Toronto is well known for being one of the most multicultural cities in the world. According to the BBC, 51% of the population is from approximately 200 countries.
Once you get here, it’s easy to think that what you see on people is an accurate image of their culture; but, most of the time, it’s not. As Mexican, I’ve heard what they say about us and unfortunately, what they consider (for example) Mexican food or Mexican customs, is misunderstood.
Months ago, I met a guy from Vietnam who had similar thoughts. I told him I was in love with Vietnamese food (I was so proud, showing him I knew his food just because I went to a Vietnamese restaurant here in Toronto), and he told me: “that is not the authentic taste of our food”.
Let’s continue with the food example:
Every cuisine tastes different when it’s not prepared where it was created.
When people from a certain culture can’t find the exact same ingredients they use in their hometown, they adapt the recipe. Moreover, many restaurants are operated by people who barely know the original food or taste, so they reinvent it and therefore, the recipe changes again. Little by little, people start creating a not-so-accurate image of every culture.
That’s when the funny and endless game called STEREOTYPING starts.
We can’t help it, our brain loves to place every single learning or experience in a specific file of our brain.
By stereotyping, we start thinking that Indians only eat curry, that Poles only like potatoes, that Vietnamese cuisine is all about noodles, and that Mexican food is only tacos.
Now switch “food” for any other characteristic; like religion, talent, experience, customs and even personality; admit it, you are stereotyping those characteristics as well.
Maybe one of the biggest challenges when living in a city like Toronto, is to stop believing that we know other cultures. What we see might not be a real version of them. We are just a bunch of people with a certain cultural background living in a (most of the time) completely different environment; that causes certain stress and therefore, our behaviour, fears, customs, etc., change.
Ok, now my Mexican heart wants to tell you something… sorry not sorry.
I’ve been witnessing for a long time a misconception of what Mexican culture is; so please, let me clarify some ideas you could have been told:
1. Mexico is not only Cancún or Riviera Maya. Our Tourism Ministry has done it very well by promoting those places, but maybe they have done it too much! Nowadays, when you go there, you barely listen to people talking in Spanish, Mexican pesos are not even used anymore, everything is priced in USD dollars!!! Furthermore, it’s too expensive, and I’m not even sure about food authenticity.
2. It’s overwhelming the number of Mexican restaurants in Toronto; so, consider this next time you go to grab tacos: the original ones don’t come with such things like corn kernels or coleslaw, and definitely tortillas are not hard or crispy. And by the way, we not only eat tacos, you should also try mole, gorditas, pozole, tamales, chilaquiles, chiles en nogada, chiles rellenos, etc.
3. Tequila. Once again, great advertising campaigns; however, we also produce other liquors like mezcal or pulque.
4. Mexican music is much more than mariachi bands. We do love this genre (because mariachi is not the only one we created). Though, we also have excellent artists of every style you can think of, rock, pop, jazz, electronic, etc. Want some examples?, good, take note: Café Tacvba (rock), Zoé (rock-electronic), Nortec Collective (electronic), Kinky (rock-electronic), Caifanes (rock), Natalia Lafourcade (pop), Magos Herrera (jazz)… If you want, you can ask me for specific songs or other genres. 🙂
5. Our Independence Day is not celebrated on May 5th. On that day in 1862, we won a battle against France known as “Battle of Puebla”. Our real Independence celebration is on September 15; that day, back in 1810, we started our rebellion against Spain.
Thanks. That was cathartic!… ♥
Now go and try not to stereotype everyone out there 🙂
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