Those Latins again!
"Latin Rebels Down Plane" is the headline on a short item in today's NYT (p. A1). It turns out they are referring to a guerrilla squad of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional or National Liberation Army of Colombia, which shot down an American plane (piloted by a Costa Rican) that was said to be "dusting clandestine coca plantations with herbicide" in the Catatumbo region of northeast Colombia.

The Latins, as you know, were a tribe of Northern Italy, best known for founding Rome and bestowing (or imposing) their language on the entire Mediterranean world and beyond. Then the word came to be used for anyone who spoke one of the languages derived from Latin, and now the US press uses it mainly to refer to any "Latin" Americans (the French these days might be called "frogs" but not "Latins," the Rumanians and Portuguese are simply Rumanians and Portuguese, and the Italians, the original Latins, may be called many things but seldom "Latins"). It was not "guerrillas," or even "Colombians" who downed the plane, but undifferentiated Latins -- like it's all one big country down there, and who can tell them apart anyway?

I suppose we should be grateful that there was no NYT headline, "Boer wins Nobel Prize in Literature."

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