Tag: Dominican Republic

The Revenge of Tony Plush

So my hometown Milwaukee Brewers are bound for the National League Championship Series. And I’m pretty damned happy about that.

It may be awkward timing, or a little bit of a buzzkill, but I just published an article for Being Latino magazine that is critical of Major League Baseball. You can find it here.

Whatever conclusions you draw from it, however, don’t let it distract from rooting for Morgan, Fielder, Braun, and Gallardo. I know I can count on you.

Called out on Strikes

First, let me acknowledge Henna, Cold Spaghetti, Island Meri, and Steven for their recent comments. I appreciate your thoughts.

Second, let me segue from thanks to apologies. Specifically, I may owe one to Sammy Sosa.

In a recent post, I wrote about Sosa’s apparent use of a skin product designed to make him appear whiter. I wondered if the baseball great’s light skin was a capitulation to the colonizer mentality. This mindset holds that anything white is superior, and it has caused many black people to go to absurd lengths to seem whiter (both culturally and literally).

As we know, Hispanics can be of any race. Sosa, a Dominican, is obviously a dark-skinned Latino. Many people have wondered if he is trying to renounce his Hispanic and/or black status.

As it turns out, maybe Sosa isn’t to blame if he wants to be white. Apparently, some of the man’s fellow players think that he is not really black in the first place.

Specifically, Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, a great player and multiple All-Star, believes that black players from Latin America are “imposters.” Hunter said that he and his fellow African American players “have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us. It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. You can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips.”

I must admit that I didn’t know the rates for Dominicans were so reasonable. Perhaps we should all get one.

Hunter goes on to pose the ultimate rhetorical question about a former MVP. Hunter asks, “Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player? Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.”

I have no idea if Guerrero considers himself black. Perhaps he answers, “Hispanic” or “Dominican” or “human” or “right-handed slugger” when asked about his status. But he’s certainly within his rights to say, “black” or “black Latino.”

In the picture below, Hunter is on the left. Guerrero is on the right. One of them is positively not black.

Perhaps Hunter meant that Guerrero and other players from Latin America are not African American. That’s a noncontroversial point. However, Hunter comes across as a cultural jingoist, reminiscent of people who said President Obama is not really black.

His comments bring up the whole messy topic of how we categorize race and ethnicity, and why. I’ve written before about this, and several readers have chastised me for (among other offenses) saying that Chicanos are Hispanic and Spaniards are not. I’d like to think, however, that I was a bit more diplomatic than Hunter.

Perhaps we are indeed all too hung up on race and who is one category and who is not. But to deny that these constructs – artificial as they are – actually exist is to deny their power. And that’s why, despite the earnest pleas of many Americans, we will go on talking about race and racial matters.

As for Hunter, he has claimed that his comments were taken out of context. If so, it lessens the creepiness of their content, but not the stupidity of their mere existence.

Hunter ended his racial-conspiracy rant by saying, “I’m telling you, it’s sad.”

Oh, it’s sad, alright. But not in the way that Hunter thinks. It’s sad that he said, “They’re not us” when referring to teammates like Guerrero.

As the baseball writer Craig Calcaterra points out, “the fact that more and more of baseball’s black players happen to come from a couple hundred miles south of an artificial political border doesn’t mean that there is no one around to receive the torch passed down from Jackie Robinson.”

In fact, many of those players who thrive under Robinson’s legacy are Hispanic. And yes, they may even be black too.

Land of the Dead

I’ve written often about the difficulties of pinpointing exactly who is Latino and who is not. You’ll remember some of the familiar arguments (eg, Costa Ricans are Hispanic, Spaniards are not, Mexicans are Hispanic… unless they’re Chicanos who reject the label… wait…). In sum, it’s a messy process with no clear delineations.

In my most recent post, I mentioned that Sammy Sosa is Latino. Sosa is from the Dominican Republic, which is the only nation that shares a border with Haiti, one of several countries in the Caribbean that are not considered Hispanic.

When one thinks about it, this is rather arbitrary. Perhaps it is because Haiti has a French, rather than Spanish, cultural tradition. Or maybe there’s a racial element there.

In any case, the country’s non-Hispanic status was irrelevant to the cataclysmic earthquake that killed an estimated 100,000 people this week. Even before the disaster, the nation was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. At this point, Haiti is so desperately miserable that one wonders if it would just be easier and more humane to ship the survivors to other countries and abandon that part of the island.

You don’t need me to urge you to donate to relief efforts. You will if you can or want to. Here are links to a few sites where you can make donations. Let’s hope that someday the country – indeed, no country – is so synonymous with human suffering.

The Big Five

For decades, saying that you were Hispanic was analogous to saying, “I’m Mexican.” That’s no longer true, of course (and I’m not referring to the whole “Chicanos are different from Latinos” debate). Rather, Hispanic culture, like everything else in America – except for the Deep South branch of the Republican Party – has grown and evolved.

Recently, the Pew Hispanic Center issued a report revealing where all these foot soldiers in the Brown Invasion are coming from. As you can imagine, the top two demographics – the Beatles and Stones of Latino culture – are Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans. This is hardly a surprise, nor is the third-place finisher, Cuban-Americans, a shocker. As I’ve written before, Hispanic culture in the United States has often been relegated to East LA Chicanos, Nuyoricans, or Miami-based Cuban émigrés.

I was surprised, however, that number four on the list of Latino countries of origin is none other than my family’s homeland: El Salvador. The Dominican Republic comes in at number five.

These five countries account for the vast majority of Latinos in the United States, which isn’t so shocking when one considers that Mexican Americans alone account for more than sixty percent of the Hispanics in the United States.

The Center breaks down the traits of each group and contrasts them “with the characteristics of all Hispanics and the U.S. population overall.” That’s how I found out that Latinos who claim El Salvador as their country of origin are younger than the U.S. population but older than other Hispanics. I also found out that such Latinos have less education than other Hispanics, but they’re not as likely to have out-of-wedlock births. These are categories, of course, that no one wants to be tops in.

One thing caught my eye when going over the Center’s stats, however. People who responded to the survey were free to pick their country of origin, with few guidelines. As a result, the Center points out that “a person born in Los Angeles may identify his or her country of origin as Mexico. Likewise, some people born in Mexico may identify another country as their origin depending on the place of birth of their ancestors.”

So when it comes to counting Hispanics, it’s still an imprecise science.

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