SUPPOSE you were a Spanish tourist in the U. S. or suppose you were an oldline Spanish-American whose ancestors had settled here many, many generations ago. What would your feelings be toward the Chicanos, Hispanics and Mexican-Americans whom the media currently hold up as representatives of Spanish culture? An interesting answer to this touchy question was printed recently in the letters section of the National Observer. Starting out by saying that the biggest problem the Hispanics “have is the identity of themselves,” the letter, written by Stephen Aponte of Colorado, goes on (ILLUSTRATION: Spanish sports fans):
As an American of Spanish descent (Galicia, Spain), I cannot agree with their banner of identity; i.e. Spanish heritage, culture, etc. In my associations with Mexican-Americans and other Latin Americans in the United States, I have found that little is known by them when it comes to Spanish culture, heritage, and customs of the Spaniards. With the exception of religion and language, no other significant factor of identity can be claimed.
Perhaps it is admiration for the old country that makes me resent the misrepresentation of Spain by a people whose physiognomy, mode of speech, and national characteristics are alien to the Spanish scene. The misconception shared by U. S. Hispanics and other Americans as well, that to be of Spanish background you must be brown-skinned with dark eyes and jet black hair, is absurd.
Well how, then, do we account for the Spanish surnames in the Americas? In the new world the intermarriage of Spaniards with the native Indian played a part, but it was mainly the conversion to Christianity and not the result of direct lineage, as many U. S. Hispanics are led to believe.
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Source: Instauration magazine, May 1977