I recently found out that my family does not really have any Hispanic blood coursing through its veins. They’re descendants of French people who stayed behind after the French Mexican war (1861–1867) and changed their names to Hispanic ones. Many of them settled in New Mexico, where my family comes from. Now when someone asks about my background, I answer that despite my surname I’m not really Hispanic. This infuriates Latinos and some refuse to talk to me afterwards. I feel completely alienated. Also, I’m on a Hispanic scholarship and I don’t want to give it up. My mom says it doesn’t matter because Hispanic is not an ethnicity, but a culture. What do you think?
—J in Albuquerque
Your mom is right. Also, technically the French, as well as the Italians and Portuguese, are also Latinos because their languages, like Spanish, evolved from Latin. It seems to me you’re being picky and somewhat snobbish about this. Maybe you, like many Americans, think being French is sexier than being Mexican. In any case, if you think those New Mexico franceses didn’t do the can-can with local hispanas in the last 140 years, think again. The whole American continent, from Alaska to Argentina, has been and continues to be one humongous pachanga of ethnic, racial and cultural intermingling in the last five centuries. But if you believe in the purity of your French blood, then by all means renounce your scholarship along with your surname. There are many proud Latinos who’d love that chance to get an education.
—C’est la vie, mija, D