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The pope and the 'Are-you-Latino-enough?' question



Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The Roman Catholic church's election of a new pope from Argentina, the first ever from Latin America, has by-and-large drawn cheers from Latino Catholics in the United States.

But when it was announced last week in Rome that the new pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former cardinal of Buenos Aires, it also reignited a divisive conversation among U.S. Latinos over race, class and ethnic roots, which Take Two co-host A Martinez and I explored in a segment ThursdayIt's the age-old "Are you Latino enough?" question, and not even the pope, an Argentine of Italian descent, is spared. 

Not long after the news broke Wednesday, comments like this one from "malibujoe"  began appearing on our site:

This man is Italian he is not Latino, wake up people! His mother and father are ITALIAN! What a joke!

There were similar reactions on social media. One sample tweet:

An all-out Twitter war broke out between two bloggers, one Mexican-American and one Argentine-American, after the former published a post whose headline read "Is the New Pope Latino?" To which the latter responded: "Where is my WTF file?"

Welcome to the wonderful world of just what constitutes Latino identity (or Hispanic identity, if that's your chosen label), and the deep divisions that appear each time the question comes up. Why such a reaction to the pope's ethnic identity, you might ask? In bullet points, a quick explanation: 

The last point calls to mind a recent NPR story in which correspondent Michele Norris explained her Race Card Project, in which people are asked to send in six-word statements on their experience with race. The story featured a young woman from Seattle of Korean heritage who was tired of hearing, "Where are you really from?"

Where is Pope Francis really from? If you were to ask him, he'd say Argentina. And Latin America.

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