by Michael Guillén
When MTV first announced their new show ‘Jersey Shore’ I felt compelled to watch. I’ve lived in New Jersey for the past six years, I’ve visited Seaside Heights on numerous occasions and I was eager to watch a reality show train wreck. Fast forward four seasons later, and I’m still in it for the same reasons. I talk to friends about how dumb this show is and talk about cast members as if I know them personally. It’s a program I love to hate.
In a recent episode, cast member Vinny Guadagnino said he comes from a ‘very traditional’ Italian family because extended family members gather around the table of his parent’s home every Sunday to eat a large dinner. In its present season, the cast is whisked away to Italy. This group of proud Italians don’t speak the language (with the exception of Guadagnino who took a stab at learning before the trip) and it seems as no one really knows too much about Italian culture as they keep asking whether every church is the Vatican, even though they’re staying in Florence, not Rome. Other cast members Nicole ‘Snookie’ Polizzi and Jennifer ‘J-WOW’ Farley who aren’t actually Italian (they’re actually Chilean and Irish) defend their infatuation with Italian culture by saying that the ‘guido’ lifestyle isn’t only about nationality, but a way of life. All cast members proudly show their heritage by wearing clothing that say ITALIA.
The Jersey Shore cast also have their critics. UNICO, the national Italian-American service organization, have spoken out against the show and Joy Behar is downright rude to these kids whenever they’ve appeared on The View.
Growing up, I’ve met Latino people that were ashamed that they didn’t know Spanish or too much about their culture. Instead of being proud and advertising their nationality, they withdrew and didn’t bring it up unless you did first. Why is it that these feelings are this way for certain groups and not for others?
I grew up a first generation Mexican-American. My parents came to the U.S. in the 70s. Spanish was my first language and I’ve been to Mexico many times to visit family. I’ve always been proud of who I am but I’ve gotten grief from people who have said that I’m not Latino enough because of my light skin. I expect non-Latinos to be insensitive but it does sting when I get grief from my Latino brothers and sisters who should know better. Latinos comes in all shades from white to black.
There’s a part of me that envies these Jersey Shore kids. I’m not talking about the limitless sex, drinking and partying or the hundreds of thousands of dollars they’ve accumulated during the show, but their acceptance as ‘real’ Italians by their peers even though they know little to nothing about their heritage. Why can’t Latinos be as accepting of their own? Our greatest strength is our diversity but it’s also our greatest weakness.
To learn more about Michael, visit his website.
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.