Someone suggested that when I go to any Jewish function, I should just give everyone a two-minute bio about myself so that people will stop staring and acting totally bizarre if they think I don’t “look Jewish.”
But often when I tell Jews that my family is from the Dominican Republic (and I was born in New York, though this last part goes unheard because two seconds later, they ask what it was like growing up in the Dominican Republic), they go into a rant about how much they LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE the Dominican Republic or how much they want to visit and that’s when it gets pretty AWKWARD.
(Most notably, the least awkward conversation I had with a Jew about the Dominican Republic was with an Italian Jewish woman I met at the Chabad in Florence, Italy who told me she had lived Santo Domingo for over 20 years and raised her son there. She knew more about the Dominican Republic than me and her Spanish was faultless. If I remember correctly, we spoke in Spanish because I didn’t speak Italian and she didn’t speak English.)
Guatemalan Maya Escobar made a video about the awkwardness that ensues when you tell someone Jewish (or just white) about your “native” country called “Gringa Loves Guatemalan,” even down to the bad Spanish they use to effusively discuss how much they LOVE LOVE LOVE Guatemala. It showcases beautifully how people in the Jewish community respond when I tell them I’m first-generation Dominican-American….
So remember, folks, I am not a Dominican travel agent, I don’t want to know about your vacation there, I don’t want to you to practice your broken Spanish with me and I have no idea how you can prevent getting malaria in the Dominican Republic…I was born in New York for G-d’s sake!
Related: Maya pretends to be a college student who thinks it’s awesome that Maya, THE LATINA, is at their school.
6 thoughts on “But why don’t you just tell people you’re Dominican?”
I've gotten SO many similar responses in the Jewish community when I mention I’m Dominican. They assume I was born here because I don’t have an accent (I was born in DR). However I’ve been asked more often if I'm Sephardic before being asked if I'm Hispanic. I think that has a lot to do with the way I dress though, not my facial features.
In school however (where 1 out of the 7 Hispanics who attend), people don't bother asking me what my deal is when it comes to culture. I walk around with my head covered, so I’ve been mistaken for being a Muslim, but I rock a Magen David so it’s clear that I’m probably Jewish. And I don't hide being Dominican, so it's known that I am.
It all seems too complicated for them to bother understanding.
I haven’t dealt with many white people who are truly interested in other cultures. The ones I have met are smug about being culturally open or take a cursory glance of the culture and remain completely ignorant because of it.
You’re right though; I don’t give two shits about how much you enjoyed your resort trip to Puerto Plata. And for the love of all that’s holy, keep the broken Spanish to yourself! I speak English; you don’t have to try communicating with me in Spanish.
Besides, there’s way too much diversity in Judaism now, is it even appropriate to say “You don’t LOOK Jewish” anymore?
On behalf of Stupid White People, please accept my apologies.
FWIW, I lived in Central America for 3.5 years and was frequently asked personal questions by the people I met. [Especially about why I didn't have children.]
Joy, Joy! Don't even know what so say. It's definitely not just “white people.” You should hear the stuff I get every once in a while from Hispanic non-Jews! Doesn't matter what color you are, foot in mouth disease affects us all!
Aliza, thank you so much for your support of my work! It is so interesting to see how our experiences continue to line up. I wanted to add that while I am definitely pointing the finger at others in these two videos, I am also making fun of myself and the cultural awkwardness of having been on both sides of the table. thanks again!
I think we just need to get you a tee shirt that reads “I am not your Teachable Moment.” or something. Because ya know… you shouldn't have to walk around qualifying anything.
this is so funny – she gets the cringeworthy situations spot-on!