When most Latinos go on vacation, we see our country of origin. We visit abuela, our cousins, our aunt who is still single at age 40, and all those relatives who can’t remember our names. But if you’re Latina and don’t mind having hoards of men admire your Latin beauty, Sicily is for you! Did I mention that those hoards of men also happen to be gorgeous?
When I landed in Palermo, Sicily’s largest city, I had no idea what to expect. Like most Latinos, I’d never been to a country where I didn’t know the language. What I first noticed when I stepped off the plane was that the people looked like me! They were a beautiful mixture, like most Latinos. Sicily has been conquered for hundreds of years: by the Moors, Romans, Greeks, and most of Europe. The mixture created an eclectic culture of tantalizing food and people.
The men. Many of the women that I traveled with were intimidated by the forward men. Their forwardness did not phase me. Piropos, is the Spanish word for catcalls. As Latinas, we know how to handle the situation. We learned as little girls how to handle the man who used their best piropos on us. Our mothers instructed us to keep walking and pretend not to hear them, to show we’re respectable women, ?good’ girls. Do what your mothers te rules apply. The only difference is, you’ll probably have no idea what they’re saying because they are speaking too fast.
The stereotype of Latinos is that the men are macho and the women are submissive
The same is said of Sicilians. When people think of Sicilian men, they think of the mafia; they envision Al Pacino. Yet machismo, although present, does not define Sicilian culture. Like Latinas, Sicilian women do not take the husband’s last name. The United States, which considers itself to be ?modern,’ does not have this same tradition.
Sicilian women also are more daring in the way they dress. If Sicily were truly just a “macho” place, women would be covered head to toe. But the women that I saw flaunted their bodies and their beauty. Many in the United States see this as bad, but for Sicilian women and Latinas, it’s being proud of what you look like.
Although women keep their last name and wear “provocative” clothing, virginity remains of great importance, largely due to religion. Weddings are also a big part of Sicilian tradition– which means that virginity and marriage go hand in hand.
Latinos and Sicilians have many things in common, but we also have many differences. Latinos may understand the language, but we are in no way fluent in Italian. When you attempt to speak in Italian, they’ll know you’re not and will treat you like a tourist. Despite that, go to places like the cathedral in Monreale, and the temples of Agrigento. Learning their histories gives a person a greater understanding of the foundations on which their religion is based.
Every Latino in Sicily must do three things: Shop, eat in a restaurant that does not serve “American”food, and experience the night life.
Shopping – A complete success for me. When I first arrived in Sicily, I was too shy to speak, for fear of butchering the language. But when it came to shopping, and I desperately wanted something, I tried a combination of Spanish/Italian.
I’ll be honest, shopping made me speak Italian because I’m a shopaholic. But even if you’re not, shopping will make it easier to communicate because you can point to what you want.
When I wanted to buy a silk tie. I pointed and said, “Vorrei (I would like) corbata de seda.” I had no idea if “corbata” meant “tie” in Italian, but it turns out that it means the same thing in Italian as it does in Spanish. By trying to communicate with the people that worked in the store instead of just pointing, I seemed to make them want to help me more, and in the process. I learned the correct way to say things.
Because Sicilians are as expressive with their hands as Latinos, it was also easier to communicate. Latinos always use their hands when speaking, so when Sicilians could not understand me, my hand movements made it easier for them to guess. In Sicily, you don’t have to feel like you must restrict your movement!
Eating -I had a harder time communicating with waiters than I did with store clerks. When I asked for butter, I’d get bread. When I asked for a daiquiri, I got a Martini. When I asked for a hot chocolate, I got hot chocolate pudding. I learned as I went that I got bread instead of butter because Sicilians don’t eat their bread with butter. I still don’t know why I got a Martini or why I got hot chocolate pudding. It’s hard to communicate in a hindu dating restaurant when you can’t point to what you wanted. So I improvised: if I wanted butter with my bread, I’d steal my butter from the hotel and bring it to the restaurant!
Nightlife – Although Sicilians look like party people, I never found where they partied. I also realized that Latin music was not as popular as I thought it would be. Every bar I went to was empty. I imagine that the bars that I made it to were for tourists and because of that there were no Sicilians.
My advice, is assume that they’re calling you beautiful!
The most disappointing aspect of the nightlife was the treatment. Unless you’re blonde and blue-eyed, you’re mostly ignored. I was especially offended at one bar, when I was refused service until all the lighter-skinned people were served. Although I was one of the first ones there, I was told, ?No, her first” three times! As a Latina with brown hair and tan skin, I was offended. Had I been in the United States, I would have spoken out, but because I was in a foreign country and not fluent in the language, I remained silent.
While Latinos and Sicilians may have a lot of similarities, the cultures differ. Their views on race may be different because many have not been exposed to other cultures, and you cannot go with the mind set that you are going to change their views. You are a visitor in their culture. Instead of telling the waiter off, I did not spend money at that establishment: There’s no better revenge than not feeding their income! Go to another bar and have a blast!
If you want to go to a foreign country that’s not your native land, go to Sicily. You’ll find similarities you never knew existed and differences as well. See the Roman and Greek temples. Shop. Eat. Party. Treat the Sicilians with respect, and do not assume that your values or your way of thinking is the only and right way. Smile at people. And last, but not least, roll your ?R’s with pride! The Sicilians do it too!