can be just as confusing. When I first started reading ICTlogy I thought it was written by a woman in England, not a Spanish guy in Barcelona. Meanwhile, WASABI I thought was written by an American guy living in Spain, but it took me a while to find out he’s actually Norwegian. And Julio … what the hell do we call him?

I’ve had this same conversation before with Joi on PressThink … is blogging a transnational culture? Or as Liza says:

And it says something either about me or the blogosphere : It’s either I am really immature or the blogosphere just crashes age, sex, ethnicity and race barriers and makes us cut through the bullshit much faster.

Like, What’s Your Chicano Fetish?

But some people ask me, if I’m not Latino, why do I read so many Latino blogs and why are so many of my own readers Latino?

Here is the story. I first started this blog two months after I had been staying in Mexico in a small rural village for 6 weeks doing a research project on immigration. Not only that, but I was on my way to Mexico once again to meet Laura’s family, stay in her hometown, and then travel throughout the entire country with her. My own life was becoming increasingly bi-national, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual.

I was dealing with questions like “how do I preserve my own identity while traveling back and forth between two very different cultures.” And in fact, I’m still dealing with those questions. So I sought out blogs of people dealing with the same issues. And the first one I found was Julio’s. Through his blog, I started reading others, and through theirs, others.

And happily and sadly, a sense of community started to form. We all found each other via each other. I started reading Xolo’s blog because Julio linked to it and Xolo started reading Wooj’s blog (I think) because I linked to it.

I say “happily” because in all honesty, I really value this sense of community. But I say “sadly,” because, the community of bloggers I recognize is almost identical to this list of Latino bloggers which Elena put together. DT also celebrates the clique of Raza bloggers. But I can’t stand it. Not because it excludes me, but because it excludes 99% of the blogosphere.

I will continue to read every blog I do now because they’ve changed from interesting people to actual friends. But I don’t like how homogeneous the “community” of bloggers has become. I think it’s time we start implementing a little affirmative action on ourselves.

Non Raza Bloggers I Love to Read

  • Chris Nelson – who does a great job documenting what it’s like to live in America as a foreigner (still Canadian citizenship?)
  • Wooj – almost enough motivation to sign up for Korean classes
  • Elenita – updated once a month and well worth it.
  • Legally Bored – love her or hate her, she’ll make you laugh.
  • Karen – amazing photography, keen insight, and the occasional reminiscence about life in Turkey
  • Thivai – a serious treasure trove of some of the best stuff on the net. And his personal reflections are a treat when they come about.
  • ChandraSutra – one of my new favorites, fresh from B.C.

And many more, but I’d be lying if I said I read them on a daily basis.

My Spanish, Your Spanish, Our Spanish

Seyd is absolutely right. It’s not “en modo” it is “de moda.” That’s a mistake I’ve made more than once and I appreciate him pointing it out for me. And he did it in a way that’s not condescending or overly critical. I’ll be the first to admit that my Spanish is far from perfect. Then again, so is my English. But I have no problem communicating in either one. The point is, people understand me. Grammar, accent marks, o’s and a’s apart, I’m able to make my point (and more importantly understand others’) in both languages.

But I have to admit, it’s starting to bother me a little bit how possessive many bloggers seem about language. When a gringo tried translating this post into Spanish, someone left this highbrow comment:

There is a world of nuances separating pluperfects, preterits and imperfects. You might be overrating your Spanish a bit. Había estado hablando con mi profesora, for instance, should be “hablaba con la profesora de español.” ¿Qué estás pensando hacer?, “¿qué piensas hacer?” Le había visitado para sus consejos en cuanto a como mejorar mi español para uso en entrevistas con los medios. You do need consejos to improve that sentence, etc.

Give me a fucking break. Do you understand what the guy is saying or not?

Let me clarify a few things. I have not taken a Spanish class since I was 16 years old. Since that class, I have learned and forgotten Nepali and then taken a year of Japanese. During that time I completely forgot all Spanish and did not pick it up again until working in a restaurant where I learned by talking to my co-workers whose Spanish was far from perfect. Then with the help of Laura, my fluency in Spanish has much improved over the past two years.

But it’s still far from perfect … and it shouldn’t have to be. I’m going to start blogging in Spanish because I want to communicate with more people … especially other bloggers who live in the same city as I do. If I make mistakes, it’s not only OK to correct me, but I ask you to as a favor. That way we’ll all learn how to speak/write Spanish better. But the last thing the blogosphere needs is people dissuading other people from writing in other languages.

The Fine Print

Ethnicity is a social construct based on biological, cultural, and even religious differences. I think the best definition I’ve read of ethnicity came from a Nigerian writer who migrated from his home country to the U.K. and then to Los Angeles. He said his ethnicity has been called Yoruba, Nigerian, African, and finally Black even though his DNA has never changed.

Nationality is defined by where you are born or where you have naturalized. It’s also based on when you were born. For example, if you were born in San Diego two hundred years ago, your nationality would be Mexican, but if you were born in San Diego twenty years ago, your nationality is considered American.

You can share the same nationality with someone despite not sharing the same ethnicity nor speaking the same language. In fact, this is the norm, not the exception. (take a look at a this list of languages by countries and this one of ethnicity and race by countries – this map of geographic origins of languages is also interesting) India is a prime example of one nation, many languages, many ethnicities, and many religions. Hopefully Revaz will write more about this as he travels throughout the country with which he shares “ethnicity“, but neither nationality nor language.

Finally, language is a form of communication that is often related to nationality and ethnicity, but just as often not. Spanish, for example, is one of four languages spoken in Spain. But it is also spoken – in various adaptations – not just in Latin America, but also the Caribbean, parts of Africa, the South Pacific, and much of Southern California and New York City. English is another example of a language which started as one of several in Great Britain, but is now spoken in countries around the world from the United States to Singapore and Malaysia.

Other Bloggers’ Recent Posts About Blogging and Ethnicity

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