A conversation I had with someone at work this morning.
Her: So, how was your vacation?
Me: Good, I went back home to Puerto Rico.
Her: Oh, good! Did you get to eat a lot of Mexican food?
Me: Mexican food?!
Her: Yeah, Mexican food!
Me: Why Mexican food?
Her: Oh, Mexican, or whatever you guys eat down there!
Me: You mean, Puerto Rican food, since I was in Puerto Rico?
I kept asking her why she said Mexican food, but I knew the answer. A few years ago this same person saw me bring a burrito to my desk at lunchtime and said "Oh, of course you'd be eating a burrito!" So I was well acquainted with her Hispanic=Mexican confusion.
The conversation did not end there, though.
Her: So did you see family?
Me: Yeah, I did. Unfortunately my grandmother was in the hospital, though.
Her: Oh, that's too bad. Did you know she was there beforehand?
At this point I explain that my grandmother has been ill for a while, and that a couple of days before I arrived she had to go to the hospital for a condition that is separate from her illness, but that has still kept her in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Because we work with health insurance, she asked if she has good coverage.
Me: Aside from my grandfather's insurance, she has Medicare.
Me: Yes, Medicare.
Her: Really? Medicare?
Me: Yes, Medicare.
Me: Puerto Ricans are US citizens.
Me: (busting out the history lesson) Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico have been granted US citizenship since 1917, through the Jones Act.
Me: Yes, really!
I finished by giving her a quick rundown of the relationship between our two esteemed countries, then walked away before I got trapped into another game of Really.
Maybe some years ago, I might have become upset at how little she knows. I have never expected anyone in the States to know the ins and outs of the PR-USA relationship -- that's hard enough even for Puerto Ricans, sometimes. But I do expect everyone to know three things: 1) That Puerto Rico is an island (and no, you can't drive here from there), 2) That it's in the Caribbean (not by Hawaii somewhere, no), and 3) that we're part of the US and citizens. I feel I should add a number 4: We are not Mexicans. Fact: many, many people are not Mexicans.
I've stopped getting upset about how little people know about an island that is actually a part of their country. But, much like I get upset with people at work or in retail who simply cannot say "I don't know" when I ask them a question, and instead make something up, I get upset with people who actually challenge me when I tell them something about my home country even though they clearly and by their own admission don't know anything about it. Yes, we have Medicare, and yes, we are citizens. You didn't know that: fine. You can't just ask me to tell you more about how that works; instead you have to be incredulous and refuse to believe me: not fine. I don't mean to make anyone feel like they can't ask me questions -- I am happy when people ask, because it shows people are interested and want to learn. However, I kindly request that they check the incredulous "really?!'s" at the door.