License to Divide: The Perils of Excessive (Hispanic) Pride

We Can't All Take Credit for Everything

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Laura Martinez Laura Martinez
Browsing a local Florida newspaper late last month, impatiently waiting in Miami for a connecting flight back home, I stumbled onto a bizarre piece of news. At first, I thought it was a spoof courtesy of The Onion. But it wasn't. The gist of the story: a Longwood, Fla.-based group known as National Hispanic Corporate Achievers was requesting that the state of Florida issue a specialty license plate honoring "the contribution of Hispanics."

The Seminoles couldn't be reached for comment.
The Seminoles couldn't be reached for comment.
"OK, whatever," I remember thinking. Aside from considering the idea a bit too postmodern, I figured it was one of those things a Mexico City native living in Manhattan couldn't care less about. But then I saw the picture of one of the proposed designs: a Spanish galleon under full sail -- presumably approaching the Florida coastline -- with the legend "Hispanics Discovered Florida. 1513."

Now, I'm not really sure which heritage these particular Hispanics represent. Last time I checked, Florida was not exactly discovered, but arrived at, by the Spaniards (not Hispanics) led by Juan Ponce de León in 1513, crushing along the way a few too many Native Americans, who had "discovered" that land way, way before that.

Historical minutiae aside, the proposed license plate is currently being reviewed by Florida's highway officials, according to the local press. But it has also raised some eyebrows and questions about how the few remaining Native American tribes might feel about the whole thing, not to mention the dozens of online complaints about the potential divisiveness of the idea.

Hopes are high though, and Hispanic Corporate Achievers expect this one will fare better than the "I Believe" plate, which was ultimately rejected by the Florida Legislature.

In defending the rationale behind the Hispanic pride plate, Danny Ramos, the group's president, invoked yet another stereotype -- or shall we say "insight" -- of an apparently homogeneous group: "Hispanics like to exhibit their cultural heritage via their cars. Hispanics love their cars."

The whole thing left me thinking there must be something wrong with my Hispanicness. I don't like to exhibit anything via my means of transportation; I don't have a car, but even if I did, I'm not sure I would choose to have a picture of Columbus, the Niña, the Pinta or the Santa María anywhere near it.

Is this a lack of pride or what?

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Read more from Laura daily at Mi Blog Es Tu Blog.
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