I Can Tell You’re Latina By How You Gesticulate

Recently I was at an event when an elderly white gentleman approached me and began a conversation. After we got over the whole “It’s Sara, not Sarah,” part of my habitual introduction of myself, he made the oft repeated comment, “You don’t look Hispanic.” And, given the fact that I was tired and the night was still young, I chose from one of several responses and settled on, “Oh, well I am, I get that a lot.” (See my previous column for insight as to how often I get the “you don’t look” comment.)

We began our conversation, which ranged from the weather to the economy to college and family, then back to politics — I never can resist. In true male form, just as I was about to make a big point and thus curtail his argument, he interrupted me to point out, “Now that I see you gesticulating as you speak, I can tell you are a Latina after all.” Yes, really.

Now there are lots of things one could say about this, none of them good. Sigh.

First of all, and as I’ve written previously, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that I have to convince people that I am what I say I am — especially after an entire conversation as to how to properly pronounce my name. Really? How many people have you met that go around claiming to be Latino that aren’t? What, are they trying to tap into all the benefits that come with being from a minority group in this country, or what?

Secondly, I was not aware that part of my Latino membership card noted that I had to gesticulate in order to properly belong. Does it say that on your card? Perhaps I don’t have the updated card. In any case, I found it pretty insulting that, in what I believe this man supposed was a compliment, my entire culture was neatly wrapped into a tight package of wildly gesticulating maniacs.

Because, what, “normal” people don’t gesticulate when they speak?

And I can already hear it, people saying things like “It’s not a big deal,” or “He probably didn’t mean it like that,” “Can’t you take a joke?” or my favorite “Why do you have to make everything about race?” Frankly, I’m tired.

I don’t see why I have to go around “representing” my race or “proving” that I am who I say I am when other people, like white men for example, get to be whoever they say they are with no questions asked. Honestly, if my name and my telling you who I am isn’t enough to convey to you the idea that I am Latina, I don’t see how my hand gestures could possibly add anything to such a one-sided conversation.

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD.

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

Texas quinceañeras to offer voter registration at their coming of age parties

Victor Landa May 17, 2019

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas-based nonprofit is aiming to bolster the Latino vote by offering young women the opportunity to hold voter registration booths at their quinceañeras. And they already have […]

Latino Health Paradox is a Laughing Matter

Victor Landa

High-quality conversations and laughter may contribute to longer life expectancy in Latinx populations in the United States, according to a new study in PLosONE by the University of Connecticut.  Researchers sought to explain […]

Census citizenship question began as GOP plan to hurt Democrats, documents show

Victor Landa June 3, 2019

Newly revealed documents appeared to confirm Thursday what many critics had long suspected — that the Trump administration’s drive to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census began as […]

Hispanic Texans on pace to become largest population group in state by 2022

Victor Landa June 6, 2019

For many years, the prospect that Hispanic Texans would become the state’s largest population group has been a question of “when” and not “if.” With growth among the Hispanic population […]

Latino leaders sound alarms over mobilizing Latino voters in 2020

Victor Landa June 11, 2019

Democratic presidential candidates are squandering a critical early opportunity to mobilize Latino voters ahead of 2020, potentially easing Donald Trump’s path to reelection, according to leading Latino political operatives in battleground […]

Running while brown: How Julián Castro is navigating white presidential politics

Victor Landa June 25, 2019

EAST LOS ANGELES — By the time his plane touched down in California at the end of a whirlwind week, Julián Castro had set an early political benchmark in the […]

Advocates wonder: Where’s the outreach from Democratic presidential candidates to Latino voters?

Victor Landa

MIAMI — There is outrage over Trump administration policies that have torn migrant families apart and left some children locked up. There is pervasive fear of immigration raids. And there […]