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Staying Latino While Avoiding Malta

by Eric Jude Cortes

Please note: Parts of this true story may have be dramatized, or untrue. the thought gripped me fiercely, like I was Danny Torrance in the Shining. The headache and confusion nearly made me nearly numb. I felt myself questioning everything, past and present. had no clue what was real in my life and what wasn’t real. I questioned if my father was who he claimed to be, and if the stories of my ancestors were real or simple fables. At the root of my mental drama was a question that had shaken me to my core: Can you be Latino if you hate Malta?

It occurred unexpectedly at on Friday afternoon in my last class of the day. I was teaching my 11th grade government class, when I finished the lesson early and decided to banter with my students. My students asked me what my least favorite soft drink was, so I replied, “Malta.” From the looks on their faces, you would have thought I said I steal toys from orphanages. My mostly Hispanic class was filled with a teary-eyed rage. The comment that they all shouted at me was, “You can’t Latino if you hate Malta!”

I declared my Hispanicity, but nothing seemed to be good enough for them. They pelted me with accusations. “You haven’t had Goya Malta!” “Yes, I have, but I didn’t like it.” “You haven’t had Goya in Puerto Rico!” “Yes I did, I found it unpalatable.”It went on like this for ten minutes, and just before the bell rang, a young man dryly said “Face it Mr. Cortes, you’re just not Latino.” Saddened, I took the long way home and contemplated things.

Resigned, and accepting that thirty screaming sixteen-year-olds can’t be wrong, I set out to prove that I am either not Latino, or that I like Malta. I called my father and demanded answers. “Where were you born?! Bratislava, Slovakia?!” “Um… no… Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.” “And what about your parents?! They were born in Norway! Weren’t they?!” “Eric… they were born in Puerto Rico too…. I am going to hang up now.”

Unable to prove that I am not Latino, I decided to prove that I love Malta. Preparing to watch football with my Colombiana girlfriend, I bought a case of the stuff. As we watched Marc Sanchez battle Peyton Manning, my girlfriend watched me battling with my gag reflex as I imbibed the syrupy bile. I offered her a bottle and was blown away when she declared that she never liked the stuff. It was an epiphany.

My eyes have been opened. People are not monoliths. The same way not all Koreans like kimchi, and not all Poles like perogies, Latinos don’t all have to enjoy the same foods. We are a proud ethnic group, not a bunch of easily predictable stereotypes. I may speak Spanish and dance salsa, but I am still going to stay the hell away from Malta.

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To learn more about Eric,
randomly bump into him on the street and politely ask him some questions.

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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.

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About Eric J Cortes

Eric Jude Cortes describes his ethnic background as simply “New Yorker.” The son of an Italian mother and a Puerto Rican father, Eric Jude grew up in a Russian/Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and attended extremely diverse public schools. Eric Jude credits his diverse upbringing with his success professionally, as since 2004 he has been teaching in a public high school with one of the largest percentage of foreign born students in the city. It is this diversity which has shaped his work for Being Latino, which have ranged from a lighthearted musing on the drink Malta, to a passionate diatribe against drug addicts. At the university level, Eric Jude has an MA in History, with a thesis on Contraband in Spanish Puerto Rico, from Brooklyn College. An avid traveler, Eric Jude’s bucket list includes a pledge to visit every Latin American country, something he has complete halfway so far. His secrets to success in life include faith, a type-A personality, and the ability to be silly and break into a dance at moment’s notice. Daily, he can be found running on your local street, lifting weights at your local gym, or praying at your local Catholic church.

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.

Comments

  1. I dislike the flavor of malta too!

  2. Eileen Rivera-de la Hoz says:

    I hate Malta. There, I said it!

  3. Cindy Tovar says:

    Haha! I hate malta too!

  4. I am not Puerto Rican but have had many PR insist that I drink Malta – it is NASTY!! Now that I am on the Mexican border, I bought a case for a meeting where we were trying new foods – uh, NO ONE liked the Malta. Maybe its a Mexican thing to not like it, just kidding. Guacatelas!

  5. Fear Not Brother Bori! For I too can’t stand Malta! lol I’m still MoRican than most of the ones that DO like it! lol

  6. Not everyone likes Malta. I totally agree with you on this. My mom hates it but her brother likes it. And furthermore I didnt like platano maduro until I was older so go figure!

  7. I HATE Malta!!! I’m the daughter of Colombians and my mom couldn’t remember which soda I loved, Colombiana or Pony Malta and she went to the hispanic grocer and brought me back Pony Malta ='( still in the fridge… untouched….

  8. <—Dislikes Malta. My friends (Latino) look at me like I'm crazy.

  9. I think if we get into the details of how they use to give Malta to our parents you have a whole other post. Then you would really not like it.

    It involved creating a Ponche including Egg to the Malta to make people healthier.

    Eric, at least you don’t eat Malta I am vegetarian and I can’t eat all traditional Puerto Rican Food so Imagine how I feel when I have to explain the same story over and over again.

    I also can relate with you I have so many cousins I lost count that where born in Connecticut have never even visited Puerto Rico and they decided that They where supposedly Puerto Rican because the dance Salsa. Whoever I was born In Ponce and I am not Puerto Rican because I have two left feet.

    What a great post! I like Malta but I stay away from it. It is not healthy.

  10. I am Latina and proud to have never liked Malta! Yuck!!

  11. Nicolle Morales Kern says:

    I don’t like Malta either, never have. So what did you do with that case you bought?

    I can definitely relate because people are always amazed when I tell them I don’t like beer of any kind. And once they find out I lived in Germany for the majority of my life, they just stare at me in disbelief and ask “How can you not like beer if you lived in Germany?” They always try to get me to taste it again and again, “but the flavored ones don’t taste like beer” and all I say is Yes they do.

  12. nycgirl77 says:

    Just b/c we’re all latinos doesn’t mean we’re going to like the same foods or some of our native foods. Everyone has a different palate. I don’t like pasteles or yucca does that make me any less pr? I don’t think so. I’ve tried malta before and it has a bitter taste to it some brands are better than others but overall don’t drink this.

  13. To all the commentary in behave of Malta, when I was growing up I remember my mother and other P.R’s drinking and making punches with egg yoke and more suger added to this so call malta it was not that bad, as I got more mature I starded reading labels, I could not believe what this malta that was giving to us to make us strong was a big myth, this drink is full of caramel syrup, molasses, is not healthy at all. 66

  14. Eric J. Cortes says:

    Hey people. Thanks for all of the great supportive commentary. I mentioned that this story is exaggerated, so I figure I’ll write what’s true and what’s not.

    True parts of my story:
    1. I hate malta.
    2. Two students claimed I am not a real Puerto Rican because I don’t like Malta.
    3. I tried malta with my girlfriend of Colombian ancestry.
    4. I really did have a gag reflex with the malta, and do think it tastes like bile.

    Corrections:
    1. The conversation with my dad never happened.
    2. My class was not mostly Hispanic.
    3. I did try malta to see if I would like it after a few years, but I wasn’t going through any sort of mental anguish or “Shining.”
    4. It wasn’t an epiphany when I realized my girlfriend hated it too. She told me in the supermarket it was gross.
    5. I bought one bottle of malta, not a case. I drank half of it and spilled the rest down the drain.

    Thanks again for the comments.

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