A new trend among Latino TikTokers involves exaggerated imitations of speakers of the Castellano dialect, which is the predominant form of Spanish that can be found where the language originated, Spain. The reason that drives Hispanics originating from the Western Hemisphere to make the dialect the butt of every joke usually has to do with words unique to their vocabulary as well as the way that Spaniards pronounce the letter “s.” While Latinos pronounce the letter much like you would in English or most other languages, Spaniards have this peculiar way of saying it as if it were “th.” While a Colombian or Dominican might call a train station “estacion,” a Spaniard, especially those from the central region, would most likely say something like “ethacion.”
TikTok users like @itonyvara has found this fact to be a source of limitless comedy as many of his early videos revolved around careful teasing of his Iberian counterparts. However, the response revealed levels of bigotry from Spaniard TikTokers not seen since the days of Bartholome De Las Casas. These feelings of animosity are tied to centuries-old resentment between Latinos and Spaniards that originated as far back as 1492: the beginning of colonialism.
There is a rather adorable anecdote of a countryman approaching King Ferdinand II of Aragon, one half of the royal couple that led the Reconquista, the reconquering of Spain from the North African Moors, and imitating the King’s speech pattern after deducing that his highness had a lisp. This act was seemingly done out of respect rather than mockery as it is today. However, etymologists and historians have chalked this up to myth as the lisp like speech pattern simply grew out organically during the medieval age, so the story at the very least is right in ascertaining what time period the language grew out of. Ferdinand most likely spoke Aragonese as his native tongue. It was his queen, Isabella I of Castile, who more than probably spoke Castellano, the more popular Spanish language in the future. Most Spaniards that originated from the north-central region of main Castile spoke just like the King supposedly did in the myth. The Kingdom of Castile was the largest in Spain and stretched from its North to its South, giving it the most influence. When it unified with Aragon, thanks to the royal marriage in 1469, Castellano easily overpowered Catalan and Gallego, whose own developments are deserving of articles of their own. From there, Castellano, or Spanish as we know it, became the lingua Franca in Spain. Its original form had the lisp like pronunciation being the norm.
It’s only when you go South to the region of Andalusia do you find locals in medieval times pronouncing their “s” like the rest of the world. This most likely has to do with the mixed origin of its people who were of North African Arab, Sephardic Jewish, and Spaniard descent. In turn, their Spanish was influenced by Hebrew, Ladino, and Arabic.
The Andalusians were the ones enlisted to help Christopher Columbus discover a new route to India on their ships: The Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Instead, as the story goes, they discovered the island of Quisqeya, the land of the Tainos that is now called Haiti and the Dominican Republic. From there, these Spaniards, called conquistadors, spread their influence via pillaging, raping, and forced conversion, practices that would become common in the rest of what would become Latin America.
Fast forward to the present day, and Latin America has gained its complete independence, leading the language’s development into modern times following different trajectories. After the fall of Francisco Franco’s regime, the native Galician and Catalan languages achieved were no longer abolished and spoken freely throughout the peninsula, which eventually influenced Castellano as it is spoken today. Meanwhile, the Latin American iteration of Spanish exists as a mix of terminology from the myriad of Native American, French, English, and West African influences that enrich its culture.
Latin American Spanish does seem more prone towards Old World jargon, with the word for a pen in many countries being “pluma,” which is a word referring to the old quill pens noted by their feather. Using such a word in Spain may get you a look where “Boligrafo” is used instead. Though there is plenty of variety found in Latin America alone, so the usages of different words are not likely to trip anyone up for long. The longstanding grudge from the indignity of colonialism and literal slavery inflames the hearts of Latinos of every variety that feeds the fire of resentment and drove most independence movements.
Spaniards enforced a kind of caste system, similar to the one found in India, that broke society into a hierarchy based on race. At the top were those born in Spain, then there were the Castizos or those of European blood born in the Americas. Those who fell under them figuratively, economically, and politically were of mixed descent, with mestizos being of Spaniard and indigenous lineage while mulattos had Spaniard and African blood. Those who were wholly native or African occupied the very bottom. These lower castes were harshly treated and forced into harsher labor, a reality that still exists today, given Latin America’s penchant for colorism. While the Castizos took cues from the Colonial Revolution and rebelled against Spain in order to gain autonomy, men like Simon Bolivar, the father of Latin independence, had no intention of even attempting to pretend they would want to establish a Republic that represented the diverse populations of that part of the world. His ruling style seemed more like a dictatorship that thankfully fell apart as South America split up into its current form. What has remained is a hierarchy based on Spanish descent and skin color. Even in countries that are majority indigenous, you will find the oppressive ruling class being majority Castizo. Far-left movements like those in Bolivia and Mexico were the only ones that ever offered diligent representation to the marginalized.
This is not to say that Spain is not active in its antagonism of Latinos in the present day. There are common insults aimed at Latinos like “tiraflechas”, an arrow shooter; “Panchito”, fried peanut; “Atahualpa”, or the Spanish name for an Incan emperor. All of these are aimed at some Latinos who are of partial or full native descent as if to deride them for their skin color or their so-called “savagery.” Many of these were common insults thrown at itonyvara who hilariously responded to said verbal abuse. Thanks to television and films like Narcos, there is an assumption among many in Spain that most Latinos are criminals or, if they are from Cuba, that they married a Spaniard to escape Communism. Some Spaniards also peculiarly dislike it when Latinos refer to themselves as Spanish.
Though many Spaniards will say that racism does not exist in their country, you need only to look at this El Pais article here. To sum it up, a Dominican woman of African descent was murdered by a Spanish Civil Guard and his fellow neo-Nazis. The lead perpetrator was Luis Merino, who stormed an abandoned nightclub, where many unemployed Dominicans resided, with several of his right-winger cohorts in order to kill as many as possible, most notably former housekeeper Lucrecia Perez. As Spanish journalist Miguel Ramos puts it, their reasoning, “because she was poor, she was black, and she was an immigrant.”
Should any believe that Merino and cohorts’ dabbling with white supremacy was an isolated incident in Spain or that Spaniard prejudice is solely aimed at Latinos, one need only learn about what happened to Twitter user @kitttenqueen earlier this month after she tweeted a theory of how tapas, small snack like meals that are a favorite in Spain, may have been used during the Inquisition to identify potential Jews.
person: oh i love tapas
me, remembering that its been theorized that tapas started as a means of testing whether or not Jews converted to Christianity under threat of death by passing around tiny plates of unkosher food to “test them” & if they didnt pass, kill them
me: oh cool
— z (@kitttenqueen) December 17, 2020
While not calling tapas nor Spaniards antisemitic, Spanish Twitter descended on her much like itonyvara, making both insensitive and bigoted comments regarding alleged paranoia and apathy towards the Holocaust.
“antisemitism doesn’t exist in spain” https://t.co/ShDCuCASEO
— z (@kitttenqueen) December 18, 2020
@kitttenqueen was sure to retweet the prominence of far-right beliefs that are still very much prevalent in Spain and strikingly mirror the behavior of their conquistador predecessors.
4. Spanish soldiers doing Nazi salutes and singing the "Cara al Sol" (a spanish fascist song).https://t.co/iYrJlqZSXb
— JK3 (@OfficialJK3) December 18, 2020
So yes, Latinos may just make fun of the way Spaniards talk now and then. However, it just might also be well deserved.