Discussing Fútbol, and Slurs, in Spanish

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Philipp Lahm of Germany is challenged by Clint Dempsey (L) and Alejandro Bedoya of the U.S. during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil. Philipp Lahm of Germany is challenged by Clint Dempsey (L) and Alejandro Bedoya of the U.S. during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil. (Michael Steele/Getty)

After watching World Cup matches in Spanish on Univision, Felix Sanchez, co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, called attention to the language some commentators used to describe players. Univision has responded, and the dialogue has inspired a conversation about race, language and Spanish.


Mr. Felix Sanchez

Comments [37]

Gabriel from harlem

Felix Sanchez has no idea what he is talking about...
he's just another neoliberal full with prejudice

Jul. 03 2014 11:06 AM
El Chinito

Here's something that will bake your noodle. While negrito or moreno might be taken to be dismissive or racist, every team...Latin American, U.S., or happy to have that black player on the team.

Jul. 03 2014 01:17 AM

Mr. Contreras is wrong about Howard Cosell being fired over the"little monkey" comment. He was not fired . He resigned .

Jul. 02 2014 09:42 AM
Paul from Queens, NY

I almost felt like calling in and the perhaps I should have. Once in for all, Mr. Sanchez should discuss all the nuances and the usage of the word "Moreno" to the audience that was using it. Moreno as it is used in tri state area, especially among people of Hispanic Caribbean origin, it refers to someone with African descent in their looks. It is in no way denigrating. Moreno, as it is used South America, it refers to people who are brunette, irrespective of their skin tone.

To label its usage as something with racial overtones, it is something that only can occur in the PC culture of the United States of now.

If Hispanics, whether heritage speakers or not, choose to flood Univision to watch the WC, they also choose to embrace all the quirks and the nuances that go along with listening to sportscasters that are NOT the same as the people in ESPN.

Mr. Felix's critique of words that are used differently across different parts of the Spanish speaking America, for me, is simply another aspect of the failed policy or imposition of American moral values across the world. The last time this sort of thing was attempted, for me it reminds me of Iraq, and the high "moral" value of attempting to bring "Democracy" to the Iraqi people.

The word "Moreno" is not racist, as the word "cocolo" or "prieto" try can be. Perhaps if we follow Mr. Sanchez' logic, we should begin to ban the word, "negro", "gordo" or "flaco" from the Spanish vocabulary.

Jul. 01 2014 10:30 PM


to say "Ese Negro",in any tone of voice;disparaging or otherwise,is problematic. reasons,being obvious.

Jul. 01 2014 08:07 PM

i have no idea if "vampire suarez" is racist or not;and quite frankly,that's the least important discussion right now. he's alleged to have said "negrito" to a black footballer, which some writer at ESPN has taken the liberty to define,as, "Little black"[failing to understand, that Spanish is not literal and rigidly denotative, the way English,is;and,meaning is ascribed by context,history,inflection,intent etc etc]. Negrito[and or negro in certain usage,even],is anything but an epithet;at most,depending on context,it would be part of a mildly dismissive phrase. it's also a very sweet term of endearment,said to and by people of ALL colors in Latin America. there is no 'N" word equivalency here,not even close. if someone were to say. "Ese negro", with a tone of disparagement,then that would be understood to be coming from an ugly place.

Jul. 01 2014 07:58 PM

"Poll: World Cup a liberal's game; just 30% of nation following it."

LOL !!!

Jul. 01 2014 07:24 PM
landless from Brooklyn

This is an important discussion about Hispanics adopting US standards. To excuse describing professional players by physical characteristics as affectionate is inappropriate. A great advancement in America has been the struggle for civil rights for blacks. Hispanics who immigrate must adopt US cultural standards.

Jul. 01 2014 07:01 PM
kawfeetalk from Texas

Latinos use terms of endearment as a way to show connection and solidarity with each other. We in America are very sensitive to the race card. I do understand, i think we need to consider these as a case by case basis. The world is colorful people. lighten up

Jul. 01 2014 02:52 PM

@pliny from soho

"this is their culture
and soon it will be ours
they are coming here to expand
-not to participate"

Okay....I'll just stay cool because in 100 years the world culture will be Chinese.

Using characteristics rather than names or numbers is dismissive and unprofessional. It says, "I didn't even bother to memorize the roster because the people listening to me really don't care." This dismissiveness subtly sets an expectation level in the audience about how they can interact with others. Does it define how every interaction occurs? Of course, not. Do some people take it as a standard for dealing with folks they don't come into contact with on an every day basis. Yes, too many, but far from all.

