Was it a joke, or was it "lost in translation? Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar learned that what we say and do in Spanish is not always interpreted the same way in English. Yunel thought it was a joke to write, "TU ERES MARICON" (You're a faggot) on his eye-black stickers that are sometimes worn under the eyes to reduce the sun's glare. His action has led to a flurry of criticism and actions including a press conference to apologize, a three-day suspension and three days of docked pay that will be donated to You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Yunel Almenares Escobar is a 30-year-old Cuban born who is single and who resides in Miami, Florida. He attended Matires de Barbados School in Havana, Cuba. Like many young men his age I have been with in Puerto Rico and in Cuba, I can attest that the word, "maricon" is many times used to describe many other things other than its official derogatory meaning. It can be used to mean, "Dumb, Idiot, Weak," or to add emphasis when you want a friend's undivided attention.
In fact I have a close Puerto Rican friend that I have known for over 30 years that still to this day will leave a voice mail, "oye maricón te llamado mil veces y no me devuelve mi llamada." Literal translation: "Hey faggot I've called you a million times and you have not returned my call." I laugh and at no time do I feel offended because I know he is not calling me a faggot, he uses the word to show his displeasure with me not returning his call in a joking matter. Throughout my 24 years covering baseball I have heard that same word many times in a clubhouse, dugout and on the field, but only among Latino players and only to each other in a joking manner.
Growing up in the South Bronx 'hood I can remember countless descriptions used to call someone with that word and a few others that if translated for their meaning would also make non-Spanish speakers react. Therefore, I believe that Yunel has learned his lesson, just as my friend will probably not say 'maricon" to a non-friend who has not returned his call, or use it in a business meeting to get someone's attention. Yunel should have never written his personal cultural "joke' for the world outside of his intimate Spanish speaking world to see.
Perhaps this is one of the many "lost in translation" words and actions that will continue to occur as our growing Latino community begins to spill over into the rest of the English speaking society.
What do you think?
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