I am a Latina Mamá and darn proud of it. I have lived in small towns like Tallahassee, Florida, and in border towns like El Paso, Texas.
I am fair-skinned, and I think that my skin color makes people feel they are “safe” to speak to me in a certain way. They think to themselves, “Oh, she is not really Hispanic or Latina” based on my fair skin. For the purpose of this piece, I will be using the term Latinx but know that Hispanic, Latino, and even Spanish can also be used by some individuals. If you’re interested in reading more about the term Latinx, here’s a good article that explains its history.
Living in different parts of the country, I have been exposed to what people think they know about Latinx people.
Sometimes, these people mean well, and they have good intentions.
They come from a place of not knowing and wanting to learn. Sadly, there are people who, for whatever reason, do not like Latinx people. They come from a place of fear and, unfortunately, too often, hatred.
The Latinx community is the largest minority group in the U.S. today. Chances are, you will run into a Latinx mom at your next playdate.
Here are 10 things you should never say to a Latinx Mamá:
10. “Are you legal?”
Please do not ask a Latinx mother if she is legal. Please do not ask if her parents are legal. Please do ask her about anyone’s legal status, period.
9. “Did you swim across the Rio Grande to get here?”
“Did your parents come on a raft from Cuba?” Please do not ask these questions. If she opens up to tell you how she or her parents and relatives arrived in the United States, then so be it. If not, please do not ask these types of questions.
8. “Is your family part of the drug cartel?”
“Does your family sell drugs?” You may be shocked, but people ask these questions. Please, please, please, just no. I realize that movies like Scarface and El Chapo make it seem like every Latinx is doing these things, but I assure you, we are not.
7. “Are you black or white?”
Avoid this at all costs. If you become close to a Latinx mom and feel confident enough in the relationship to ask them how they identify, that is OK. Many times, however, this question comes from a place of judgment.
Often, if the answer is white, that is preferred. Let’s remember that Latinx countries are a mix of the white (from the Spaniards), the Black (from the brutal slave trade), and the Indigenous (from the Native people).
This is why you see some Latinx people with very fair skin like me and other Latinx with darker skin, like my husband.
6. In addition to black and white, please do not ask, “So you are like mulatto, right?”
This is usually followed up with, “I love mulattos! I love the mix of black and white! My ____ is mulatto, and they are so nice!” Review number four about where Latinx people come from and when it would be appropriate to ask or share such a statement.
5. “Oh, so you are Mexican, right?”
Mexico is a beautiful country, but not all Latinx people are from Mexico. There are 21 Spanish countries in the world. Countries like Brazil, Trinidad, Tobago, Belize, and even the United States are also all countries with high percentages of Latinx people.
Please review geography before assuming a Latinx person is from Mexico.
4. “It is so sad that your parents never taught you how to speak Spanish.”
Stop right there. There may be a hundred reasons why a person does not speak Spanish, including racism.
Many children in El Paso, Texas, do not speak Spanish, even though their parents are from Mexico. Why? Because speaking Spanish was frowned upon.
When El Paso began seeing a rise in Mexicans settling in the area, the white people already there did not welcome it. So much so that in many businesses and schools, you were forbidden from speaking Spanish.
Parents felt their children would encounter less racism if they did not learn Spanish, so they had their children focus on English instead.
3. Do not ever say, “You are not a real U.S. citizen” when speaking to people born in Puerto Rico.
Breaking news, people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, just like Beverly from Alabama.
2. “You must really like eating tacos and burritos.”
See point #6 about all the different Latinx countries in the world. Shockingly, these countries also include different foods outside of tacos and burritos, which are delicious, but not the only Spanish food that exists. For the record, I can probably beat you at a taco eating contest, but that is beside the point.
1. The biggest no-no of them all, “You are in America, speak English!”
Newsflash, the United States has no official language. Look it up if you don’t believe me. This does not mean that for many Latinx, English is not important. Refresh yourself with point #7. The difference today is that we do not have to live in the dark anymore, ashamed to speak Spanish in the public square.
All this being said, please reach out to your Latinx mamá friends.
Learn about them, love them, and include them. When you have a comfortable enough relationship, ask them hard questions if you come from a genuine place of love.
It is not always easy being the Latinx in the mom group.
We live between two worlds. Each day, we learn to navigate those two worlds while building new relationships and making new friends. Be sure to welcome us into your mom groups and your homes. We promise to share delicious Spanish recipes once we feel appreciated for who we are.