Hispanic Heritage Month
September 17, 2002 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Hispanic Heritage Month began in the U.S. this past Sunday. Food, music, dance, art, language - our lives are richer for the far-reaching cultural contributions of our Hispanic neighbors. Who or what aspects of this varied culture would you join me in toasting this month? Me, I raise my glass to some of the wonderful contemporary artists who keep traditional folk themes alive.
posted by madamjujujive (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I personally toast the Gypsy Kings. In my educated opinion, I think they're totally badass.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:29 AM on September 17, 2002

And let's not forget that all five Central American countries celebrated independence day on Sunday (the 15th).
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:35 AM on September 17, 2002

and Brazil on the 7th, Mexico on the 16th, and Chile on the 18th.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:37 AM on September 17, 2002

And then there's those artists with a surprisingly fervent fan base who aren't Hispanic at all ...
posted by maudlin at 9:37 AM on September 17, 2002

I, for one, welcome our new Blort overlord.
posted by euphorb at 9:51 AM on September 17, 2002

Hey - since when is Brazil Hispanic? Or does Hispanic just mean South American? I'm always confused. What's the difference between a Latino and a Hispanic? Are Spaniards Hispanic? I certainly hope we Portuguese aren't considered Hispanic...!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:53 AM on September 17, 2002

Mmmm... the food. If It has green chile, especially Hatch green from New Mexico, then I'll eat it. The harvest just started last week. I always wish I was still in NM for September and October. It smells so good when the roadside vendors roast the chile for you. I hope my Mom sends me at least a 1/2 bushel this year.

I love the musical group Willie and Lobo. Their album Gypsy Boogaloo is great. They may not both be Hispanic, but their music is definitely inspired from the areas where they studied.
posted by onhazier at 9:53 AM on September 17, 2002

I'm always confused too, migs. Most of the people that I'm friends with from Brazil have lived in various parts of latin america as well (Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, etc.). Even though they are Brazilian, they still consider themselves part of the "latin-american" scene. So technicalities aside, (and I doubt we'll ever see a "Portuguese-American History Month") let's give a big thumbs up to the brazilians too, eh?
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:59 AM on September 17, 2002

I toast my girlfriend, one of the finest things to come from Mexican heritage. :-D

And the food. Oh god, the food.
posted by askheaves at 10:05 AM on September 17, 2002

Miguel, Hispanic usually means any group with the Spanish conquests (and the subsequent siring of Meztizos) in their history. That means Mexico, Central America, South America, plus the Dominicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, etc. Not positive about Portugese. Do they fit that description?
posted by Gilbert at 10:07 AM on September 17, 2002

I'm up to my sombereo with months for this and months for that...enough. Say hello to someone from whatever group needs some public relations. Eat ethnic food. Dance if you will. But stop announcing months. There are only 12 (last count; has Bush changed this for security reasons?) and many more groups to toast and to celebrate. Why not simply American citizen month? and eat at a fast food place.
posted by Postroad at 10:14 AM on September 17, 2002

Thanks, Gilbert. No, the Portuguese don't. We have a lot of mestiços of our own, so to speak, from Brazil to Macao, via Africa, India, you name it. In fact, the Spanish Empire, compared to ours, sucked. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2002

And right, Ufez! I'm sorry, I hadn't read your comment yet. The more the merrier! I'm sure these things are 30 times more fun in the U.S. than anywhere else, precisely because everybody's interested in everybody else's music, food and what-have-you.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2002

I grew up in the US near the Mexican border and miss the culture terribly. I'm Anglo but was in the demographic minority by a few fractions in my hometown. My boyfriend of three years was mestizo but his family called me mija. Most of my memories tie into the food as well...churros y chocolate con chile, his abuelita starting the menudo on Friday so we could have it Sunday morning, nopalitos, saladitos, abuelitas going door-to-door to sell their homemade tamales, oh--green corn tamales in harvest season, Pico Limon candy, tamarindos....and those amazing Hatch chiles. What I wouldn't give for a waitress that asks, 'red or green' after she takes my order!
posted by teenydreams at 10:28 AM on September 17, 2002

My favorite bits of Hispanic culture are the Day of the Dead (which is honestly a wonderful idea - celebrate the afterlife instead of fearing it - although I might be sorely mistaken here) and those brightly colored folk-art monsters. I wish I knew the proper name for those - I've always wanted one for my home. The ten-legged lion-scorpions, the blue giraffes - anyone else know what I'm talking about?

