Overheard at the circus
By Liz Henry on January 31, 2006
BlogHer Original Post
Yesterday I noticed Maria Fernanda Gutierrez speaking up against racism in the audience at a circus in Guadalajara. The Baobab circus from Guinea, Africa was visiting. The show opened with some guys dressed as monkeys... and Mafer overheard this conversation between a mother and her 2 year old child:
El niño que entendio perfecto el concepto del circo le dice a su mama: Mira mama!! Changos!! La mama acto seguido se empieza a rear y le dice al marido: Cree que son changos (jajaja). Y voltea con su hijo a darle una leccion: No mijito, esos no son changuitos, se llaman negritos!! (Qué????)
En ese momento fue difacil tomar la decision de quedarme callada y continuar disfrutando del espectaculo, pero a la señora le parecaa muy gracioso y continuo con comentarios similares. Me dieron ganas de voltear y decirle: No señora, no, son personas de piel negra!!!!!
[The child, who completely believed in the illusions of the circus, said to his mom, "Look Mom! Monkeys!" The mom immediately burst out laughing and said to her husband, "He thinks they're really monkeys, hahaha." And she turned to her son and gave him this lesson: No, dear, those aren't monkeys, we call them darkies!! (WHAT???)
In that moment it was difficult to make the choice to remain silent and continue enjoying the spectacle, but this lady seemed very chatty and continued with similar comments. I was dying to turn around and say to her, "No, ma'am, those are people of color!!!!!" ]
In some parts of Latin America, "negro" and "negra" are neutral terms you might use as a term of endearment, like "honey" or "baby". For example I was hanging out in a Salvadorean acquaintance's apartment, and she went, "Negro, where's the remote?" and he got up and gave it to her and said sweetly, "Here you go, negra." Neither of them were particularly dark-skinned... I also understand that some Mexican Spanish speakers add -ito to everything - a diminuative, like saying lil' ol' this or that in Southern English. So it's not an extreme pejorative term, but it's also not respectful. And as you can see from Mafer's interesting post, people are fighting its use.
I found I could read Mafer's writing easily, perhaps because she writes in a conversational, personal style but without so much slang that I'm lost - but also maybe that I know Mexican Spanish best. Her posts are often short and chatty, with photos. In short, a good blog for BlogHer gringas (gringuitas?) who are learning Spanish and need practice. Hop on over to Maria Fernanda's blog and say hello!
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