“You don’t look Spanish”

I interpreted today at a Doctor’s office.
After finishing interpreting for the receptionist but before leaving, the receptionist while giggling and with a big smile on her face said to me “You don’t look Spanish”.
I was confused by her statement and gave a stare of puzzling bewilderment.
Still with a big smile in what felt like the tone of compliment, she repeated “You don’t look Spanish.”
I told her to have a nice day and left.
I just didn’t get it. I still don’t. I hate the term “Spanish“.
Any ideas anyone?

16 thoughts on ““You don’t look Spanish”

  1. I don’t want to admit it- but I have said “spanish” in reference to someone’s ethnicity when what I meant was only that they spoke spanish. It slipped out only recently when I was talking to a friend who also speaks spanish. Where did it come from? NO fricking clue. But there it was. Talk about embarrassing!

    My only guess is that it is so ingrained in certain people heads for so long that it will probably take twice as long to get it un-grained. Be patient with me?

    As for the dumb girl at the doctors’ office? I think the backhanded compliment was sad for many many reasons. Next time look at it as yet another opportunity to educate.

    The merry progressive’s job is never done!

  2. Yeah you don’t look mexican is what there saying because as we were discussing in one of my classes thats a more apporpiate way to not call you Mexican because rich Mexicans back in the day and even now will renounce those roots and claim the Spanish. Plus it arised from the Hispanos, the true Spanish that settled and stayed in New Mexico for the last 500 years so there hard asses about being Hispanos or Spanish… and the US’s first real encounter with Mexicans was through Texas and NEw MExico so there you go. Ya sabes… I think you look Mexican by the way… pinche Chicanos can always tell… I know huh.

  3. What really borthered me about it wasn’t that she used the term “Spanish”. But that she felt the need to compliment me on not “appearing” Latina. It was a similar feeling I had when my Irish Grandfather patted me on the back and proudly said “You can pass for Anglo”.

    Anne, you are funny and you are right are work is never done.

    Xine I might have responded that way if I felt she was addressing my ethnicity. I am not sure she was and felt maybe she was asking if I was Latina but in a poor poor way.

    Roni, I’ve got no issue being rude! =)

    Pancho, if I lived in New Mexico and someone called me Spanish or Hispano I would correct them but in Ohio, well, she wasn’t saying it historically but out of plain-ol’-ignorance.

    J. Colon-Bilbraut al rato lo hago.

    Agustin, Thanks but I still don’t get her “logic”. you? BTW what happend to your comments on your blog?

    Israli, Yeah, that would’ve been very good. I wish I was that quick on my feet.

    James, I am going to count to three and then I am going to hit you in the head with whatever object is within reach.

  4. Elenamary I didn’t mean that you were in New Mexico or the southwest I’m saying that the saying and the cultural reference to calling people Spanish originated from there and traveled back east as the country countinued to grow. With the Mexican-American war people might be down to kick your ass if you claimed Mexican ancestry for quite a while even after the civil war.

  5. I get that all the time too. I politely explain that I am not Spanish but speak Spanish. Sometimes they feel stupid and shut up. Sometimes they say, “well you know what I mean”. Um no. I don’t.
    Or you could always say, “You don’t look stupid”.

  6. JAJA.. I completelly identify with that…
    like a read in a book by Junot Diaz.
    I would have responded:
    ” Well, I’ve never been to Spain,
    Care to tell me what the are to look like…? ”

    Good post…
    You have gained a loyal reader..

  7. Great the back-handed insult/compliment.
    What did she want you to respond with, “Like yeah I know I don’t want to look like them” She needed a clue.

  8. I was at a doctor’s office with my wife wednesday and had a similar incident… the receptionist listened to me translate for my wife then said, “My Dad is Spanish…”
    I thought she meant, you know- Spanish, but then she paused and said, “Or Mexican… whatever. I never learned Spanish. I failed it in school, I hate Spanish.”
    I just shrugged. Like you, I had no idea what to say.

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