Gringos vs. Latinos: Which man is your type?

I was born in Chile, but moved to New York when I was around 10 years old. Every summer, my parents would ship me back to Chile to live so that I wouldn't become too "Americanized." As I grew up being shuttled between my two worlds, I started to realize that there was a sharp contrast between the way Latin and Anglo boys interacted with me. In Chile, I couldn't even walk a block without getting intense stares, piropos about my figure, my walk, my look, and sexual innuendos from complete strangers. This type of behavior was a normal part of Latin culture and expected.


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Back in the U.S., few boys would display this type of behavior, especially in public. In high school, I did get a lot of attention from the gringo boys, but for the wrong reasons. I used to act ultra feminine, flirty, and dressed a bit provocatively (by suburban American standards)--which unfortunately got me into trouble with boys because my looks and personality conflicted with my conservative upbringing and values. I was a bit of a prude!

As I got older and spent less time in Chile, I started to get used to the American boys and the aggressive attitudes and comments from Chilean men made me feel increasingly uncomfortable, especially from older men. It wasn't unusual for me to get piropos from my father's friends who were substantially older than me!

My daughter Carolina was born in the U.S., but nearly every year since her birth, we've gone to Chile to visit my familia. She has grown into a stunning young woman. She recently turned 18 and is much more aware of the differences between the two culturas that she grew up with.

Very recently she noted the difference between the way the Latino and Anglo men express themselves towards women. "Mom, are Latino men creepy?" she asked. "Some of their comments make me uncomfortable and afraid they'll do something," she continued. "Mi amor, they're harmless," I said. "It's the way Latin culture is. We're much more expressive in every way. Wait until we go to Chile in December. The young men are going to go crazy!" My advice? "Don't take it the wrong way and enjoy it."

As a middle aged woman, I'm lucky if I get a comment from anyone at a construction site or a hobo and I've come to appreciate the way Latin men talk to and look at their women. Even though my Latin blood runs through my daughter Carolina's veins, she is truly much more American than me in so many respects. But she's lucky to straddle to different worlds that enrich her life.

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