(And, of course, the food - I lived for a few years nearby a very good authentic Mexican restaurant; enfrijoladas for breakfast... Mmm...)
posted by wanderingmind at 10:43 AM on September 17, 2002

I don't know enough about Mexican art, wanderingmind, but I think you're referring to Oaxacan. (lizard, big-ass fly)

Oaxacan is also known for black pottery made from a type of mud found in the state.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, please.
posted by perplexed at 10:53 AM on September 17, 2002

My sister is very big into Mexican folkloric dancing. Women and girls don elaborate costumes that represent (and originate) states throughout Mexcio. Every state and many large cities have their own traditional dance; perhaps the most famous is the state of Jalisco's dance and it's brightly colored, ribboned costume. Being more Gringa than Mexican, it's wonderful to learn about and reconnect with my culture through my sister's dances.

Regarding Hispanic/Latino: Brazilians and Portugese are not Hispanic (a classification created by the US census to designate immigrants of Spanish-speaking countries and their descendents), but Brazilians are considered Latino. Spaniards are Hispanic (technically), but they are not Latino. Many Hispanics/Latinos prefer "latino", but most are fine with "hispanic"; it is NEVER okay to call us "Spanish" unless we are indeed from Spain or of Spanish origin.
posted by jennak at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2002

Latin countries include those which have languages based on latin, so Italy, Romania, France, Spain, Portugal and their colonies are by definition latin countries. So yeah, Brazil is a latin country and Brazilians latinos but not hispanic.

Hispanic refers to Spain and it's colonies but I wonder how many Filipinos feel hispanic so perhaps a better definition of hispanic are people from spanish speaking countries.

Both terms, latino and hispanic, refer more to cultural heritage than races or creeds. Latin america has an incredible mix and variety of races and religions, in fact some of the first Jews in the Americas were spanish and Portuguese jews fleeing from the inquisition in europe.

Postroad: What foods should we eat to celebrate the american citizen month? Chop Suey? Pizza? Burritos?
posted by venegas at 11:06 AM on September 17, 2002

I think you're right, perplexed. I believe wanderingmind is referring to alebrijes or animalitos.

And Miguel, I was a bit foggy on Brazil too, but I agree with Ufez Jones and favor inclusiveness just for their ability to throw a party.

Euphorb, thanks for your warm welcome!
posted by madamjujujive at 11:08 AM on September 17, 2002

Thank you, Madam Juju Jive and Perplexed. Those are indeed what I was talking about.

(Side note about cultural celebrations, off Venegas's comment: I was in San Francisco's Chinatown this past Saturday for the Chinese Moon Festival; after lunch, our party was presented with fortune cookies. I was a little uneasy at first, remembering that fortune cookies were an American invention and not part of actual Chinese heritage... then it struck me that fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco's Chinatown. What better way to celebrate than with a truly local food?)
posted by wanderingmind at 11:25 AM on September 17, 2002

¡Tres leches! y ¡Bocado de principe!. (Recipe here, cause I couldn't find one on google). Never has one culture worked so much sweet into one 3 x 3 x 2 square of goodness.

Don't forget the non-folk musical contributions either. Forget pretty-boys like Ricky Martin, try Heroes del silencio (to get RealAudio samples, click entra, then Audio, for a 2-CD list) and Amistades Peligrosas.
posted by whatzit at 11:27 AM on September 17, 2002

Venegas: how about hamburgers--they are not from Hamburg, Germany. How about pizza, which did not originate in Italy, or meatloaf, or just about anything that you make in America (North) and eat on a fairly regular basis....in other words, eat what you will to honor your grandparent's place of birth, or your parent's but eat it as an American living and loving America?
Have been a number of times to Mexico and to Spain and elsewhere and all the places (except for one during a war), but my heritage is by way of Lithuania. I do not dress up and eat up and drink up and dance up. I merely watch Jerry Springer, eat a burger and fries and praise the good Lord that someone in myh background had enough sense and guts to come to these United States.
posted by Postroad at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2002

How about pizza, which did not originate in Italy...
My point exactly. Pizza, Burritos and Chop Suey are as american as... well... apple pie.

So what is so wrong with recongnizing and even celebrating the various cultures that has made the US what it is, a melting pot? Do we all need to watch Spinger and eat burgers or even speak english to be "good americans"?
posted by venegas at 12:37 PM on September 17, 2002

Postroad, you sound like a grouch.

I live in a place that isn't racist, per se...just ignorant. The first year I lived here, a girl grabbed my arm and swung me around and asked me if I was black or white. I don't think it ever occured to her that there is any other race or culture outside of Black & White. If it wasn't for these cultural months, some people would never get the opportunity to experience and learn about Asian culture, or Latin culture, etc...

