Latinas Are Not Exotic

Posted on 16. Nov, 2013 by in colombia, latin america, peru

Upon arrival in the United States my wife, Milagros, saw there are many more Latins in my country than there are gringos in hers. Hispanics are the United States’ largest ethnic minority, and there is nowhere you won’t see their footprint. Not only do U.S. citizens comprise some of the world’s most recognized Latinos, they are also some of our most powerful leaders, including one of America’s most significant labor organizers, a Supreme Court justice, and a probable presidential candidate.

So in addition to giving her reading assignments on American history and insightful lectures on everything from domestic politics to regional industry, I want Milagros to learn about Latin Americans’ role. It keeps her away from Caso Cerrado and Telemundo to watch the ample television programming geared toward the American Latino experience. While I prefer the PBS special, Latino Americans, she liked the lighter, cultural narratives in HBO’s growing Latin variety.

One of those shows is the Latino List, which showcases interviews with accomplished Latin Americans.

At the 1:00 mark in the above video, longtime Calvin Klein model, Christy Turlington, talks about being called a “closeted Latina.” In her interview she further explains how, when she first got into modelling, everybody described her as “exotic.” It struck her odd as she had never thought of herself as “exotic.”

Milagros perked up at that word. Gringos had used it to describe her too. Why do people say that?

It’s true. I’d heard at least one family member and one friend call her, “exotic.”

Merriam-Webster’s definition of exotic:

very different, strange, or unusual

of a plant or animal : not living or growing naturally in a particular area : from another part of the world

1: introduced from another country : not native to the place where found <exotic plants>

2: (archaic) foreign, alien

3: strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual <exotic flavors>

This brings us to the point of the article. Are Latinas exotic?

NO.

Primary Definition

Latin Americans are the largest ethnic minority in the United States (17%) and, with over 50 million, the United States has more Spanish speakers than Spain, Colombia, Argentina, or any country except Mexico. So “very different, strange, or unusual?” Hardly.

Plants and Animals

If treating Latinas as plants or animals, we can use the archaic definition of “not living or growing naturally in a particular area, from another part of the world, introduced from another country, not native to the place where found, foreign, or alien.”

Milagros is obviously from another part of the world. But so are Europeans. If an American is going to call Latinas exotic, he also needs to use that word for British and German women, or “birds” as those strange Brits call them. In terms of distance, everywhere in Europe is further from St. Louis than Peru, and much further than Mexico, Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic.

The plants-and-animals definition actually eliminates Latinas from being exotic here: “not native to the place where found.” Christy Turlington was born in California. Obviously from her last name, her father was a gringo. And while her mother came from El Salvador, Latin blood is not necessarily from another part of the world.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. I lived in both Southern Arizona and Southern California, and in each area a Latin chick is about as exotic as a grilled cheese sandwich. In some parts of Texas if somebody who looks like me isn’t wearing a cowboy hat, he would be presumed the foreigner over my Latin wife. Uncle Sam won Puerto Rico and the southwestern states from wars with Spain and Mexico in the 19th century. In that sense, Latin blood is more native to the United States than many gringos’, including mine (late-19th-century English and 20th-century Irish).

But most think of cultural distance, even Latinos who assume Americans and Europeans are all the same. They’re all gringos. They’re mostly white (not Spanish or Italian white, which I guess doesn’t count, but white white, Nordic white). Gringos are all the same in that they’re white white and from rich countries. Poor gringos get fat and obese, while poor Latinos (outside the U.S.) suffer growth stunting and malnutrition. In gringo countries the trains run on time, while a Latin city is rather proud if they even have a train.

But not all those cultural assumptions are completely true. Due to an embrace of the least productive economic model in the history of humanity, Eastern European countries inhabited by white white people are poor, in some ways poorer than Latin poor. And while it’s not quite a rich country, Mexico has surpassed the United States as the world’s most obese.

A lot of what comes out of Western Europe and Scandinavia is more foreign, more alien to heartland Americans like me than Latin culture. Ever had to suffer black metal or British food? I’d prefer vallenato and Colombian food every day of the week.

We estadounidenses and Canadians have much in common with Latin America that we don’t with Europeans. We share a legacy of colonialism. Our people left Europe for a new, very different life. You can’t tell me there isn’t a disproportionate propensity for risk in the DNA of everyone from Canada to Patagonia.

The Americas are young countries. In Europe, on the other hand, there seems to be less hopefullness and dreaming in societies that are thousands of years old. Where Americans consider themselves optimists, Europeans see naivete.

