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Am I not "Hispanic" enough?

by Carey Pena

azfamily.com

Posted on September 11, 2009 at 7:39 PM

Last night, after my story aired I received a voice message. It began, "I think all of that bleach has affected your brain."

 AUDIO: Voicemail 

You know when a message starts out like that it is probably all down hill from there.

The woman proceeded to tell me, in her angry voice, that I had basically abandoned my "Hispanic" roots.

What you need to know to understand her phone call is this:

I had just aired a story about a woman named Patsy Perez. She's a sweetheart of a woman who cleans houses for a living. The name of her service is Nana's House Cleaning. Patsy had recently donated her kidney to one of her client's, a man whose house she cleans. She saved his life.

It goes without saying that Patsy is a remarkable woman and her story was a very positive one. Or so I thought.

The woman who left me said voice mail was upset because she felt that I had "Americanized" Patsy's name. That I didn't roll my R's when I said "Perez" and that I failed to say "Nana" with proper Spanish pronunciation.

As often happens when someone leaves a nasty message, she neglected to leave her name or call back number. Had she done so, I would have gladly called back to clear a few things up.

First, Patsy doesn't roll her R's when she pronounces her own name. Neither does she say Nana with a Spanish accent. I did not find it appropriate to arbitrarily alter her name or the name of her business.

Second, while my last name is Peña, I find it presumptuous for her to assume anything about my heritage or background.

For the record, my Father was actually half Spanish, half Greek. My grandfather, Emilio Peña came to the United States (as an orphan) from Spain. While my grandfather does speak fluent Spanish, I was not brought up speaking the language.

The irony in all of this is that I've had people tell me I'm not really Hispanic (in fact, one of my co-workers said this to me not long ago).

The definition of Hispanic, as I understand it is: "Of or relating to Spain or Spanish-speaking Latin America". I'm pretty sure since my grandfather is from Madrid -- that includes me.

So, I'm either not really Hispanic or not Hispanic enough. I'm not sure which one it is.

The one thing I can say for sure, I don't bleach my hair. It's called highlights!

WATCH PATSY'S STORY

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