No one's shoving this down your throat, Postroad. You're free to leave this thread if it's so sickening. Some people enjoy learning new things. Some people enjoy celebrating our (collective) diverse cultural heritage -- that IS what this country is well-known and praised for, you know. Don't get all bitter just because you don't know anything about Lithuanian culture.

And you're wrong about the pizza thing, man.
posted by jennak at 12:42 PM on September 17, 2002

Postroad can defend himself but I read his comment as the opposite of racism - as a celebration of melting-pot America, where it doesn't really matter where things come from - only that they've arrived.

As a foreigner, when visiting the States (granted, I only know NYC and LA), I'm always impressed by the extraordinary openness to what anywhere else would be considered very foreign things. And I do thing the hamburger and ice cream, wherever they originated, are the crowning glories of American cuisine.

Tabasco sauce too. That's probably the best example of the American genius of assimilation. Oh and the New York bagel. And....
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:55 PM on September 17, 2002

HALTO - HIspanics against Liberal Takeover
posted by sheauga at 12:59 PM on September 17, 2002

Some more Rock en Español worth checking out includes ex Mano Negra front man Manu Chao, Cafe Tacuba, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Aterciopelados, the almighty Soda Stereo, Plastilina Mosh, and my boys Puya. Hope y'all enjoy.
posted by venegas at 1:04 PM on September 17, 2002

Latino Media Online Directory
posted by sheauga at 1:05 PM on September 17, 2002

Movies! How'd I forget that... Anything by Almodovar, especially the classic Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the more recent All about my mother. Also Nine Queens and Amores Perros.
posted by whatzit at 1:58 PM on September 17, 2002

And I do thing the hamburger and ice cream, wherever they originated, are the crowning glories of American cuisine.

I agree with you, Miguel, that America's ability to accept and adapt foreign cuisines is a great tradition. However, I think that Postroad's assertion that Hamburgers, pizza and chop suey are all American inventions is wrong, just as I don't like it when people say curry is a British dish.

Hamburgers are surely so-called in the German/Polish/Austrian tradition of naming a meat dish after the town it originated from. If you go to a German market you'll find sausages called things like Thuringen, Wiener, Krakowen etc. Therefore hamburgers are in the fine German market stall meat and bread take-away tradition. Pizza, as jennak pointed out, was only popularised in the US, not invented there.

Likewise, no British person could have invented that cumin/coriander/chilli/cream combination that's the staple of the curry. I suppose my point is that even if some curry dishes are bastardisations of the originals (chicken tikka masala), there's no British influence in them so why call them British? I think attempts to do so denigrate the traditions that bred them.
posted by Summer at 2:13 PM on September 17, 2002

Oh, and another thing, I don't like the implication that a cuisine has only 'arrived' once it's reached a western, preferably English-speaking nation.

But on topic - I've only recently discovered Spanish food. Even in Spain, decent Spanish restaurants (as opposed to Mexican) are hard to come by. Why?
posted by Summer at 2:21 PM on September 17, 2002

Postroad can defend himself but I read his comment as the opposite of racism

Just to clarify, I don't think Postroad sounds like a racist. Just like a grouch. :)
posted by jennak at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2002

I didn't mean "arrived" in the modern sense of "becoming fashionable", Summer, but in the old sense of "reaching those shores".

Of course the best, the only Spanish food is to be had in Spain (Andalusia, the Basque Country, Valencia) as the best Mexican food is to found in Mexico, but there's a great fusion that comes about with, say, Tex-Mex cuisine.

The American hamburger, though, is the best in the world. Real hamburgers, of course, not the fast food rubbish.

Jennak: Oh yes. In fact, I'll not only concede you the grouch but raise you two cranks.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:48 PM on September 17, 2002

No one's shoving this down your throat, Postroad. You're free to leave this thread if it's so sickening.
sickening? grouch? there was absolutely no reason for this vicious attack on postroad, jennak, none at all. not only wasn't his comment grouchy, he never ever anywhere at any time implied there was anything 'sickening' in this thread. i found your baseless attack, and your simpering backpedaling to be sickening though.
posted by quonsar at 4:13 PM on September 17, 2002