This is about the commentators *not* the spectators. Some fans have taken to throwing bananas onto the pitch to 'upset' players of African ancestry. Fortunately for world football, players are making it clear that behavior is out. Even Lewis Hamilton, the Jamaican Formula 1 driver has had to put up with some pretty twisted sh*t. It doesn't get reported in headlines but those who follow the sport know it.

Jul. 01 2014 02:25 PM
Martell from Brooklyn

Wow, people in this country have gone bunkers!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jul. 01 2014 01:08 PM
José from Queens

Typo below. I meant: "'guero' originally 'huero' is a native word..."

Jul. 01 2014 12:06 PM
José from Queens

SamBrown from Michoacán: "huero" originally "huero" is a native word for the color of corn, which is a source of life over there. The term could only be positive. Your obliviousness to this fact only betrays your distance from these subtleties and under currents involved. For those who don't know (aparently many of you) "moreno" comes from "Moor". It literally means "like a Moor". It is not offensive by any means. UNTIL, that is, it shifted from "brunette" to black. This happened sometime in the 20th century. At that point SOME people used it to mean "not white" (i.e. black). Those people used it offensively. Other people used it as an equivalent of "negrito" as both a tern of endearment and as a despective (like "chinito", or "mexicanito", or "dominicanito"). These diminutive terms can be used as endearment terms if you know the person and happen to be hugging them at the time, or asking them for a favor, or behaving in intimate terms, but they can also be used as a despective term when you use them with strangers.

"Trigueño" means "the color of wheat", literally (trigo= wheat). The term was used for Caucasians who are not paper, or lily, white (think "high yellow" or olive). Eventually it was used for people who were light brown, and eventually also in the last century, it started to be used as a replacement for "black" by people who were too racist to call someone "black" because they saw being black as an inherently bad thing. This is the tragedy of racism in Latin America: that it is not the treatment that is seen as bad but the inherent race of the person which is seen as offending, so really racist people in L.A. will feel "bad for you" and say things like "No. You're not that black." the same way we tell our friends they're not that fat, or they don't look that old.

Yes, I grew up calling people, "gordo", "flaco", "negro", "enano", "rubio", etc., but I never used it for strangers. You walk up to a fat guy in PR and call him "gordo" and you will get the sh!t kicked out of you. It's the same thing here with the n word, AND THAT'S WHY PROFESSIONAL BROADCASTERS DON'T USE IT!!! This isn't rocket science people! What is it with this latest fashion among people to brush over racist language and even defend their entitlement to use it? It's ridiculous!

To all those people who are so sure that this is isn't racist I exhort them to go to the Dominica Republic and find the biggest black person they can and start calling them "negro this", "negro that". Please try it, and then post your picture here for us to admire your face.

Jul. 01 2014 12:03 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@Sambrown, the guest's point was that the commentators seemed to have singled out just the black player(s) for that descriptive treatment. If they had referred all the players by their skin color, we probably would not be having this conversation.

If there were a blue-eyed, blond hair, anglo player on the Costa Rican team, I'm sure the commentators would have said "blanquito" in an "endearing" way; it still would have been inappropriate.

Jul. 01 2014 11:35 AM
Marnie Mueller from Manhattan

First of all the Mexican player's name was Hector Moreno! When they referred to moreno, it was his name. But also, having lived in Latin America for years I know that people are always referred to in an endearing way as el moreno, mi negrito, mi blanquito, la flaca, el gordito. It's used all the time about one's children and friends and yes, even enemies. I love hearing it used on Univision. It's like going home again.

Jul. 01 2014 11:33 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Why not just refer to a player by his number? And I'm glad Mr. Sanchez specified that Univision *didn't* describe players of other origins in terms of their skin color/hair--I was going to ask about that. It makes a difference whether they treat other players the same way.

Jul. 01 2014 11:29 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

Television news takes PC to extreme.
When the police give out a description of a perpetrator they start with gender then race. Male, Black...
When the evening news describes the same person they omit the race.
They may have a sketch that indicates the race. but if the purpose is to warn the population of a potentially dangerous person shouldn't the description be complete.

Jul. 01 2014 11:29 AM
Kaern from Long Island, New York

The players have numbers on their shirts, use them. It is that simple!!!

Jul. 01 2014 11:28 AM
Nora from Bloomfield, NJ

When I was in Costa Rica people always referred to each other by physical characteristics: Gordo, bajo... after my initial surprise I found it refreshing that people were not hung up by their own, and others' physicality. I think the US culture of political correctness a new Victorianism.

Describing someone by their physical characteristics is not inherently insulting.

If there was not racism, this language would not be a problem.

