By Ulisses Sanchez, Our Tiempo
Recently, I found myself working out of a local coffee shop in Downtown Los Angeles. That is something that I do quite often, as I have the flexibility in my day to be productive and not be confined to working solely within the confines of my office. As I wrapped up my work for the day, walked to my car and turned it on, I was welcomed by the soothing sounds of Josh Groban playing out of my stereo. Yes, I said Josh Groban. It was not by mistake that I was listening to his music as he is only one of the many music artists that I have stored in my car’s iPod system.
Apparently, the parking attendant at the lot thought that I might have been listening to his music by mistake, as he looks at me and says “Oye, porque estas oyendo esa musica?” (for those of you who don’t want to go to the translation feature of Google to see what I said, it means “Hey, why are you listening to that music?”). In the nicest way possible, I responded to him that I enjoy his music and that is why I have it on.
His next comment definitely came to me with a bit of shock. “Pero que no eres Latino? Y oyes eso?” (“But you are not Latino? And you listen to that?”)
I am sure that I am not the first and will not be the last person who will have their ethnic credentials questioned as I had that day. But it brings an interesting question to mind: Am I any less “Latino” because I chose to listen to Josh Groban? Does that mean that I need to always listen to Vicente Fernandez, drink Tecate beer and name one of my children after La Virgen de Guadalupe?
Being Latino is not about being a certain way but rather just being. It does not come with a set of guidelines and instructions by which I need to live my life, despite what others believe. So whether I am listening to Vicente Fernandez or Josh Groban, whether I am dressed in a guayavera or in a cashmere sweater from Banana Republic (I know, I know… Ay, muy chingon!), it does not change who I am and it does not define who I am.
It is an interesting topic of discussion though when it comes to the entertainment industry, in terms of what entertainment is made available to Latinos and how it is now being marketed to our community. The community has grown exponentially in terms of its interests and its desires, and technology has contributed to that growth. It has allowed for various methods of communication to be used to promote events and merchandise in ways that were unimaginable 15 years ago. So from a marketing perspective, it has allowed for most products that are not traditionally perceived to be Latino to garner interests by Latinos. If you want any evidence of that, you need not look any further than your mom’s kitchen table. I’m sure many of you reading this have a bottle of Tuong Ot Sriracha hot sauce (it’s the hot sauce in the see-through plastic bottle with a green top and its label being written in Vietnamese, English, Chinese, French and Spanish) either in your family’s home or that of your friend’s home.
So the next time anybody questions why a Latino is doing something that is considered “non-Latino”, make sure to point out the fact that the person is not trying to be Latino, but rather is just being themselves… which by default is being Latino.
Now that I have finished writing this, I need to eat my turkey panini sandwich, my mixed greens salad and drink my green tea before I head home to my apartment in Boyle Heights. Oh well, at least one thing about me is a bit Latino… for now…
Ulisses Sanchez is a contributing Author to OurTiempo.com. An LA native you can find him on twitter @the_uliverse
[Photo by Señor Codo]