When Liverpool FC’s Uruguayan football star Luis Suarez called Manchester United defender Patrice Evra “negrito” in the heat of sporting battle, an entirely new chapter of cultural contrast between Latin America and England was opened in front of the millions of spectators tuning in to the most awaited football match of 2011. Every single UK newspaper, news channel and radio station has since then followed the story.
The article in today’s Independent newspaper.
In a period of time where monkey chants still follow black English players whenever they play away games against the Spanish national team and yet players throughout South America are happy to, and more importantly allowed to, wear shirts with nick-names like “negro” (the black one) and “mono” (monkey) – how guilty is Luis Suarez of Racism and how much is he a victim of cultural differences and taboos in England?
Simon Tegel’s article in today’s Independent “I” points out that the term “negrito” is unfortunately viewed as racist in Spanish-speaking Latin America by the Football Association. Tegel continues to declare “Luis Suarez’s lawyers are right to argue that addressing a person by referring to their appearance, including race, is common practice from Tijuana (Mexico) to Tierra del Fuego (Argentina).
Spanish terms for “fatty”, “skinny”, “shorty”, “whitey” and even “chino” – literally meaning “Chinese” – are often used in the way many Britons might say “mate”.
So too is the term “negro”, meaning “black”. Although most English-speakers might find any of these terms offensive, they are usually taken neutrally in Latin America.
But what complicates the FA’s decision is Suarez’s alleged use of the diminutive, adding “ito” to the term “negro”. It can indicate affection, especially when said between people who know each other intimately. But it can also be used to belittle.
Much of the case against Suarez must therefore depend on his intent, something that will have to be judged by the context and tone of the remark. The fact that he uttered the term “negrito” during the heat of battle between two such fierce rivals, Liverpool and Manchester United, to Fabrice Evra, a player he has no history of friendship with, arguably undermines any claim that the Uruguay striker was being amicable.”