It has been brought to my attention that a LewRockwell.com writer by the name of Sapienza has used his last name to gain special financing on a car he recently purchased. Apparently the bank thought he was "Spanish" since his last name ends in the letter "a."
The proper surname means so much these days. You see, in this affirmative action world, I am very fortunate to be 50% Mexican. The real tragic part, though, is that the 50% happens to be on my mother’s side. So, it turns out I’m forever cursed with my father’s Scots-Irish name that no one would ever look twice at when financing my car. I inherited my father’s rather light complexion, too. Strike two. It doesn’t matter for the really important stuff though. After years of college applications, and scholarships, and graduate school applications, etc, I’ve learned how to maximize my ethnicity. In my college essays I always made sure to stick in some reverie about my little abuelita cooking chile rellenos in the kitchen while her 18 children talked about mariachi bands and Henry Cisneros all under a giant picture of our Lady of Guadalupe.
College types like to read that kind of stuff. I always make sure and check that little "Mexican/Latino/Non-Black Hispanic" box on the applications because you only have to be 50%. That’s right! 50%! I hear that if you’re a Kiowa Indian or something you only have to be 1/245 Indian, but with Mexicans it’s a full . I never mention that I’m also 50% WASP. College types definitely do NOT like to hear that. Once again, my last name is kind of a giveaway, but did I mention that part about 50%?
You see how hard I work at it. Even with all this effort, I was never once offered a deal from my bank because of the whole Mexican/Latino thing. They never even asked. I have the percentages all ready for them if they do. Meanwhile, Mr. Italian-Man Sapienza over there is taking advantage of what should be my discount. I suppose I’ll let it slip this time. It turns out that Latium is actually in Italy and the Latin language originated there. Sapienza can come to our club through the back door if he really wants to.
For the most part, though, "Latino" refers to those people down in Latin America, or those of us descended from them. Hispanic is no longer the preferred choice apparently. I guess it refers too much to Hispania in ancient Spain. Those hated Spaniards brought over Catholicism and the Spanish language and even had the nerve to import the alphabet and sanitation.
Since Hispanic is too Spanish, the Hispanics go by Latino which one would think might smack too much of Latin stuff, but I guess they don’t mind. I’d expect to take a trip down there and find a bunch of people in togas named Marcus and Quintus and Dexter. It turns out that’s not true at all. Those of us who don’t mind being associated with the Spanish part too much still go by Hispanic.
The name that really confuses me though, is "chicano." In Mexico, calling someone a "chicano" is the equivalent of calling someone "white trash" around here. For some reason, the name caught on in the 60′s and never totally went away. It’s kind of like the clap.
Now, if you’re looking to be like me and milk the system, don’t make a mistake that many people do. You do not ever want to be Portuguese. It turns out that Portuguese-speaking people don’t count as minorities. If you’re a street child from Rio and you’re looking for some affirmative action, forget about it. The Brazilians don’t have a large enough lobby in Congress to get minority status. Brazilians are Anglos. It’s the law.
You could be the son of King Juan Carlos of Spain, but you’ll still be considered disadvantaged. Float down the river a ways to some peasant village in Portugal though, and everyone there is of the privileged white classes. That’s what they tell me.
One guy who’s well aware of that little technicality is our illustrious Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Ben’s more Portuguese than anything else, but he likes to play Indian. Campbell knew that his dark skin got him nowhere as long as he was Portuguese, so he added the "Nighthorse" part and never looked back. I hear he’s 1/187th Apache.
As you can see, we half-breeds have to know a lot of rules. It’s hard work getting all the free stuff you 100% white people send our way. My only regret is that my children won’t be able to take advantage of those fine gifts. I married a gringa. Our kids will only be 25%. 25% gets you nothing. Their only hope is to get in on the Indian thing. We’ve already decided the first boy is to be named Carlos "Dances With Chihuahuas" McMaken. It adds some good variety. God Bless America!
January 10, 2001
Ryan McMaken is a graduate student in American politics at the University of Colorado. He edits the Western Mercury.