Latin America’s contemporary connections to Turkey and the Middle East dates back to 19th immigration patterns. In Latin America, the inaccurate label “turco” / “Turk” persist as an ethnic and cultural marker shared by those of the Middle Eastern diaspora in the region. Despite their name, very few are of Turkish descent. The “Turks” in Latin America are almost entirely descended from non-Turkish people who emigrated from parts of the former Ottoman Empire, hence the misnomer. During the last decade, Turkish television shows have become extremely popular in Latin America, dubbed soap operas, melodramas, and other television series are showcased in prime-time hours in the region. This new exposure raises a novel analysis on how the Turkish and Middle Eastern communities are now perceived in Latin America. Does the misnomer persist? Have attitudes towards these communities changed due to this new globalized cultural exposure?
As someone raising two half Turkish kids in a Mexican and Turkish family in the U.S. I have experience first-hand cultural stereotypes, discrimination, as well as, Latin America’s fascination with Turkish media. Although my kids’ Spanish nicknames, “los turquitos”/ “the little Turks” are not misnomers, due to their paternal cultural legacy, this personal experience, along with my scholarly training, has led me to critically complicate Latin America’s relationship with Turkey.