Mahahual is a very international community with residents and business owners from all over the world. As one of the few US business guys in town, I get my share of ribbing about my country, some we deserve and some we don’t. One such subject that I find myself often in a defensive position about is our use of the term “American” as to who we are. As a self centered, arrogant, ugly American when I arrived in Mexico, I had no idea the entire Latin America world resented our use of the term “American” to describe ourselves. I had never really considered it actually so when I first was told of my arrogant position on all this, my first response was one of “oh, excuse me and kum-by-ya my new found American brother”. However, after I thought about it, my response changed to one that now leaves them shaking their heads and saying, “pinche gringos”.
Their argument goes like this. Because we all live in the Americas, North, Central and South America, we are all technically, “Americans”. Fair enough although that would mean that Canadians are also Americans and you better be careful if you call them that. They will correct you and say no, they are Canadians. So they also live in the Americas but don’t call them Americans. Now I’m confused!
The thing I also noticed though is that none of the people of Latin America rarely refer to themselves as “Americans”, except at places like OAS meetings or music festivals, both of which almost the entire Latin American world never actually attends. Otherwise, they are Mexican or Brazilian or Cuban or whatever, the rest of the time, which is by the way, almost always. They really don’t use the term, so what is the big deal. We like it, so we use it. I think they just want to use it when we want to, just to give the gringos a hard time. Just a guess though!
No matter, before they can mount a response, I then remind my fellow “Americans” that we were the first to actually start a country in the Americas, so we became the United States … and since we were in the Americas, it only seemed logical to add America onto the end. Would have been a little misleading to be the United States of Asia or Africa, the Unites States of England was totally out of the question, and if nothing else, it made it easier to find, with a map, boat, whatever. Again, why not, nobody else was using it!
It was some 36 years later, the Estados Unidos De Mexicanos was established. Most people in the US don’t know that Mexico’s real name is the United States of Mexicans. Wonder where they got that? I didn’t know this when I came here but it’s on the money, so it must be true, right. So then I began to ask; why can someone from The United States of Mexicans refer to themselves as “Mexicans” but someone from the United States of America, can’t call themselves “American”? Especially when we were doing it first. That is when I hear the “pinche gringo”.
So to the rest of the Americas, I would respectfully say, you want to be “American” no problem. But unless you can come up with a better name for us, and I’ll bet many could, lighten up on us using “American” as what we call ourselves. And while we are on the subject, the same for the World Series. We realize it is only teams from the US and Canada, but we’ve been calling it that since we started and back then, nobody else played baseball or seemed to care for that matter. Besides, we pay the best! We might change what we call ourselves if you can come up with a better name, something catchy please and it needs to fit on a T shirt, but we will not change the World Series, so don’t ask.
Hey, we want to be good neighbors but we have to draw the line somewhere!