I've never liked the terms "Latino", "Hispanic" or any other over-generalization. There isn't a latino music. There isn't a latino cuisine. There are hundreds of them. Latinamerica is about as diverse a place as you'd care to visit.
I was in Amsterdam once, entered a shop and the owner asked us where we were from. "Chile" we answered. He said "Oh! I have some of your music" "That's wierd", we thought, does have Los Prisioneros, Violeta Parra, Quilapayun, Los Tres? He put on a Merengue tape and looked at us expectantly. We walked out.
posted by signal at 4:48 PM on September 17, 2002

(hoping to rerail the thread)

There's also Kukuli Velarde, the sculptor.
posted by amberglow at 4:50 PM on September 17, 2002

And anybody who's tried it knows that the best pizza in the world is in not Rome, NY or Chicago, but in Buenos Aires.
posted by signal at 5:03 PM on September 17, 2002

Not sure whether it is "Mexican", "Tex-Mex" or pure Californian but chips and salsa with margaritas is the nectar of the gods especially when eaten at sunset on a patio overlooking the Pacific. Me gusto mucho, gracias.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:06 PM on September 17, 2002

Why not simply American citizen month? and eat at a fast food place.

'Cause fast food'll kill ya, and the only thing that'll kill ya faster is an inability to celebrate diversity within unity, difference within similarity. Every month that a group celebrates doesn't have to be a separate thing that only they can celebrate. It's about taking pride in them as Americans, too. They're yours. You can call dibs on MLK as much as I can call dibs on Cesar Chavez or Bruce Lee or JFK.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 5:31 PM on September 17, 2002

and how serendipitous that in my hometown the hispanic festival has been running the last two weekends on the public square below my office! fridays have been fabulous food and mucho musica galore!
posted by quonsar at 5:43 PM on September 17, 2002

there was absolutely no reason for this vicious attack on postroad, jennak, none at all. not only wasn't his comment grouchy, he never ever anywhere at any time implied there was anything 'sickening' in this thread. i found your baseless attack, and your simpering backpedaling to be sickening though.

Not attacking. There's just nothing wrong with celebrating heritage. It doesn't make me a bad American. "You're in this country now, assimilate!" is a silly concept that has long been ignored since the first immigrants came to this country. The American-Irish, for example, retain their culture and identy generations after their ancestors arrived in the US.

There's good reason for these cultural months -- many of us (myself included) are still unfamiliar and ignorant of other Americans' cultures and traditions. I'll concur that these months are unnecessary when the issue of race relations becomes a non-issue.

And I wasn't backpedaling, dear. I stand behind what I said. Yes, he was being grouchy. I appreciate when different opinions are presented, but not when they're loaded with bitterness and sarcasm.
posted by jennak at 6:45 PM on September 17, 2002

ooooeeeeeaaaaaaoooo space captain!
you did attack.
nobody said there was something wrong with celebrating heritage. show me where anyone said that.
nobody said you were a bad american. show me where that was said.
nobody verbalized the 'assimilate' concept but you, just now.
re: american-irish: i know, i'm irish. it's irrelevant.
nobody said there was anything wrong with cultural months. show me where that was said.
nobody proposed that they are unneccesary. show where that was said.
nobody but you has raised 'race' in conjunction with this thread.
show me the grouchy in postroads comment. show me the bitterness. show me the sarcasm. i don't see it.

there must be amusing things happening in your head. can you score me some?
posted by quonsar at 7:22 PM on September 17, 2002

I personally toast the Gypsy Kings

Hate to spoil it but The Gypsy Kings have very little of Spanish, they speak what seems to be Catalan mixed with French and do reside in France.
Maybe their music has strong roots in Spanish folklore but so does Otmar Liebert's. Now we wouldn't call him Spanish would we ??
The Kings deserve a toast on their own merit though !
posted by finnegan at 8:18 PM on September 17, 2002

Jennak: you said this: There's just nothing wrong with celebrating heritage

I have to disagree. There is something wrong with it. It, in a not so small way, promotes separatism. Why should your heritage be so important? Did you have anything to do with it?

I come from an Italian background...am I proud of this? No. Why should I be? It's not like I made the choice. I was just born to Italian parents. Big deal.

Please don't think I'm being "grouchy" or prejudiced. I'm not. I disagree with Italian festivals, greek festivals, Latino Award shows, Soul Train, etc. We, each of us, never chose our heritage, so why celebrate it?