While the Americas are racially diverse, we’re nowhere near as diverse as Europe culturally. One reason I didn’t consider going expat in Europe was because I didn’t want to learn some strange language they don’t speak anywhere else. Which of these looks more “foreign?” More “alien?”

  1. Яка мова є більш екзотичним?
  2. ¿Qué idioma es más exótico?

While you have no idea even how to pronounce the first sentence, you can guess what the second sentence says without speaking Spanish.

Europe is the world’s most secular continent. Outside the Muslim world, the Americas are probably the most religious. A recent survey showed more Americans would vote for a Muslim president than for an atheist.

In this list of the world’s 50 most dangerous cities, a whopping 45 are in the Americas, with four in the United States. In all of Europe, not one. The prevalence of guns is a quirk of Americana that horrifies Europeans. But not Americans. Crime is, for whatever reason, shared across the Americas.

colombian-cupid-buttonObviously the United States enjoys the Special Relationship with Britain, and Latin America is tighter with its Iberian forebears. But when considering Scandinavian countries, Slavic Europe, Greece, or even the Krauts, Latins are not that foreign or alien to an American. Not exotic.

Flavors

Merriam-Webster’s third definition, “strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual,” may apply for those gringos trying to be nice, score points, and tell Latinas they’re beautiful.

If that’s you, take it from me, the last thing you should tell a beautiful woman is that she’s beautiful. You think she doesn’t know? That’s the quickest way to lose respect or creep her out. You can tell that to unattractive women if you want, but not beautiful women.

Maybe you think it’s original or less obvious by subbing “exotic” for “beautiful.” If you tell a Latina she’s “exotic,” she won’t hear “beautiful.” She will hear “Indian.” And again, trust me, the vast majority of Latinas do not want to be called Indians.

If you want to make fun of a girl, poke fun, or tear her down, great! But don’t be subtle about it, don’t be weak. Instead, call her “indiacita.” I do it all the time. I used to do it all the time.

For you gringa women out there, you can’t tell a Latina she’s exotic either. Because then she will realize you’re a dike* and get creeped out, which is ultimately creepier than a harmless nerd trying to tell her she’s beautiful.
* “Dike” is meant with all the respect of the straight ally I am.

Again and at last, Latinas aren’t exotic.

Point of the Story

Latinas are not exotic.

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My Non-Exotic Family:

colin post expat chronicles

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15 Responses to “Latinas Are Not Exotic”

  1. Jim

    17. Nov, 2013

    To me all humans are pretty strange but I have to say yeah, Latinas are exotic. They’re a *lot* more emotional than American women, which is both good and bad. People of Latin ethnicity who have grown up in American culture- this would exclude many in Miami, which is strongly Latin American, but probably not most of those in other parts of the US, even heavily Latin areas- are pretty Americanized, and thus just American, but true Latinos are a lot different.

  2. Comicus

    17. Nov, 2013

    Agree that there are lots of latinas in the United States.

    Using your definition of exotic, latinas can not be exotic here because there are so many of them.

    But this also is a definition of exotic:

    “a strange or foreign instinct, environment or frequency which contains erotic energies”.

    I think that’s more in line with the definition that people use when referring to latinas as exotic.

    And, using this definition, I think that it’s accurate to say that (many) latinas are exotic, at least in contrast to their gringa counterparts, with a much greater prevalence of feminist culture here.

  3. Twenty

    17. Nov, 2013

    I gotta say you’re wrong on this one, Colin.

    The biggest difference between a latina and a gringa (from the anglosphere) is *femininity*. Latinas seem to enjoy being women, while gringas (mostly) seem to be trying to impersonate men. Couple that with darker skin, hair, and eyes, a different language/charming accent, and, yeah, “exotic” just about covers it.* (Plus the emotional/passionate/violent temperament, with which I believe you may be familiar.)

    It’s fine to note that latinas don’t like to be called “exotic”. Hell, argies don’t even like to be called “hispanic”. But, uh, they are.

    * Yes, I know there are blond-haired, blue-eyed latinas. And that EE/FSU gringas are pretty feminine too. But we’re dealing with combinations and generalities here.

  4. Laird

    17. Nov, 2013

    I am married to a Peruana and my wife is exotic as hell! She is a mix of Peruvian/Cuban/Chinese/Italian. Growing up in an almost all gringo area of the US (near Philly) and going to college in Central PA, there was nothing but boring white chicks. My wife is exotic to me because of the contrast to what I was familiar with for a good portion of my life. Demographics are fine to point to as a macro indicator of what is going on but exotic (to me) is in the eye of the beholder.