Jul. 01 2014 11:27 AM
roseellen from jackson heights

American cultural imperialism;our sensibilities [about race, color or anything else] have to be S.Americans and everyone else's sensibilities. Never mind they abolished slavery before we did.

Jul. 01 2014 11:26 AM
SamBrown from Michoacan, MX

As a white guy who has lived in Mexico for over ten years, I've been called 'Guerro' for years, by the people who like me and consider me an adopted 'home boy'. The people who *don't* like me call me something else. I've never thought of those calling me by referring to my skin color as offensive. Just comes with the turf.

Jul. 01 2014 11:25 AM
elba from Edison,NJ

Mr Sanchez, more viewers on Univision than ESPN is because it's free, no dinero!

Jul. 01 2014 11:25 AM
Sara from Bushwick

American soccer commentators are boring, it's all stats and way too much talking. The Univision guys have character, maybe they're not sensitive enough, but I do love it when they call Brasil's keeper 'Buzz Lightyear' and Suarez 'Dracula'.

Jul. 01 2014 11:25 AM
José from Queens

Muy bien dicho Ed de Jamaica!

Jul. 01 2014 11:24 AM
suzinne from Bronx

Hey Anna! You're in the U.S. now. Don't bring your IGNORANCE over here. Pul-eeze. Calling these people these names is a term of endearment? Now that's a mind f--k if I ever heard one. Geez. Why even give this woman time on the air.

Anna, YOU are really offending me right now.

Jul. 01 2014 11:23 AM
Reuven from Washington Heights

I don't know how viewership is counted, but I watch Univision, even though I do not understand Spanish, because I don't have a cable contract so I cannot watch ESPN, but I can watch Univision for free on my computer or Apple TV.

Jul. 01 2014 11:23 AM
john from office

Babies are born and called negrito, Clara, Blanca, trigeno I can go on and on.

There is a difference in the language and the culture.

They call fat people fat, skinny people skinny and white people white.

Folks relax.

Jul. 01 2014 11:22 AM

Enough PC bull@#$. Enough coming up with euphemisms for simple things. Grow a thicker skin and move on.

Jul. 01 2014 11:22 AM
Gabby from Manhattan

The commentators on Univision perhaps do have a responsibility to be sensitive. But I don't think you can or should police the fans in the stadium.

Jul. 01 2014 11:22 AM
pliny from soho

this is their culture
and soon it will be ours
they are coming here to expand
-not to participate

Jul. 01 2014 11:21 AM
BK from Hoboken

Re: the KLM/Mexico tweet:
When I see Mexican fans in the stands dressed in a sombrero with a fake mustache, I see no reason why KLM can't use the same picture. And the tweet said Adios amigos, not go home. But those are just facts getting in the way of a PC story.

Jul. 01 2014 11:21 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Spanish have always had an interesting take on race: anyway from the condescending paternalism ("negrito, chinito, blanquito"), to the downright vile - same words used for a less than subtle putdown.

Then there are Mexican fans chanting p**to, when the opposing goal keeper punts a ball.

Jul. 01 2014 11:20 AM
José from Queens

I like the comentating in Univision. I grew up in PR and I am of African heritage, but the commenters in Univision are not Caribbean commenters. They come from cultures who don't have sensitivity to issues of negritude and I know the context in which they use it. It is not a term of endearment. It is in the despective. They also use "chinito" instead of "asiático" and that term makes me cringe because I know the snicker behind it. I only use negrito with children or people who grew up with me. I don't use it with strangers.

This guy is on to something very unspoken about in our culture.

Jul. 01 2014 11:19 AM
pina1978 from So.Plainfield

He is way too sensitive.... Most of the Europe and So.America talks like this!

Jul. 01 2014 11:19 AM

Ai-yi-yi! Latin Americans clearly have a different relation between the races than us gringos. I don't get it but it's not my place to get upset for someone else. It's only been a decade since UniVision dropped the blackface minstrel from one of their shows.

I once was at a party where a woman from Brazil insisted that I dance with her because 'Your people dance so well'...I guess she meant it as a compliment but all I felt was sterotyped.

Jul. 01 2014 11:19 AM
Ben from Manhattan

Even if it is a culturally acceptable "term of endearment", how is it not racist, when every other player is referred to by their last name, but only the "brown" guy is called "okay version of brown". When you treat one person differently just because they have different color skin, it is racist no matter your culture.

Jul. 01 2014 11:17 AM
Sherry from UES

Isn't this a much bigger cultural discussion? Many Latinos call all Asian people "Chinos," we can't expect them to change it because of our issues.

Jul. 01 2014 11:15 AM

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