Thursday, March 16, 2017
Identifying races and nationalities has become ever more complicated. As a young boy in
Buenos Aires the first Chinese person I ever saw was in my class at the
American School. The population in Buenos Aires was either white skinned (the
descendants of the Irish, German, Spanish, Italian and Russians (an overall
epithet Argentines reserve for Jews who originally came from Eastern Europe) or
morochos (dark-skinned) who were full blooded or descendants of Native
Every once in a while I would spot someone who had black
world was all in order for me. In maps Mexicans slept siestas under a
saguaro cactus while wearing a big hat. Germans in short leather pants lived in
Bavaria and women in conical hats planted rice in China. Argentines were men on horseback twirling boleadoras.
of the world has changed. My Argentine nephew Georgito O’Reilly asked me how I
can discern the difference between the Chinese and Japanese. My answer is most
truthful, “I can tell the difference between them but when I am in doubt they
are usually Korean”.
|Maureen and Catalina|
Vancouver I have a terrible time separating between those from Mexico and the
people of Iran. They look much the same.
arrived in Vancouver in 1975 I was startled by seeing “Mexicans” in the streets
who spoke no Spanish. They were Native Canadians. I was from a time when the
aboriginal peoples of North America were supposed to be red and those from the
For a while I bought groceries at a corner store that was run by Chinese who spoke no English. I had a hard time communicating with them until the day I heard Spanish in the back. The family had just arrived to Vancouver from Peru!
I always like to ask in my most pleasant manner where anybody I have contact
with comes from. The question can be intrusive but usually I navigate around
that and manage to compare notes with my Philipino “Cababayans” or Mexico City “Chilangos”.
But I still
have the talent of being able to spot an Argentine at an airport or on the
street. It is a combination of attitude, dress, hair and whatever else that I
cannot quite pin down..
in point are the five, all sisters (he has more) granddaughters of my nephew Georgito O’Reilly.
To begin with they all have straight and more or less long hair.