Chino Latino

Living in America, it’s still so tempting to define as one note – Chinese, Mexican, Indian etc., weather that be food or people. But more and more, you are likely finding that this temptation from within us to easily classify people into buckets is no longer working.

As an example, a good friend of mine is Japanese/Brazilian – ethnically Japanese, but grew up in Brazil speaking Portuguese and eating an eclectic mix of food at home. When I first met her I was quite confused as for some reason I could comprehend Japanese American, but struggled wrapping my head around Japanese Brazilian. But it really opened my mind to a realization that Asians have been moving to Central and South American countries for centuries – and globalization has also brought influence from Portugal and Spain, but also from Central and South America to Asia. In many cases, the creative fusion dishes that we’ve been seeing exploding across the US have been happening in restaurants and homes in other Asian and Latin countries for years. In fact, earlier today I was speaking with a friend from Peru about Lomo Saltado, a stir fried beef dish served over french fries and the similarity to a Japanese stir fried beef dish called Gyudon. And learned from her that in fact that Peruvian dish was influenced by the Japanese that settled in Peru before the war! That famous Peruvian dish has Japanese roots.

Interestingly enough, the US also played a role in helping drive Asian immigration into other Western Hemisphere nations as in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act prevented a great number of Chinese from entering the US, in which case they settled in Cuba, South America, and Mexico instead. And many settled along the US-Mexican border, creating arguably the first “Chino-Latino” dishes and restaurants.  (

In last week’s “Dose” we discussed the show Kim’s Convenience and very briefly touched on the point of interracial dating and marriage.  With the Asian-American and Latino populations growing faster than any other populations in the country; a whopping 72% and 60% respectively from 2000 to 2015, but have we seen a mix of those two cultures beyond food? We do see ethnic diversity growing in Central and South American countries with the influx of Asians to those countries, but have they been mixing here in the US?

The answer should not surprise you… yes, of course!  And as a result, we are able to witness a merging of cultures that in many ways have both distinct differences as well as clear similarities. The US Census last estimated that there are almost 600,000 Asian-Hispanics in the US.

So let’s hone in then on Chinese and Latin (Chino-Latino) cultures to look at a rather simplified but telling picture of some of how these cultures can relate.

  • Chinese culture is more Conservative vs Latino culture being more Expressive
    • Chinese – Quiet, non-confrontational, passive, indirect
    • Latino- Vibrant, expressionistic, more direct
  • Religion
    • Confucian/Taoist/Buddhist vs Catholic

And although these differences may seem quite extreme, there also are some very important similarities.

  • Family Oriented – Each culture has a closeness with their families, celebrating many occasions together and not just the immediate but also including the extended family.
  • Importance of food – Food is central in both cultures and it often carries a great deal of symbolism.
  • Striving for greater good – They both focus on greater good of the family over one’s personal ambitions.

Just last week at a house warming party I met a mixed couple – the husband from Mexico, and the wife from Taiwan. They have two beautiful boys, and are doing everything they can to ensure they grow up exposed to both cultures. They speak Chinese with their mom (their Chinese is quite good!), Spanish with their dad, go to a Spanish / English emersion school, and watch both Spanish and Chinese programming at home. What a gift these parents are giving their children.

We are living in an age where lines are not really blurring, they’re just becoming more colorful. Be careful not to overly generalize, and be ready to be surprised – in fact, be looking for it.

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