Not to be boastful or rude, Argentinians are a distinct people

by | Nov 21, 2014 | Opinion

Alejandra Fretes
Assistant News Editor

Arrogant, proud, boastful, vain, rude. How many of these words would you use to describe yourself? If you’re Argentinian, apparently we’re all those things.

Growing up in predominantly white neighbourhoods, minus a stint in California as a child, I went to school with a lot of Kaitlynn’s, Heather’s and Stephanie’s. And not that those are not beautiful names, but being named Alejandra has definitely made me stick out from a young age.

Very few people have been able to pronounce it correctly, but really I’m not at all offended or surprised. I mean, why should they?

I am Argentinian-Canadian, born in Toronto. My parents are both Argentinian, immigrating to Canada at a young age in the 80’s. We frequently take month-long trips to Argentina, often visiting new provinces, along with visiting our family that still reside there.

My name, although not my identity, plays a huge factor in how people perceive me, both fortunately and unfortunately. Alejandra is quite Spanish sounding, which automatically characterizes me into the most dramatized versions of Hispanics who are popular in mainstream media.

“Oh, you don’t look Spanish.” “Why are you so pale then?”, “You must have a typical Latina ass.”, “I thought you were <insert other race here>.” “You must have a fiery temper!” and lastly, my favourite, “That’s because you’re European!” (Argentina is in South America.)

Under the belief that we live in much more progressive times, it comes to a shock that people still find this acceptable commentary. Imagine these same questions and comments being directed at visible minorities?

Stereotypes are hurtful and offensive. And not to say that I don’t have a sense of humour, but there is a huge line separating ignorant comments made about an entire nationality or race and observations directed at a single person.

Comparing all Hispanics is like assuming all Canadians are all the same. Again, we are not. There are Spanish-speaking nations on three continents with many cultural and historical differences among them.

Along with that part of my identity, I’m also first-generation Canadian, raised in Canada but with a strong Argentinian influence. I’m not the same as my friends with deep Scottish and Irish heritage and long Canadian roots stretching back for generations.

So what can be done? For starters, let’s cut back on the judgmental stereotyping on complete strangers. If you’re not certain, ask! It’s incredible how people of different ethnicities are so open and willing to share about themselves.

Canada is made up of immigrants, and there are none who have as extensive a lineage on this land as our Aboriginal peoples.

That being said, hence, nearly all of us are immigrants or come from families who left their home countries to Canada.

Let go of the generalizations, ask questions and inform yourself.