The City of Miami sought to formalize the previously haphazard method of incorporating outsiders into Latino culture by opening the world’s first Gringo Adoption Agency (GAA).
“Longtime Miami residents and new arrivals alike are welcome in the agency,” said Jesus Gonzaga, GAA’s Executive Director. “Our doors are open to anyone who wants to become an adopted Latino.”
Asked why his organization was needed, Gonzaga replied that, “The process of becoming un aplatanado (i.e. ‘aplatanation’) was incredibly disorganized. Gringos would move to Hialeah for a few years, or join salsa, merengue, or bachata troupes, or adopt Hispanic nicknames like ‘Kika,’ ‘Pepe,’ or ‘Caro,’ but there was no standardization—no way to tell when they officially became full-blown plátanos.”
Aspiring plátanos enroll in an intensive year-long program where TV is strictly restricted to Sábado Gigante reruns, their diets limited to the La Carreta menu, and the only reading material is a fully stocked library of Vanidades magazines.
I shadowed Gonzaga into a language class where 15 gringos listened to their teacher run through common Miami Latino words.
“OK everyone,” began the instructor. “Repeat after me: Sahl-mon.”
“Sahl-mon,” echoed the class.
The students then diligently replicated her pronunciations of “vivaporub,” “guarejaus,” and “Sangibin”
“Very good, everyone,” concluded the teacher. “Emily.”
She gestured at a tall, blonde Midwesterner in the front row.
“How do you correctly ask a friend to exit your vehicle?”
“Please get down from the car,” replied Emily.
“Very good!” gushed the instructor.
Once enrollees are completely aplatanated, they earn a diploma, bag of Chifles mariquitas, downloadable copy of Wisin & Yandel’s “Noche de sexo,” and are officially adopted by a local Latino.
When I asked Gonzaga what he most loved about the program, he pondered his answer for a moment. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing one of our adoptees leaning against a ventanita, sipping a colada, and hablando mierda with the best of them,” he replied.
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