Dear Spain, We are Not Caricatures

jesse-owens.jpg

After the infantile expression of how the Spanish define and theoretically honor Asians, and after receiving comment after comment by my Spanish friends blindly defending such characterizations, I come once again upon an example of how the Spanish media reduces all things foreign to childish diminutives.

In today’s El Mundo article by Luis María Anson entitled “Carta de la ministra al presidente del COI”, ironically in the name of equality and in defense of women’s rights, Jesse Owens is referred as that “negrito” (little black man) who confronted Hitler. Yes, I know that (1) bringing up Owens’ memory is supposed to honor him and (2) Spanish people mean no harm by using the diminutive suffix “ito” when describing other ethnicities. How the use of “ito” would promote equality is anyone’s guess.

Such patronizing is childish at a minimum, offensive in the extreme, and overall tiresome. We no longer live in a time when Cola Cao commercials mocking Africans as little savages all too happy to be exploited in the fields should be considered acceptable. We are more than Chinitos with slanted eyes, or negritos, or moritos or sudacas or gringuitos who need to be condescended to. We are not caricatures, but people — live, breathing, multi-faceted and unique individuals.

Would it honor Nadal were he to be called the “Españolito” or “Mallorquinito who finally won Wimbledon?” Or to call Indurain the “Navarrito who dominated the Tour de France”? How about calling Athletic Bilbao the “equipito vasco”?

Racist speech is not only about intentionally and wilfully insulting a person or group of people based on their race or ethnicity, rather it is also about how we further stereotypes, generalizations and otherwise discriminate against those different from us through language – language that ultimately limits us as individuals. It can be subtle and it can be subconscious. It is often, as in these instances, furthered simply and unintentionally by lessening the value assigned to a set of people through a diminutive suffix or by summarizing them based on a single physical characteristic.

I am not saying that Spaniards or El Mundo are racist. Rather that it is time to reevaluate the way in which Spaniards discuss, define, and view others.

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5 Comments

Filed under Essays, Living la vida española

5 responses to “Dear Spain, We are Not Caricatures

  1. what happens when “el negrito” is well endowed? does he then become “el negrazo”?

    this is all too complicated…..

  2. Borja

    Hey Eric,

    Please check out this article in Financial Times, calling Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, PIGS.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/388a3e90-77bd-11dd-be24-0000779fd18c,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F1%2F388a3e90-77bd-11dd-be24-0000779fd18c.html&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.elmundo.es%2Fmundodinero%2F2008%2F09%2F01%2Feconomia%2F1220282598.html

    Is it demeaning to refer to Spain, and three other countries, as Pigs? Is this proof of the underlying racism that is inherent in most anglosaxon media when they refer to mediterranean countries?

    Please let me know your thoughts about it,

    Borja.

  3. eric

    Since the Black Legend, certain European countries have been very anti-Spanish, often offensively so. Then there were substantial numbers of Spanish immigrants in England, France, Germany during the Franco dictatorship which were also mocked by their host countries’ citizens (remember the Spanish character in Faulty Towers?). Just look at how Spaniards are still depicted today in certain European countries or spoken down upon.

    I have even watched it happen professionally in how certain people from certain nationalities treat their Spanish co-workers condescendingly (but I won’t name names) or talk about Spain. It is offensive, elitist, derrogatory, and “racsit”? Without a doubt.

    The FT, by even suggesting that Spain has earned a reputation has a pig, is being professionally irresponsible.

  4. Diarmuid

    Borja
    I find it hilariously hypocritical for the British financial media to call the Med countries(and Ireland) Pigs..the UK economy is in a really bad state now-whoever wins their election will have to bring in widespread cuts…and with the credit mania/subprime mortgages/poor financial regulation originating in Anglo Saxon countries it is bewildering to think they havent not learnt anything

  5. D

    Eric
    What about how northern European and Anglo Saxons are treated by their El Mundo reading Spanish bosses like they are godlike superior efficient workers as opposed to their lazy compatriot underlings..I have seen that a lot here in Spain-works in our favour but based on reality??

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