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12 November 2010 @ 11:30 pm
A rant on race in novels.  
A little wanring before you continue; there are 'bad' words in Spanish, bad spelling of Spanish words since my comp doesn't do a good job of making accents easy for me to find, and a discussion about race, or rather, the portrayal of Mexicans in novels.

I just read to different stories, written by American writer’s of European descent, featuring Mexicans in key recurring roles, and I noticed a few…let’s go with mistakes, that bugged me at first, then annoyed me, and by the time I made it to the end, just plain pissed me off.

So here’s the thing. I understand we Mexicans, mainly first generation immigrants, some second generation, and Mexican/Chicano activists, use spanglish. Hey, I use it all the time, except by all the time I really mean ‘all the time when I’m around people who understand Spanglish.’ Most of my Mexican/Chicano(a) friends do this as well, (as far as I know, I could be wrong though). But I only use Spanglish because I grew up talking in Spanish, as opposed to a third generation Mexican-American who most likely only heard a word here and there and never really incorporated Spanish into their linguistic vocabulary.

Now those stories I just read have every single person with a freaking ‘Spanish Sounding’ last name saying ‘gracias’, instead of ‘thank you,’ refer to other people as ‘senor(a),’ (please pretend I have the correct spelling here, I can never find the correct command keys for it), cursing in Spanish and only Spanish, always saying ‘abuela,’ ‘mijo(a),’ when talking about grandma to a non –Spanish speaking person, and speaking in broken Spanish. Yes, I said broken Spanish, somehow these characters manage to speak English incredibly well but when wanting to say something like ‘my poor baby,’ instead of saying ‘mi pobre bebe,’ which is the most likely way a Mexican-American would say it, (I say this because Spanish, like English, varies from country to country, and within Mexico itself, sayings, words, and their meaning, vary as well,) and instead say “el bebe pobre,” which translates to ‘the poor baby,’ meaning poor in money, like ‘the financially impaired baby.”
Also, please have a native speaker do the spell, phrase, and curse-word check for the story. Refer back up to the baby reference on the reason for the first two. As to the last, well, instead of just using ‘pendejo,’or ‘puto,’ a person could also use ‘cabron.’ ‘Cabron,’ is actually more commonly used, or at least more commonly heard by my ears. 'Buey,' actually pronounced more like 'guey,' can be used affectionately or incredibly insultingly, depending on what side of the border you were born. Also, every Mexican worth his tortilla says ‘chingado,’ in much the same way Americans use ‘fuck’ and ‘shit.’ ‘Hijo de puta,’ is a popular phrase, but ‘chinga tu madre,’ is really the mother of them all, pun intended. It’s so damn popular it’s whistled, not just yelled, but whistled, during soccer games in Mexico with its meaning clearly implied. And if you want to use a ‘darn’ equivalent, just use ‘chichuahua,’ it’s not just a dog, a state, and a city in Mexico, it’s also what we learn to say as kids to keep out of trouble.

So what’s the moral of this story?

If you’re going to write Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano(a), characters, please don’t make them speak as if they were stuck in an white neo-con approved made for network TV movie from 20+ years ago. If you’re going to have them speak Spanish, then go ahead and do so. Just, don’t make every single person speak Spanish/Spanglish, and please, do your research by asking Spanish speaking Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Chicano(a)s how/when they speak Spanish and Spanglish, and note the differences as to when/where/how they’re speaking it and how it relates to their age and cultural self-identification. It sounds hard but hey, if your willing to spend time doing research on the stages of a decomposing body, this should be a cakewalk.
Oh, and I find I’m offended every time someone I don’t know introduces him/herself to me by speaking Spanish upon our first meeting. It’s kind of racist to assume every brown person with a Spanish last name knows how to speak Spanish. So please only make this happen if you want to showcase the cultural insensitivity of your character.

Tomorrow you get a rant on why not putting much forethought when writing a 'fantasy kidnap' scene between two characters, who are lovers, can make the author look like an insensitive bitch.
Current Mood: A little tired und worn out, and a little frustrated and annoyed
w0rld4vampsw0rld4vamps on November 16th, 2010 05:38 am (UTC)
i usually stop reading by the third "mistake" though most of the time I can't talk because my spanglish is so warped.. and my spanish slang is so old (as in I'm not keeping up with the times and I sound weird when I try to keep up with my cousins so I don't even try anymore)..but yes. I understand.

*snaps fingers.. then walks away*

Lupechocmarsh on November 18th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Sometimes, if it happens once or twice in a book, I'll just bear through it and translate the slang in my head to make it flow better, but if its more than that and I find myself re-writing the story I just say 'fuck it,' and stop reading. But this was just really weird timing. I read one story halfway through because I couldn't deal with it, then picked up another and gave up on page 3, PAGE 3, because they had the Mexican guy walking into a club and talking about how hot all that brown skin looked. And that's another thing that pisses me off, because I've never read of a Caucasian male walking into a club and saying something like, 'all that pale skin made me hot,' its usually just 'all that skin,' so I hate that. That incident really pissed me off 'cause it was a book co-written by an author I love, and I had to stop right then and there because if I kept on reading and found that he'd written things like that during his section of the writing, I would have been completely pissed off. Though sometimes I just want to pick up the book again and rant on it since its been praised by everyone I've talked to about it.
hold on and don't look backvellum on November 17th, 2010 08:17 am (UTC)
omg. if i had a dollar for everytime some random person has said hello to me in mandarin chinese (which, anyway, i understand cantonese, not mandarin) i would have a lot more money than i have now.
Lupechocmarsh on November 18th, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
Yes. I keep getting asked if I know Punjabi, which I still don't understand why.