Maybe someone here thought I was from Cuba (euphemized as Lilacland) because in another thread I mentioned that I had cooked black beans and rice. I have been given other reasons for this assumption IRL- usually pertaining to my fair skin and Masters degree leading the person to assume automatically I am from the most affluent of the groups in the umbrella category.
I thought you were from Cuba, too. Why? Because you are so defensive about where you are from, as if you are ashamed. I do not wish to discuss politics or negative stereotypes, but I have heard negatives about Cuba, never about PR. Perhaps it is because I am in Detroit and we are too far north?
My family came to this country from Poland during World War I. The Detroit-area attracted many Poles to work in the auto industry, which my family did. There are lots of stereotypes about the "dumb Polack." My whole life I have heard them - and I was born here, my father was born here, and his father was born here. Yet those stereotypes still applied to me. It affected my family: we distanced ourselves from the Polish community and my father made a conscious effort not to teach us Polish (a language he speaks fluently).
Regardless, I have heard my share of bad jokes and assumptions about my lack of intelligence and common sense. There's nothing I can do about people's bigotry. If I lie or obscure my background, all it does is prevent me from learning about the bigotry sooner. Some people are just jerks - we didn't make them jerks, our actions didn't make them jerks, our lack of polite behavior didn't make them jerks and our country of origin certainly didn't make them jerks.
Then there are people who are geniunely interested in ME
. I have met many people who are simply curious about my very unique last name. A woman from India had never encountered a Polish name before, a student from Russia wondered if I knew Russian, Poles have asked what town my family came from in case they are from the same town, other Americans are simply interested in "where we all came from."
I don't think you should try to deflect these questions - I don't think you can! But I don't think you should automatically assume that whenever someone asks it is automatically a negative.
One last note: When I was in college there was an article in the student newspaper about two graduate students who recently married. The story was about a tragedy that had befallen the couple - but that is not my point. It was a huge multi-page story and included a summary of the couple's first meeting and how they fell in love. She was from another country - India I think - and he was American. She said she was so lonely at University, and then she met this wonderful man who wanted to know all about her and all about India. She specifically said that she liked
that he expressed an interest in India, that's what drew her to him.