I was a grizzly bear in a world of gorgeous green, black, yellow, pink and striped geckos. They spoke a common language that I didn't and maneuvered gracefully through life in a system that I hadn't learnt, but wished I had taken the time to learn. I resized and coloured myself, sheared my fur for reptilian skin. They were kind, but I remained separated, too obviously a costumed bear.
“Welcome to the artist lecture,” the announcer began in Spanish, “today we have an English and a North American artist.” I was the North American artist. Latin America resents those from the United States calling ourselves simply “American,” and rightly so. A new problem lies in finding a better adjective for us. Calling us “Norteamericanos” denies us the specificity of a nation and unintentionally crowns the U.S. the assumed choice over Canada, Mexico, Guatemala and the rest.
Grizzly bears become frustrated by those who don't speak our language, who maneuver carefully and tentatively through our system with strange pace and steps. When we do not turn them away we try to scare them into corners, teach them to grow coarse hairy coats like ours. We’ve heard a lot of things about them.
It seems a fair compromise to agree to call us United States Americans. That would require us to recognize that we are a part of the greater Americas, acknowledging our relativity. I doubt this will happen soon because too many of us actually believe that we are a whole different type of animal.