Yesterday, just before boarding the plane to Newark, there was an improvised passport control which was quite surprising since you are not passing any borders between Puerto Rico and the United States. The control actually confused a few Puerto Rican passengers who didn’t know how to answer when asked by the immigration officers:
– ¿Ciudadanía? (citizenship)
After a few seconds of confusion, they answered hesitantly ¿Americana? and then corrected themselves and said ¡Estadounidense!”
Flags at the San Cristobal Fortress in San Juan – a Spanish Naval flag (the so-called Burgundy Cross), the Puerto Rican flag and the flag of the United States
I found the whole exchange very interesting for two reasons:
1) Quite a few Puerto Ricans see themselves as puertorriqueño even though officially there is no such citizenship*. Puerto Ricans are American citizens and carry American passports (for good or for bad, I don’t want to get into a political discussion here)… which leads to the second reason:
2) In Spanish you make a distinction between “americano / a” and “estadounidense”, which is actually the most correct way to express yourself since everybody who lives in America – North, South and Central – is American! Only citizens of the United States of America are “estadounidenses”.
Is there any other language that makes this distinction or could it be that because Spanish is spoken in South America, there’s been a need to create a distinction between Americans from the USA and the rest of the two continents?
The American / United States flag
I assume that most of us wouldn’t have any trouble with knowing what our nationality is, nor our citizenship, which usually is the same. However, some people have dual citizenships (two passports, sometimes even more!). Do they make the distinction between nationality and citizenship? Instinctively I would say that even if I became for example a Spanish or American citizen, I would still feel that my nationality is Swedish.
The definitions of the two terms, according to Dictionary.com, are as follows:
Citizenship – the state of being vested with the rights, privileges, and duties of a citizen.
Nationality – the status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or naturalization: the nationality of an immigrant.
No mention of emotions or feeling a nationality of course, but would you agree with me that nationality is more emotional than citizenship? And did you know that since the introduction of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, there is an European citizenship? You might not feel European (I do, though) but if you are a citizen of a member state of the European Union, you are automatically an European citizen as well. So, in a way you could say that all Europeans have dual citizenship!
Street sign in New Jersey – apparently Spanish-speaking persons don’t drive cars, only ride bikes or skateboards!? (since the “No parking when road is snow covered” isn’t translated)
Another confusion arose the other day when O was filling out a form for a work project and the box “Ethnic / racial group” had to be checked. He asked me, “Am I “hispanic / latino” or “white / caucasian” as a Spaniard? Well, I understand that for him the instinct would be to check “Hispanic” but I think that he is expected to refer to himself as “white”. Hispanic or latino for O refers to the fact that he is a Spaniard (from the Iberian (Hispania) peninsula) speaking a Latin language. I googled it and according to the Wikipedia entry (link above), various government agencies in the United States define “hispanic” differently – sometimes including people from Spain and Portugal, sometimes not.
Filling out a form… A very American form for an European
For most Europeans it is quite strange to have to define your ethnic / racial group. I think that I have only done it once, except for filling out all those forms for the US Immigration, and that was when applying for a job in Great Britain. I don’t know if Europe is heading towards the American and British way of categorising people, but I am not sure that I like putting ethnic / racial labels on people. Nevertheless, I am aware that people are labelled, regardless of whether or not they have checked a box – a name is deemed “foreign” and the job application is put in a certain pile, a person sees a head scarf or turban and associates it with something unwanted… And I guess the checking of a box is supposed to help avoid discrimination, but it all seems very arbitrary.
*) However Puerto Rican athletes can compete under the Puerto Rican flag and today for the first time ever, did a Puerto Rican win a medal in a World Championships in Athletics – Javier Culson won silver in 400 metres hurdles! Felicidades! (and thanks to my dad for telling me the news!)