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.
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.