Football (again, the kicky kind) is crucial in bringing Latinos together. I’ve learned more about Colombia from Narcos than I have from anywhere else, and I’m not alone there. So when a Uruguayan team plays against a Colombian one, we will find a way to work cocaine and Pablo Escobar into the mix. I found that the more I interact with other Latinos from other countries, the more I realize we’ve all been led to believe horrible things about each other. We love making fun of other people, but the second we find out someone makes those same kind of jokes about us, we’re appalled and disgusted.
America’s “Name” Makes Us Feel Left Out
I know you guys love to call yourselves “America.” And it sounds great when you slap it beside other things: American Crime, American Graffiti, fucking American Pie. Adding the “American” tag raises the status of things, and implies that it’s now a story that everyone can somehow relate to because it’s identifiably “American.” But to everyone else on an entire continent, calling it “America” just sounds … weird. It’s like the American Founding Fathers were too tired to think of a name, so they said, “It’s in the Americas, so, like, ‘America’? Everyone agree? Good. Let’s go get some more false teeth.” And in case you’re wondering, yes, “South America” was the first one to use the term.
But the Americas (plainly “America” in Spanish) start at Cape Columbia in Canada and end in the Diego Ramirez Islands in Chile. That means that, having been born in Montevideo, Uruguay, I’m as American as the people from Montevideo, Minnesota. Hi, neighbors!
As obvious as that is, sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re part of the same landmass. It isn’t just a question of language (there isn’t such a divide with Brazil), nor of the differences between Northern European and Latin cultures. In Spanish, we usually call you estadounidenses, which translates as “United Statians.” When I learned English and started reading and watching movies, I had to get used to hearing “American” and knowing it didn’t apply to me. I mean, it technically does, but it really doesn’t.
I hated it at first, like one country was trying to impose over the rest. We are all fucking American. I now know it comes from the lack of a proper name, and I’ve come to tolerate it. But I’ve still never been able to completely shake off the notion that some Americans do think they’re better, and do try to maybe use the idea that they are “Americans” and I am Uruguayan as another way to draw a line between us. I want to tell them to shut up, that we’re all Americans, but the truth is that a lot of idiots see it like Animal Farm: We’re all Americans, but some are more American than others.
All of this isn’t just culturally insensitive. Misjudging a full subcontinent as foreign instead of neighboring, and continuing to take hard stances against it, perpetuates a vicious circle. It’s always US and Them. Rather than see us as fellow Americans, cousins who are a part of the same landmass, we’re the bad guys. And I can’t decide if that’s un-American or very American.