SOUTH AMERICA, LATIN AMERICA, SOUTHERN CONE, LATINOS, BRAZILIANS, ETC.

SOUTH AMERICA, LATIN AMERICA, SOUTHERN CONE, LATINOS, BRAZILIANS, ETC.

Date
Nov
22
20191122

In a 2017 survey of Brazilian residents living in the US state of Massachusetts , 22 percent of respondents indicated that they did not identify as ‘Latinos’.

This is interesting for two reasons: 1), ‘Latino’ is not an identity that any Brazilian living in Brazil would automatically self-apply, as the term primarily refers to Spanish-speakers, which Brazilians are not. Nonetheless, one in five of respondents to this survey felt that the term was applicable to them; and 2), even though Brazilians living in North America are presumably more likely to identify themselves as belonging to a group including other South Americans than they would if they were in their own country, almost 80 percent of survey respondents still felt no identification with the term.

There are 13 countries on the continent of South America, and one dependency. Many languages are spoken, but the dominant official ones are English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese. English is the official language in Guyana, French in French Guiana, Dutch in Suriname and Portuguese in Brazil. The main official language in the remainder is Spanish. If the term ‘Latino’ is synonymous with the term ‘Hispanic’ (which I am going to assume it is for the purposes of this article), then it cannot be applied to the population of South America as a whole. Indeed, more than half of the population of South America is non-Spanish speaking. The most spoken language in South America is not Spanish, but Portuguese, as the population of Brazil, at some 210 million, is slightly larger than the combined Spanish-speaking populations of all the officially Spanish-speaking countries. (Let us not forget that the most spoken language in Paraguay is not Spanish at all, but Guarani, and that in Bolivia and Peru huge swathes of the population speak Quechua and Aymara as their first (and sometimes only) languages. While it is true that many indigenous languages are spoken in Brazil, 98 percent of Brazilians speak Portuguese, and most of them are monolingual.)

So the most spoken language on the continent is Portuguese. If, then, you see someone who looks like a ‘South American’ wearing a poncho and playing panpipes, should you waltz up to him and say, ‘E aí, cara, vamos falar português’? Well, no, you shouldn’t, for the very same reason that you should not assume that a ‘South American’ is almost definitely a Spanish speaker.

So, fair enough, folks in South America don’t all speak Spanish. Who cares anyway, right? I mean, they’re all the same, aren’t they? They all like listening to mariachi bands, dancing salsa and eating spicy food, innit?

Alas, the truth is far more complex.

Let us imagine you are in typical neighbourhood restaurant in Buenos Aires. You are there to have lunch with a friend. It is 3 p.m. The restaurant, a small, intimate, old-fashioned place, is quite full. Your meal consists of a plate of mashed potatoes, a large piece of perfectly grilled steak, a grilled sausage and a delicious Argentine black pudding called a ‘morcilla’. You have also been served a ‘mixed salad’ by the elderly male waiter, which consists of lettuce, sliced tomato and grated carrot. The food is not seasoned in any way at all. There is not a chilli pepper or even a black peppercorn to be found anywhere within a 100-metre radius. Your meal is accompanied by a glass of the house wine served in an unpretentious glass cup. Everyone else is eating more or less the same thing you are. The music playing on the radio is in English (as is all of the music played on the radio during your meal). You recognise the singer: it’s Rick Astley. When it is time to pay, you will do so in cash and leave a 10 percent tip for the waiter.

Now let us teleport our lunch restaurant to one in São Paulo. It is midday. The décor is hideous. The (enormous) restaurant is packed full of chatty diners. The music playing on the radio is ‘Vai Passar Mal’, sung by the wildly popular drag performer, Pabllo Vittar. All of the music that will be played on the radio will be in Portuguese, for, as a recent survey  revealed, Brazilians listen to their own music more than do any other people in the world. In the middle of the restaurant, there is an enormous buffet serving a wide array of roasted meats, fish and vegetable dishes, various types of beans and rice, fried, toasted and puréed manioc, ten salads you can choose from, a selection of cheeses, another selection of tropical fruits, a separate section for sushi and other Brazilianised Japanese dishes, and an entirely separate dessert buffet. Available drinks include a huge array of fruit juices – including the juices of fruits you’ve never heard of before – as well as beer and cachaça, among other options. When you entered the restaurant, you were given a chunky plastic card which is used to record all of your purchases. Before you leave, you queue up to pay using a bank card, and do not include a tip.