  5. Pat

    17. Nov, 2013

    Great family picture Colin! Question, I think in a recent post you said you plan on raising your family in Peru? Could you give a more detailed post or comment on why? I’m curious of the pros and cons of raising a family in Peru over the US. Thanks again mate!

    Pat

  6. Sheesh

    20. Nov, 2013

    This website sucks.

  7. Rubio

    21. Nov, 2013

    Colin speaks truth boys and girls.

    When I went to London last year I was in total shock how DIFFERENT they were over there. It’s a totally different mindset in a country where everything has been owned and decided centuries ago. And the USA and Canada have a LOT more in common with South America than they do with anywhere in Europe it would seem.

    Everything everybody has said about Latinas are stereotypes that have some truth to them but are much more far reaching than people realize. Really a Latino es someone who was born and raised speaking a Romance language, descended from Latin. This includes people from Quebec and Brazil, and you can certainly see the same stereotypes in play, the emotional nature of the people, the crazy drivers, the love of food and partying, the difficulty of finding a good cup of coffee at night etc.

  8. Twenty

    21. Nov, 2013

    It’s true that the Americas have more in common with one another than they do with countries in Europe (or Asia!), But that’s not the same thing as demonstrating that latinas are not exotic.

    Consider this FB page, which I’d say is run by a Colombian (given the meltdown over a recent pageant winner) and has a heavy latino readership (judging from the comments):

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Colombianas-y-Brasileras-Las-Mujeres-Mas-Bellas-y-Ex%C3%B3ticas/321633377891037

    Note that “exoticas” is right there in the URL. Now, that does seem to mean “mixed race” in this context, and that could easily segue into “Indian” coming from a gringo, hence the knicker-twisting.

  9. Matthew B

    21. Nov, 2013

    It’s the accent. Outside of south florida, texas, and california latinos are still kind of new. Especially in the midwest. Trust me I know. I’m chicano but I grew up in rural missouri. When I moved to texas as a teenager I was blown away by all the beautiful mexican girls. All of the guys I meet who are from up north tell me the same thing. It’s one of the coolest things about texas, the sexy latinas.

    A funny thing now is I’m starting to do a 180. The blondies I grew up with and always took for granted are starting to become “exotic” to me.

  10. Falcao

    24. Nov, 2013

    Why do you try so hard making up all this pseudo scientific bullshit Colin? Is it so hard to accept no one here would date your inbred bald pigface??
    So what if you had to go all the way to Peru to find someone with standards low enough to marry your narcissistic cuntface. That’s nothing to be ashamed of colin. Just don’t justify your sextourism with some blog and halfwitted take on latin american culture.

  11. Eater

    02. Dec, 2013

    Congrats on the kiddo, sir.

  12. Daniel

    31. Jan, 2014

    Well, I’m Colombian, from Bogotá city, I respect your point of view, but i have to defend the Latin America’s womans.
    I have many reason for call exotic to a woman from Latin America, if we use the verbatim definition as Colin used here, maybe we can say the aren’t exotic; but we have to analyse all of components of latin american woman, beginning from the origins, because she are a mixed breed with blood of all parts around the world; she are passionate, she are amicable, smart, quiet, fresh, cool, creative, spontaneous, and over all gorgeus.

  13. Candela

    13. Jun, 2014

    I am Latina (Caribbean) and have been called “Exotic” many times by Whites and African Americans. I am Spanish Mediterranean, and dark brown with Mulatto features. I’m sure that my background includes African and a mix of a few other things, as well. When I hear exotic, I do think beautiful.

  14. Ty

    26. Jun, 2014

    @ Falcao – Why do you feel the need to be so negative and launch a personal attack when all he is doing is providing a perspective? Usually these types of attacks are in response to insecurities on the part of the poster. If you are in need of help please let me know.
    btw – A lot of bald guys kill it with women in western societies… Bruce Willis, Jason Stathom, Kelly Slater, and Sean Connery (James Bond) come to mind. Perhaps they’re more enlightened than people like yourself.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Latinas Are Not Exotic | Costa Rica Confidential - December 16, 2013

    […] By Colin, Expat Chronicles – Upon arrival in the United States my wife, Milagros, saw there are many more Latins in my country than there are gringos in hers. Hispanics are the United States’ largest ethnic minority, and there is nowhere you won’t see their footprint. […]

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