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Once more into the breach, falsos amigos, once more…

30 May 2009

Thanks to the right-wing lunacy emanating from the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the United States Supreme Court, I finally figured out how Watergate happened. It was a failure to communicate.

A bunch of Cuban burglars were sent out to bug the Democratic Party headquarters… led by all-round lunatic G. Gordon Liddy, who proved his ineptitude when it comes to languages (and to acting like a human being) when he said of Sotomayor, “‘She’s a member of  La raza’, which is illegal alien for ‘the race’.” 

Unfortunately for all of us, Liddy’s criminal sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter and what should have been the incoherent ravings of a cracked ex-con on the back wards of some hospital for the criminally insane (and basically useless) has instead led to a career in broadcasting his potty messages over the airwaves and broadband.

While Liddy’s cohorts were definitely up to something illegal (and were aliens) Spanish is not, of course, “illegal alien” and Spanish words are not simply clandestine disguises for English terms.

Stace Medellín, over at the Houston area political site, “Dos Centavos” once again has to take up the dreary task of explaining a Spanish “false cognate” (or “falso amigo”) of trying to talk some sense into the congenitally bone-headed one more time:

Well there they go again. Direct translation can be a terrible thing. Mizanur Rahman at the [Houston Chronicle’s] immigration blog goes through what I’ve had to do many times–defend the use of “raza”. The bigots on the far-right (and even clueless lib-labs who don’t like race issues) always attempt to attack Chicanos and other Latinos who use that word. There’s a national organization called the National Council of La Raza. And in the 70s, Texas had a pretty successful political third party that I still say changed the face of the Democratic Party, La Raza Unida. Hell, there’s even a radio station that calls itself La Raza. “Raza” is directly translated as “race.” In Chicano-speak, it simply means people. Or if we are trying to get a crowd excited, we might say, “Orale Raza…” which loosely means, “C’mon, people…”

Have you (my Anglo readers), ever been pissed off at drivers who hold up traffice and say, “oh these people!” Well, when some of us get annoyed, we sometimes blurt out, “ay esta raza”. We’re not saying, “oh, this race.” We’re not saying, “C’mon, race…” It doesn’t even make sense, unless you’re some right-wing racist nut.

So, once and for all, right-wing: Cut the crap! Chicanos and other Latinos could never out-racist you. We simply don’t have the power to be racist. But something tells me, that’s what those nuts fear the most.

This issue comes up every time a Spanish-speaking person is recommended for any position in the United States, or Spanish-speakers are in the news… as now, with the nomination of Bronx-born appellate court judge Sonia Sotomayor  for a position on the U.S. Supreme Court.  One of the sillier attacks on Sotomayor’s nomination is that she is a member of a civil rights group for Spanish-speakers, called “la Raza.”

The group’s name is enough to give monolingual Anglophonic bigots all the (false) rationale they need to twist the arguement to a claim they are countering bigotry (by fostering it… sort of like burning down a village to save it).  According to the people who “buy” this line of reasoning, the U.S. group, la Raza uses as its motto a quote from Mexican academic, politician and philosopher, José Vasconcelos — “todos para la raza” — “all for the people”.

I did once run across someone with enough sophistication to confuse himself even more.  Vasconcelos, having turned against the Calles Administration, ran for President in the special election of 1929.  Following his defeat, he drifted further and further into right-wing circles, ending as an apologist for Hitler.

Ironically enough though, when Vasconcelos spoke of  “raza” in the sense of ethnicity, he was talking about mestije (what in English is called by the negative word, “miscegenation”) as a positive thing.  He wasn’t so much pro-Nazi as in awe of Hitler as an author whose book led him to political power.  And — no getting around it — Vasconcelos was an anti-Semite.

That may make quoting Vasconcelos problematic — though it is like assuming whatever Henry Ford said about automobiles was suspect because Ford also praised the Nazis, and was a notorious anti-Semite — but doesn’t make “raza” mean “race”.

This isn’t just a “chicano” thing, or even a Latino thing, by any means.    It’s not even a Vasconcelos thing.

One doesn’t need to go to the Diccionario de la Lengua Española of the Real Academia Española (though I did… page 1731 of the  21st edition to be precise) to know how stupid this is.  “Raza” is used everywhere in the Spanish-speaking world … from Argentina to Andulusia … to mean breed, nationality or other group which hold something in common.  Only the ancillary uses after the seven definitions does it mention “raza humana” … “human race” and subdivisions thereof .

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 30 May 2009 5:54 pm

    I can’t walk the perro three blocks without someone asking me “Que raza es?” It’s going to be hard not to chuckle through these confirmation hearings.

  2. 31 May 2009 6:50 pm

    Others view Vasconcelos as a atipical racist
    http://puenteareo1.blogspot.com/2006/04/la-raza-cmica.html

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  1. Posts about La Raza as of May 31, 2009 | EL CHUCO TIMES

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