May 10, 2008

Confusing Latin American Geographies

So, this isn't so relevant, I think, but it is kind of humorous. Watching some Italian singing contest show (we get Rai here... I know, I know, it's no good but it's the only thing we have in Italian and, like a surprising number of Puerto Ricans, my friend studies Italian, so we have it on frequently), they have on some Argentine... I think footballer player? Guess what he starts singing... that's right, Ricky Martin, then Celia Cruz, then some more Ricky Martin. Nevermind that this could be the least Argentine sounding music ever, Caribbean music does get imported all over the world. Sad, of course, that Argentina kind of ends up standing in for all of Latin America, which is most recognizable for salsa and Ricky Martin. That's not really a problem since it happens so much everyone's used to it.

A few performances later, they invite a couple on and they, as part of the contest, start dancing to Brazilian music, Sergio Mendes and a strange version of "Girl from Ipanema". Afterwards, they take a moment to talk to them, and that's when the girl reveals that they're not actually Brazilian but actually Venezuelan. What? Why? Did they really change her entire nationality, language, culture... just because she was Black? Lord knows Venezuelan music is closer to salsa than Argentine music.

Yes, world, there are Black people all over the Caribbean, not just the French/English/Dutch islands, not just the Hispanic islands (yes, including Puerto Rico), but also the continental land in Central and South America. Did you know that Mexico has a decent sized Black population? That there is a large group in Central America, los Garifuna, based on an ex-slave culture? And that there are even more Black people in Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela? I'm not going to pretend I can talk a lot about them, since I know much less about any of them than I do about Puerto Rico, and even that I'm still learning about every day. But at least I know they exist... and I'm not about to assume that the only Black people in Latin America are from Brazil, and then force them to pretend to represent it through song and dance.

... not that I'm going to make anyone dance, either. I'm just saying.

Point is, Spanish-speaking America is not just White and Indigenous peoples, and Brazil is not just Black people. They don't have the same cultures, much less the same music.

This isn't a rant directed at anyone--in fact, it's not a rant at all. Okay, maybe it is. But I know it's kind of futile because no one reading this really needs the message. Actually, let's run with that. THANK YOU for caring about a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean that everyone else seems to have forgotten about. It sounds silly but it really is beautiful to know someone cares. Thanks for not being ignorant. Thanks for wanting to learn and debate with me. It takes a rare kind of person to be legitimately interested in other cultures and, excuse the cheesiness, but I'm so proud.

See you tomorrow!

(By the way, in case you wondered: the performances were also horrifyingly bad. But amusing!)


Alegra :) said...

Great post! :)
Im from Argentina.
I didn't know the boricua language was so different from the regular Spanish, so it's nice to know.

Speaking Boricua said...

Bienvenida! Yeah, it's really different. Glad you enjoyed!