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Hisplaining: Summer in America

Hisplaining: Summer in America

In this special summer segment, Laura Martínez hisplains vacation in different continents and why there is no time off for the overworked American employee

Illustration by Arturo Magallanes
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I was clearing my email spam folder the other day when I noticed an intriguing subject line from Delta Airlines: “Now it’s easier for you to vacation harder.”

As a Latin American who has spent most of her career in the US—where vacations are often not only discouraged but also guilt-ridden—I enthusiastically opened the email hoping some big changes were coming to the way Americans approach vacations.

Alas, it was just an ad selling me a new vacation package or something. I left the email in the spam folder with no one to blame but myself. What could be more American than reading email on vacation?

I was returning to Mexico from a two-week break in Europe, where summer vacations are nothing short of sacred. Entire towns and cities shut down for a full five-to-six weeks so Europeans can spend actual quality time off work (paid time off, mind you). All guaranteed by national labor laws.

For the rest of us mortals, Americans and those employed by American corporations worldwide, there are no federal or state laws requiring employers to provide paid—or unpaid—vacation time to their employees. Believe it or not, paid time off is more of a social agreement between an employer and an employee. In other words, American workers are compelled to hope and pray for the generosity of our patrón.

WARNING: Before you continue reading and/or ask this writer to thank her patrón for not firing her for complaining, please remember this column was conceived to be handled with a serious dose of humor.

“Julyists” vs “Augustists”

During this recent and woefully short vacation in Greece, my partner and I met a nice French family who were on their third week of island hopping.

“Are you juilletistes or aoûtiens?” they asked.

I had no idea what she was talking about until my partner explained. She wanted to know if we belonged to the group of travelers who preferred July (juilletistes) or August (aoûtiens) for their annual summer vacation.

“Ja Ja Ja Ja!” I laugh (so as not to cry) in Spanish.

An entire month off? Paid for by your employer? Not in America and, for me, also not in Mexico.

I am envious of Europeans not just for their solstitial joie de vivre and because they get a lot more days off than me, but also because they also seem to truly disconnect from work while on vacation.

Americans, and I include myself here due to my long-standing residence, just can’t seem to relax, even when we’re being paid to do it by our employers. I’ll remind you that I was checking email and Slack while lying on a beach . . . just in case.

Why do I constantly fear I’m missing something important when I’m supposed to be off? I wondered. Have I lost my Mexican mojo? So much for the stereotypical, do-nothing, sleeping Mexican portrayed in film, souvenirs, and post cards. (Side note: There’s a restaurant in New York that is full of such souvenirs that I won’t include here today.)

After all these years working for Americans—both in the US and abroad—I have been wired to always be vigilant of work. This Mexican can’t unwind anymore.

Aren’t Latinos Supposed to Be Fun?

I do fondly remember my summers in New York City, where it seemed like the local Latino families did embrace the summer spirit in its entirety. At least in some Latino neighborhoods, the people did seem to enjoy wearing chanclas on their way to the pool, family BBQs, and blasting merengue, salsa and reggaeton from portable speakers for impromptu street parties where everyone was welcome.

Latinos might be the last hope for the American worker. Alas, our fun is strictly limited to the weekends because, as much as we’d love to “vacation harder,” there is more work than play in the so-called American dream we all came here to pursue.

There are just a few weeks of summer left so I encourage our readers—Latino or otherwise—to try and take a day off. But if you can’t, please don’t worry. You can have all the flavors of a fun-filled Latin summer right in your fridge thanks to Latin-themed refreshments and “unbeatable summer-sales” at the mall anytime.

Stay tuned for Laura Martinez’s next Hisplaining column, which will tackle other key biz terms and jargon and help leaders everywhere smoothly navigate the multicultural business world. In the meantime, send us tips and ideas for other terms and jargon that you’d like to see us feature. And remember: Don’t panic . . . it’s just his-PANIC!

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