01 June 2012

Ramblings on Budweiser, crawfish boils, and ethnic labeling

One of my favorite things to do on Facebook is posing questions to incite discussion - the more controversial the better. Sometimes, I include images or videos. One afternoon, hanging out on the outdoor patio of a chain restaurant that purports to be a British pub with lots of old books and various antiquities decorating the interior, I noticed this advertisement hanging on the rail behind me:

I posted this picture to my Facebook wall, along with a status update that asked, "Why is the Latino guy the only single one?"

I received a number of interesting responses - below are some of the best ones, along with some of my thoughts. Feel free to share your thought in the comments below!

"Oh, he'll end up with the white guy's girl. You watch."

This does seem to happen fairly often. At a Texas Book Festival panel discussion of Latina writers (one of them being Michelle Herrera Mulligan, author of Border-Line Personalities), the moderator, writer David Rice, made a comment about how all the white guys were "stealing" the Latinas. (David is actually Hispanic - the last name comes from his adoptive grandfather.)

I know a lot of Latinas who are with guys of Anglo descent, myself included. (You can read more of my personal experience in a past blog post "Why I Never Dated a Latino.") But I also happen to know a lot of Latinas who, for different reasons of their own, choose to date and marry within their culture. Any statistics out there? Sort of.

"Respectfully, I think that you're inferring too much from the arrangement of people."

That's true. But what led me to make that assumption? I suppose it was the way they appeared to be neatly arranged. And much in the way most Westerners read text left to right, I wonder if we also interpret images left to right.

Two fair-skinned people sitting together on the left, two darker-skinned people on the right somewhat facing each other from across the table. And the "Latino" casually interrupting what started out to be a an orderly, organized arrangement. But creating randomness that appears natural isn't easy to do. (Although Benetton has been attempting to do this with their United Colors ad campaign series since the 1960s.)

"Which one is the Latino and how can you tell he's the single one?"

Well, since we have three shades of color represented in the image (light, medium, and dark) and we can only assume Budweiser is trying to promote racial/ethnic/cultural diversity, it's easy to infer the two lighter-skinned people on the left are of Anglo descent, the two darker-skinned people are of African descent, and the guy with "brown" skin is the Hispanic.

But they could all just as easily be Latin American. The lighter-skinned ones might be from northern Mexico, where there are people of Irish ancestry as a result of the San Patricios during the Mexican-American War. Maybe the ones we think are African American are actually Puerto Rican. Maybe the guy I thought was Latino all along isn't Latino, and he's really Armenian. Both my mother and brother, who live in Los Angeles, have more than once been mistaken to be Armenian.

"Where are the dark-skinned black people? And what are they eating? Where are the green vegetables?!"

That's a really good question. I'd also like to know - where are the Asians and the Indians?

"Maybe they are just people eating crawfish and drinking crappy beer and shouldn't be labeled by their ethnicity or lack thereof. Imagine!"

Budweiser is crappy, but I will say, I've known more Mexicans here in the United States to drink Budweiser (or Bud Light) than any other cultural or ethnic group. I grew up and now live in a working class neighborhood that is mostly populated by Mexican families. I see it happening in their front yards. I see it when I go to the corner liquor store. They're buying Budweiser or Coors, and I'm buying the fancy Negra Modelo.

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