I claim MLK, Tiger Woods, Cesar Chavez, Bruce Lee AND JFK. They were/are all Americans. I agree with poastroad. Don't celebrate the fact that you're latino. Celebrate the fact that you, or someone before you made the CHOICE to be an American. THAT is something to celebrate.

posted by lasthrsman at 9:39 PM on September 17, 2002

Lasthrsman, while I appreciate your deeper point, isn't it America's richness that:

a) You have all these separate festivals (as compared to Italy where they tend to be, erm, more Italian);

b) Anyone can go to all of them, eat, drink and breath all the different cultures and be given a big American welcome;

c) That, in actual fact, they're not Italian; Greek, Jewish or Mexican festivals, but profoundly Italian-American; Greek-American, Jewish-American or Mexican-American, &

d) The common thread is precisely the - American.

It's a blessed little hyphen a lot of countries admire and envy. One has only to read, for instance, Robert Sietsema's wonderful "Counter Culture" column in the Village Voice and get an idea of the cultural wealth and knowledge involved.

You should be proud to be an Italian-American. It's an entirely new culture, not Italian, but American. Where would, say, the movies be without them? Or without the Jewish Americans?

Of course it's your attitude that makes this so, but I would argue that the left side of the hyphen is important, precisely because of how it gets modified and fits into the larger picture - star - of all the hyphens together.

If you're an Italian from Italy (never mind that they're all from different cultures too, for the moment) then Italian is like a noun. It defines you - he's Italian. But if you're an Italian-American, Italian is more of an adjective. The noun is American. Italian is like "boisterous", "dramatic", "intense" or any other adjective; like being a "boisterous American".

It's well known that Greek-Americans visiting Greece, or Jewish-Americans visiting Israel, etc, very rarely feel at home. Because they're not. The hyphen makes them Americans and they miss the States. They miss all the other hyphens that come together to make America.

That's a real foreigner's (and proud to be!) viewpoint, anyway...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:50 PM on September 17, 2002

Well said, Miguel. And lasthrsman, Postroad - I disagree with the "no heritage celebrations" stance and place myself squarely in the "vive la diferencia" camp with jennak.

Being an American is wonderful precisely because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but that's not to say that its parts should have no value in and of themselves. We are lucky to have such a diverse, textured land, a crazy quilt of food, music, art, culture. Why not celebrate it? That doesn't preclude the old apple pie U.S.A. celebrations like the Fourth of July. It shouldn't be an either or thing.

I'm a celtic mutt whose ancestors arrived here long enough ago that most of my heritage has been muted beyond recognition. I grew up in a drab industrial city, and my world had no people of color. Cuisine? Ha, I thought herbs and spices meant salt and pepper. It was a comfortable but parochial world. I am thankful that not all Americans have lost touch with their roots, and that they are proud enough of their heritage's unique characteristics that they invite me to come share in their food, music, art, performances and customs. My life is the richer for it.

I don't think being American means that we need to be homogenized. I also don't think that heritage events and commemorations lead to separatism unless they are exclusive. By providing a forum for us to come together in celebration, I believe they foster understanding, appreciation and respect. They make me feel more American, not less.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:18 AM on September 18, 2002

MiguelCardoso & madamjujujive: Both of you make excellent points. In the ideal / perfect America, I would agree with you wholeheartedly. However, in good conscience, I still have to disagree.

Here's why. (Perhaps this is a little off topic) In a country where "special interest" groups essentially rule over what we watch on TV and read in print, the smallest condoning of separatism gives them a foot hold. Now, you're right, these festivals are not exclusive. The last time I attended the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy (about 12 years ago), there was a delightful mix of people in attendance. If this was the limit that racial / cultural festivals foster separatism, or rather truly celebrate a culture, then I would not be posting this today.

The problem becomes once we take this a few steps farther and we come to the "Latin Music Awards," Ebony Magazine, and FUBU clothing lines. When we go from "celebrating our differences" to "This is mine" or "This is just for us" then we have a problem that, on the surface, seems acceptable, but truly only promotes racial separatism.

People yell about other big issues that start with the smallest infraction (censorship for instance), yet something like these festivals are considered harmless or even beneficial. We all had a big laugh at this, but it just illustrates my point that when "Culture" is taken too far, it becomes a problem.

It's not a big step.

Oh, an Miguel, Italian does not define me. It's not a pride point. Does being Italian have some effect on how I live my life? Perhaps some. But not nearly enough to say it defines me, or any of us. Husband defines me. Father defines me. Wiccan defines me. These are choices I made on how my life is lived, and of THOSE I can be proud of.

Many of our problems are created by ourselves
based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, economic status, or other factors.
The time has come for us to think on a deeper level, on a human level
and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.
-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
posted by lasthrsman at 1:28 AM on September 18, 2002

« Older Seen any St***n S***rb**gh films lately?   |   The Antarctic Ozone Hole Predicted to Close by... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments