(For some stupid reason, I assumed they were professors of said college. Why, I’ll never know. Mea culpa.)
The day after it was posted, they sent me an email, which I’m publishing with their authorization:
From: Gilbert Guerra
Date: Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 12:10 PM
Subject: Re: You Say “Latinx”, I Say Whatx
To: José Simián
Cc: Gilbert Orbea
Dear Mr. Simián,
We recently read your article about Latinx that on rictusco.wpengine.com that critiqued our own article about “Latinx” and found it quite funny. We laughed. Ha. Ha.
In all seriousness, we would appreciate it greatly if you could share a bit more of your thoughts on “Latinx” with us. For example, you put forth that Latinos as an all encompassing term is insufficient and patriarchal, while at the same time acknowledging that adding an X to the term won’t do anything to educate simple peasants such as ourselves. What then is your suggested alternative to include non-binary people within Spanish? And what did you think of the other arguments we made in our article?
Please help us in our quest to become less stupider.
From: José Manuel Simián
Date: Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 3:21 PM
Subject: Re: You Say “Latinx”, I Say Whatx
To: Gilbert Guerra
Cc: Gilbert Orbea
Dear Messrs. Guerra and Orbea,
Thanks for writing, and for the good sense of humor in spite of my rather unnecessary use of the S-word (as my 7-year old son calls it). As for your alleged peasant status, I doubt it applies to this situation. After all, you are the ones writing a long, thoughtful article in a respectable publication, while I am writing a short post on the fly on a snarky blog and resorting to playground insults.
Moving on to the your text, I quoted that particular section because affirming that “Latinos” is a “gender-neutral term” makes you sound as if you don’t understand the nature of the problem, i.e: that in Spanish the so-called gender-neutral plural terms happen to be the plural male nouns, or to put it in more conceptual terms (as I learned from Catharine MacKinnon when she writes about the alleged gender-neutrality of legal norms), that the male epistemology has become the ontology. I assume that you understand the nature of the problem and the debate, so I’m still puzzled as to why you would make a linguistic argument for the gender neutrality of “Latinos.”
On a related note, I don’t really understand why you argue from Spanish grammar or speak of “linguistic imperialism” as if this debate impacted the Spanish language. If I have followed correctly (and you acknowledge this in your article), the term “Latinx” is used in the United States, and among people who mostly speak English, not Spanish. I don’t see people in Latin America too concerned about this or who feel that their language is threatened. I don’t even see people who predominantly speak Spanish in the United States too concerned about these conceptual matters, either.
To your question, I don’t have a better alternative. Maybe a better term than “Latinx” will emerge and will catch on (it would be great), but I don’t have the answer. This is, sadly, one of those lose-lose situations, in which the solutions (like “Latinx” right now) are sometimes clumsier than the original alternative. In my country of origin, Chile, the first female president, Michelle Bachelet, made a point of addressing Chileans as “chilenos y chilenas” in every speech, and even though it felt good, it was certainly cumbersome. The language will keep evolving, because and in spite of imperialisms and other cultural forces, and maybe one day we’ll have actual gender-neutral words.
Again, thanks for writing. I need to go back to my stupid work now.
All the best,
Even if I disagree with them about this topic, I’m amazed. I wish I could have written something like this while in college. And if you’re not impressed already, you should read this response to their piece, written by two of their fellow students.
A new hope, indeed.
Why 6 of YouTube’s top 10 music videos of 2017 are in Spanish, explained
YouTube released its annual list of the most popular music videos of 2017. 6 out of 10 of those videos are in Spanish, but more specifically, they’re from reggaetoneros. How did this happen? I’ll tell you.
First, let’s look at the list:
- Luis Fonsi – Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee
- Ed Sheeran – Shape of You
- J Balvin, Willy William – Mi Gente
- Maluma – Felices los 4
- Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like
- Chris Jeday – Ahora Dice ft. J. Balvin, Ozuna, Arcángel
- Nicky Jam – El Amante
- Jason Derulo – Swalla (feat. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign)
- DJ Khaled – I’m the One ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne
- Enrique Iglesias – Súbeme a la radio ft. Descemer Bueno, Zion & Lennox
1) So reggaeton is super popular now, huh?
Duh. It’s been mildly popular in Latin America since the late ’80s, but in the mid ’00s Daddy Yankee’s Barrio Fino LP essentially propelled the scandalous genre into the big leagues. I recently covered reggaeton’s mainstream success in this long-ass rant.
2) You knew “Despacito” was gonna be on the list, but how come it’s not the Justin Bieber remix?
“Despacito” was already popular in the Spanish-speaking world way before the Canadian got to it – in fact, I think the song had been out for almost 6 months when Justino Bieberto released his own “remix” (basically the same song sprinkled with some new phrases on top).
If 5 other Spanish-sung tracks made it to YouTube’s top 10 without Bieber’s help, it’s a curious indication that Justin probably helped himself out more than he helped Fonsi-Yankee.
3) How come Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Britney, or any of America’s most popular singers are not in the top 10, since they usually dominate it?
Well, not all of them have released new music. Taylor Swift did, and the fact that she didn’t crack this top 10 is quite interesting.
But also not interesting at all, because maybe, just maybe, audiences might finally be tired of listening to the same 4 Swedish producers over, and over, and over.
Reggaeton is old hat to most Latinos, but to an international audience, that shit is fresh.
4) But, but, but AMUUURICAAA, nationalism, the English language, Trump, white power!
Listen, ever since MTV became a thing, most white teenagers in America want to be anything but white, even if the Trump era appears to say otherwise. Those same teenagers may turn conservative country music lovers later in life – it happened to my skater friends from high school — but, as young bucks, that “urban” lifestyle really titillates white people. That’s why Eminem is, much to the horror of this writer, still a thing.
Point is, reggaeton plays into all of the “urban” aesthetics, plus white America always has a Latin-curious thing going on (see “La bamba,” “Rico suave,” “Macarena,” “Suavemente,” or any other crossover hit).
5) Is reggaeton even reggaeton anymore? Or “urban”? Or whatever the fuck?
Nope. Besides a few exceptions, current reggaeton is basically just regular pop music with a different backup track (drum machine pattern, mostly). The original reggaeton, which was offensive, misogynist, political, highly sexualized and demonized, has been sanitized for mass consumption.
Again, I covered all of that here.
6) Are that many people in the US really, really listening to watered-down reggaeton? Let’s talk numbers.
Yes and no. This YouTube list is a global list, not just an American list. That indicates that a lot of people in the rest of the world also caught the reggaeton fever. But, speaking of numbers, there’s another possible reason as to why this genre suddenly blew the fuck up on YouTube.
There’s over 600 million people in Latin America. That’s double the amount of US Americans, but people Latin America may not be consuming their music the way many Americans do. I speak of iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, etc. Some of those are paid services, and I’m inclined to believe most people in Latin America are not paying for them. Americans probably are.
I hypothesize that people’s personal radio stations in Latin America consist entirely YouTube videos, and not Deezer/Pandora/Spotitidaltunes playlists. All of this means that Americans may be amassing more numbers on paid services instead of just YouTube.
7) How come there’s no women on this list?
Well, check out #3 again, but also know that there’s not that many reggaetoneras, which is a shame.
At some point, Ivy Queen managed to develop an audience, but, sadly, she’s a bit past her prime now, and I really can’t see her making a significant comeback. There’s a few new prospects, such as Tomasa del Real and Ms Nina, but I can’t see them being allowed into the Balvin/Maluma/Yankee/Jam club anytime soon.
There’s also Cardi B., and she sings reggaeton songs in her car, nail salons, and other places, apparently. But she’s not really a part of the reggaeton boom — not yet, anyway. (Give it time, though.)
8) Um, is Enrique Iglesias technically a reggaetonero? Wasn’t he, like, some dorky rich kid in loose sweaters?
Enrique was a dorky rich kid in loose sweaters, but that was back in the ’90s. Later he moved to Miami, started hanging out with Pitbull, Wisin & Yandel, Romeo Santos, and “reinvented” himself as a dorky rich kid with reggaetonero friends. Now he piggybacks off whatever trend is popular in the mainstream, just like most global stars, really.
It’s good for Quique’s career, I guess. But probably not for his lineage, since his dad appears to be ashamed of him. Isabel Preysler, his mom, is dating Mario Vargas Llosa, a Nobel laurete, so I can’t imagine her being super proud of her use-an-ass-as-a-pillow son:
So now you know.
Dramatic messages from my aunts hinder my process of trying to become a normal person
Sometimes I peek outside my bedroom window, look at people’s ugly hairdos from afar – I live on the 4th floor of a dilapidated building in the Lower East Side – and wonder, “why can’t I be like them? Why can’t I go on with my life without being obsessed with petty shit? I, too, wanna enjoy Froyo. I wanna mingle with strangers, talk about the weather, and play frisbee in a park while listening to Maroon 5.”
But I can’t.
I can’t because of my family – specifically, my dramatic Mexican aunts – and the way they work up my neurosis. My mom is fine; she’s a stern, quiet, austere militant woman. But my aunts, whom I love and have a close relationship with, somehow passed a telenovela-esque gene my way.
Need proof? Here’s a redacted message from one of my tías. She sent it to me today at 3 in the fucking morning:
Which loosely translates to:
“She’s like a sister to me and I’ll be really sad [if she leaves]. I’m going to miss her. Another bitter Christmas for me. God, what a cruel life. Alright, mijo, take care of yourself!”
My aunt is upset because my mom – her sister-in-law – is considering moving from California to Oklahoma, where my sister lives. Now my aunt is close to committing suicide, or something.
But the best – and most dramatically endearing – part of her message is her cute, modest sign off: “alright, mijo, take care!” Like she just didn’t tell me her Christmas is about to be ruined by my mother.
Then again, it’s also genuinely endearing that she has such a strong connection to my mom, a woman she’s not genetically related to. The Latinos-are-super-family-oriented stereotype doesn’t usually sit well with me. Half of my immediate family does hate each other and, although movies like Coco show otherwise, Latino families can be just as fractured as any.
But my aunts are cool. I still love them, even if they hinder my process of trying to become a normal, Maroon 5-loving person.
Just kidding. Maroon 5 sux. I wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.
Oh and the woman pictured in this post is not my aunt, but Talina Fernández, an aunt-like woman whose dramatic statements have been seared into the collective memory of many Mexicans:
Hearing an American boy disrespect his mother culture shocked the sh*t out of me
Sometime in the late ‘80s, when he was still in grade school, a Mexican boy hounded his mother in a Target store in California. He wanted something, she wouldn’t budge.
The woman, a working-class mom of one boy and girl, came from an austere background. Having raised half of her 11 siblings when she was still in a teenager in Mexico, the woman was privy to the psychological tricks most kids use when they guilt their parents into buying them goods.
Still, the mom was a fair person, a trait she demonstrated a year before when, after months of suffering through her children’s nagging, she bought them a Nintendo. It was an expensive gift, especially for a working mom whose husband only chipped in the bare minimum for immediate necessities. Her kids were usually well-behaved, so she acquiesced, but with a warning: “I’m not going to buy you anything for the rest of your lives.”
Her children were fine with the clause.
But there was an unforeseen catch, at least for the kids: the expensive entertainment system was shipped with only one game – Super Mario Bros. – and the mom, not exactly a tech savvy woman, cared little about the mechanics or playability of the gizmo.
Her children asked for a video game console, not a console and a bunch of pricey games, so her kids had to make do with whatever came inside the Nintendo-branded box.
As a result of playing the same game for over a year, those kids learned to beat Super Mario Bros. with their eyes closed. Once the initial excitement wore off, playing the video game was no longer a cool pastime, but redundant task, and the Nintendo experience came up very short.
But before it fully became a devil’s bargain, that day, at that Target store, her son’s persistence actually got to the Mexican woman. After a year of constant harassment, the boy’s plea broke her impenetrable, ironclad contract, and she agreed to buy her children – her son, specifically – a new game.
She didn’t explicitly agree – she never did. The woman’s way of saying “yes” was simply avoiding the word “no.” Her almost military approach to education would probably be seen as some form of psychological abuse in these modern, befriend-your-child times. But even if the kids were too young to understand her methods, they understood her signals, or lack thereof.
Hardened Mexican mothers believe in resilience, not fragility, and their faint leniency still comes with limitations: “Pick one game – and not the most expensive one,” she warned. In order to pacify that frenzied Mexican child, Target employees would’ve needed to drown him in vat of potent anesthetics, but another boy’s shopping experience – an American whose mother was also by his side – did the trick.
The Mexican boy, too excited to think clearly, was curious about which game the other child was going to choose. The American boy, blond and blue-eyed, was wearing British Knights, a very coveted pair of sneakers, and the Mexican boy, sporting no-name kicks, assumed the other gamer normally got his way.
Because boys with MC Hammer’s shoes always got their way.
“Pick one, Johnny – and hurry,” ordered the American mother. A Target employee was standing behind her with keys to the display case. “Surely he’s played a lot of these games before, so he’s probably going to pick the best one,” the Mexican boy surmised.
“Don’t rush me, mom! Stop being such a bitch,” the American boy replied.
“Fuck the Nintendo game – I’m about to witness a murder,” the Mexican boy thought to himself. He expected the American mother to pick up her son, toss him face first into the unopened display case, and warn the boy that if he cried while picking out glass shards from his forehead, she was just going to kick his ass all over again, but in the car.
That’s what the Mexican mom would have done to her son, but the American mother just rolled her eyes, grumbled, and cautioned: “Johnny, keep it up and I’m not going to buy you a damn thing.”
Her son, too, rolled his eyes.
Flabbergasted, the Mexican boy looked at the Nintendo games, his mother, who was browsing through merchandise one aisle away, and his ugly shoes.
The American boy picked Super Contra. The Mexican boy picked something else.
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