by Daniel Cubias
Our neighbors, as well as the people who went to our church, were scandalized. It wasn’t that anyone disagreed with her about the pathetic state of the schools. No, what caused them to whisper among themselves was the fact that she spoke up about it.
In essence, people in my neighborhood suffered from the Mande Mindset. This phenomenon is the tendency of many Latinos, particularly immigrants, to acquiesce to authority figures. In this case, people in my neighborhood accepted substandard education for their children rather than confront the men and women in charge.
The mindset comes from the Spanish word mande, which means, “Command me” or “Order me.” The word is supposedly “the polite way in Spanish to answer when anybody in authority” is present. You don’t say, “I have a question for you,” or even, “Excuse me,” to such individuals. You say, “Order me.”
Subservience is thus ingrained right there in the language. So it’s little wonder that many immigrants are often unwilling to speak up for themselves. And I’m not just talking about undocumented people who are terrified that INS is going to nab them. It’s deeper than rational fear.
Giving in to authority goes back to the Spanish conquistadors in Latin America. In the centuries since, people in Hispanic countries have learned to shut up and accept the decrees of vicious dictators, the pronouncements of the Catholic Church, and the whims of rich vacationing Americans. It’s a legacy of learned helplessness.
However, the Mande Mindset is finally dying an inglorious death, at least in the United States. Emboldened by the sheer strength of numbers, Latinos are exerting power on the cultural and political framework of this nation. The fact that Latinos could be the deciding factor in the 2012 election is ample evidence that we’re less likely to say, “Command me,” to politicians.
For additional proof, look no further than the undocumented students who recently outed themselves to demand immigration reform. Whether you agree or disagree with them, it’s undeniable that they’re taking a courageous stance.
So why is this happening now? Well, simple math — in the form of changing demographics — explains much of it. However, it is also because Latinos born and/or raised in America know that the Mande Mindset doesn’t work here. Your fellow Americans will be only too happy to boss you around if you let them, much less if you ask them to do so.
Yes, Americans have a reputation for being arrogant and pushy. But this is also the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and that is no coincidence. Latinos, especially the younger generation, are learning the benefits of tapping into that self-confidence and assertiveness.
We are finally learning that we don’t say, “Order me,” to anybody.
To learn more about Daniel, visit Hispanic Fanatic.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.