To Americans, this may seem shocking or perhaps just really, really tacky.
But, oddly, this is something that happens not just in Spain. From what I’ve learned after living in Mexico City for almost 11 months, there’s a slight hostility toward Chinese people, for reasons not totally clear. (They also seem a bit mystified by the culture — here, if you find yourself perplexed about something, instead of saying it’s “like Greek to me” you say an expression that means “it’s like Chinese to me.”)
When I first moved here, I was flipping through Reforma, a popular-but-pretentious daily newspaper in Mexico City. A fun section to scan is “Club Joven,” where beautiful, overly coiffed-and-tanned young people pose for photos at parties. In the edition I was reading, one young man had thrown a China-themed party, and everyone in all 15 or so photos unashamedly posed while pulling their eyes back with their fingers. (At the time, as some you may remember, I chose to focus on the other shocking feature of Club Joven — all the exposed chest hair of Mexico City males.)
At the time, I was confused and perhaps a little offended by the party photos, which is perhaps why I didn’t mention it. I did ask my Spanish tutor about it, and she tried to politely explain that it was a “cultural difference.” (For details on these cultural differences as they apply to pale people like me, see “Hey White Girl, Wanna Buy a Sofa?”)
While some team members profess innocence and some of the players apologized (but not the coach), it’s still a bit creepy, no? Even one of the star players agrees:
“Some of us didn’t feel comfortable doing it,” player Pau Gasol said to the Times. “To me it was little clownish for our part to be doing that. The sponsor insisted and insisted. They pushed because they’re the people that pay the money. It was just a bad idea to do that. It was never intended to be offensive or racist against anybody.”
(For more on the complicated racial issues in Mexico, this old New York Times article is a good read: Racism? Mexico’s in Denial.)