Latino Not Synonymous with Mexican–Just Ask Violetta August 12, 2013

Martina Stoessel / Violetta (center) at the 2013 Martín Fierro Awards

Martina Stoessel / Violetta (center) at the 2013 Martín Fierro Awards

The primary purpose of “The Other Side of the Peso” is to show Americans successful things happening in Mexico, but it’s also about promoting more awareness of our southern neighbors. This week’s post and next week’s will take a different twist since I’m writing from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Americans know that Latin America includes a lot of countries and that “Latino” is not synonymous with “Mexican.” Beyond that, a lot of us start getting a little sketchy. Join me for a look at Argentina and Disney Latino’s current star—Martina Stoessel of “Violetta.” The show with over 1.4 million “Likes” on its Facebook page.

We Americans generally get along well with our British cousins, in spite of some differences. We speak the same language but with different accents and words. Holidays and lifts and tubes come to mind. The most popular sport in both countries is football, although we’re talking about difference games. The Brits drive on the wrong side of the road and are forever asking God to save the Queen. Of course, they’d say that we’re the ones on the wrong side and certain Americans, mostly Republicans, would argue that Obama is nowhere near God.

A nod here to some of our other national relatives—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and South Africa—some of whom also drive on the wrong side and pledge varying degrees of allegiance to the Queen and football/soccer. Some say they’re speaking English even when we can’t always understand them. In fairness, some of them have trouble understanding us, especially if the American happens to be an Afro-American teenager from N’awlins speaking Ebonics.    

Buenos Aires by day

Buenos Aires by day

Argentines have a lovely accent that not even my Mexican husband has been able to understand at times. They pronounce the letters “y” and “ll” like the French word “je” (I). Instead of using “”, the informal “you,” they use “vos.” So, “¿Tú eres americano?” (Are you American?) becomes “¿Vos sos americano?” And they’ll probably throw in a “che” at the end, that ubiquitous Argentine word that translates roughly as “hey” and earned the 60’s revolutionary Che Guevara his nickname.

Empanada bakers at Gran Pizzería La Rey

Empanada bakers at Gran Pizzería La Rey

Almost every American has eaten tacos and salsa, but how many have tried Argentine empanadas or chimichurri sauce? Unless you go to a Mexican restaurant here, you won’t find anything with tortillas or chili peppers on the menus. Besides the beef for which Argentina is famous, it’s a carb lover’s paradise with plenty of fresh bread, pasta, pizza, potatoes, incredible desserts and, always, empanadas. In Mexico, these pastry turnovers have sweet fillings like pineapple or pumpkin. In Argentina, they’re filled with beef, ham, cheese or spinach and they’re everywhere.

When the Spaniards colonized Latin America, this region had far fewer indigenous people than other areas. Add in waves of Italian immigrants in the early twentieth century, both German and Jewish refugees during and after World War II and a steady stream of Europeans and other immigrants since colonial times. The result is a country that looks more like Rome or Barcelona than Mexico City—in the architecture, in the arts, in the faces and names of people. I talked with a blond-haired, blue-eyed clerk whose name tag identified him as “Yannick.” The current president’s last name is Fernández de Kirchner.

Buenos Aires by nightFinally, about Martina Stoessel, the talented singing star of Disney Latino’s hit show “Violetta.”  My husband and I arrived at our hotel on Sunday, hours before one of her 60 sold-out concert at a theatre around the corner. The area was full of vendors selling everything Violetta, all of it heavily pink and purple.

The next night, August 5, at the Martín Fierro Awards, the Argentine equivalent of the Emmys, the 16-year-old star won twice, and “Ambito” newspaper described her arrival saying, “Her Disney bodyguards tend to protect her so well that they’ve converted her into a celebrity more inaccessible than Madonna. At the doors of the Colón Theatre, the legion of girls shouted more when they saw Violetta than for any other actors currently in vogue.”  

See Stoessel interviewed just after the awards (scroll down to video), and check out the promo video for the opening of the second season of “Violetta.” Since the video was posted on April 5, it’s been viewed nearly 20 million times. Another version with Spanish lyrics has been watched over 250,000 times.  

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