Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunnyside and the livin' ain't easy

Sitting in a waiting room overflowing with older Latinos takes me back to Miami. For two and a half hours, I was spouted back to my hometown on a brief mental holiday wondering why I have such a love-hate relationship with my Latin-fused roots.

This doctor's waiting room wasn't like the typical American office. As a matter of fact, it was a replica of the many offices I've waited in back home. The usual sense of quiet nerves was replaced with high-wattage conversations between relative strangers who became fast friends drinking cortaditos y pastelitos juntos in between meals.

That's what Latinos do: they talk a lot very loudly with anyone around them. The small cramped waiting room was the adulterated version of a high school cafeteria full of exuberant cries of laughter and frustration-- not to mention avid discussions of Lady Gaga and the latest Cristina drama. Silence is an unknown concept as is the preference to be alone.

My mother is like this. She will talk to anyone anywhere anytime. A trait that has mostly annoyed me out of sheer embarrassment. Now it just makes me laugh on a good day. But it's not just my mom- it's almost every Latino I've ever met or heard about. I'm the exact opposite. Reserved, quiet to downplay my mother's loudness, and selective with who I decide to share secrets with. An unmistakeable reflection of my own Americanness despite my bicultural identification. In my textbooks we (Latinos) are described as being passionate. An adjective I enthusiastically subscribe to when defining myself.

But this loudness, the constant chatter that creates the humming sound of a shopping mall food court gets to me. It vibrates my synapses and rattles my brain because sometimes I just need some quiet time in my head. Something NYC gives me too much of apparently. These extremes- white noise and constant rumblings make me crankily crabby. On vacations, it's nice to delve right into the loudness of tropical Miami or the eerie silence of too-many-thinkers in overpopulated Manhattan. But living in either one of these polarities daily makes my neurons cha-cha right out of my ear drums into a panicked suicide jump towards the ground.

Which is why I live in Sunnyside (Queens). A brief seven minute train ride gets me out of the roarings from my multicultural neighbors into the silence of the masses. Just like I do with my different names or rather alter-egos, I alternate between my conflicted surroundings.
Sunnyside, Queens January 2011


  1. Hmmm--- My wife and her family are Latinos (from Ecuador) and they are very unlike what you've described. They tend to be fairly reserved. My wife is very shy and quiet. When they are together they are more animated, but nowhere like a lot of the Mexicans that live around us.

    I guess it's a matter of where people have come from specifically and something about educational and social strata perhaps.

    Our house tends to be frequently very quiet and subdued.

    But I am familiar with the cultural environment you describe. I used to enjoy it more, but I like more peace and quiet these days.

    Tossing It Out

  2. Now that I think about it, I do know several Ecuadorians that are similar not that I can/should generalize this. You're right though. Education, status, cultural, upbringing all impact personality on different levels

  3. @Su It's much sweeter/bigger in person! The other half says "side" naturally and inside all the letters shows an aspect of the neighborhood