If you’re squeamish about ethnic/cultural issues: Do not continue reading!
Disclaimers out of the way, I am now having a severe identity crisis. I’ve always believed and cherished my cultural identity, but a recent trip to a grocery store has made me question the very fabric of space and time. I needed tomato sauce and had no idea where to find it. A store worker was loading shelves with various sundries when I approached him with my query, “Where in the heck is tomato sauce?”
He looked at me and then thought about it for a minute. “Check Aisle 14,” he said and returned to his stocking duties. When I arrived at Aisle 14, I looked up at the aisle marker and learned that I was, apparently, in the appropriate section. The sign was marked, “Authentic Hispanic,” on one side and, “Mainstream Hispanic” on the other. I was curious as to what items were on what side so I looked around.
I learned that an Authentic Hispanic uses items like, Mayonesa and candles painted with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I also learned that a Mainstream Hispanic uses things like pickled carrots and canned green chiles.
The problem for me is that I’ve never in my entire life bought, Mayonesa, Our Lady of Guadalupe candles, pickled carrots, or canned green chiles. Does that mean that I’m neither a Mainstream Hispanic nor an Authentic Hispanic? The store worker who directed me to Aisle 14 seemed to think I belonged in Aisle 14; why didn’t I find the dang tomato sauce?
I looked more closely within the Mainstream Hispanic side of Aisle 14 and sure enough, I found tomato sauce. But, curiosity got the better of me (as it usually does) and I went to the aisle labeled, “Canned Goods,” and lo and behold, I found tomato sauce there, too! Imagine my shock. There was an item than Mainstream Hispanics use in an aisle not labeled or indicated for Mainstream Hispanics. My curiosity carried me towards the aisle labeled, “Condiments.” I almost passed out from shock when I say a large jar of Mayonnaise. Does that mean I should go back to Aisle 14 to get Mayonesa, or would it be ok if I bought Mayonnaise?
I left the grocery store without tomato sauce. When I first walked into the grocery store, I figured I’d leave with the tomato sauce I needed. Instead, I walked out of the grocery store mired in an identity crisis…according to the census bureau, I’m Hispanic, but my during my stroll through the store, I learned that I am a man without a grocery store aisle of his own. I’m neither a Mainstream Hispanic nor an Authentic Hispanic.
Oh well, I’ve never been much for labels. I can’t stand words like “Addict” or “Alcoholic” used to describe people I care about. So, I guess it’s for the best that the only label I’ll accept is “Human.” Even then, though, I’m not so sure…