I used to work with a girl whose family was from Peru. She’s a good friend, and although none of us still works at the marketing agency, we are all still in close touch. All includes grass-phobia girl, and some others I have yet to write about. We had a number of hazing rituals when new employees joined the company, one of which was convincing the newbie that the Peruvian was really from Guatemala (or occasionally, another Central or South American country). It drove her nuts, which just provided us with more fuel for the game. Some of us were more convincing liars than others, though. More than once, we ran a marketing campaign that targeted Hispanics, and thus required all copy to be translated to Spanish. We were too cheap to hire a real translator, and though the Peruvian speaks fluent conversational Spanish, she didn’t trust her formal or written Spanish enough to translate for us. So, she enlisted her grandmother. Another example of selling capabilities we didn’t actually have to clients if they only asked is here.
Once I was on a phone call with a software developer working on one such campaign. He was no longer a newbie – he had probably been working with us for at least a year, maybe more. On the call, he expressed his concern that not only were we taking advantage of an employee’s poor grandmother, we were having someone whose native language was Portuguese do our Spanish translations. I laughed, thinking he was just perpetuating the “Peru = Guatemala = Other Hispanic Country” joke. He didn’t laugh back. He thought the Peruvian was really from Brazil. I laughed again, still thinking he was pulling my leg, but no. He was dead serious. I corrected him and said, she really is from Peru and her grandmother really does speak real Spanish. He argued with me, and said, no, she was from Brazil. It took some cajoling, but when I found out who’d told him she was from Brazil, it all fell into place. It was the best liar we had in the company, and he’d absolutely convinced software guy that she was from Brazil. Liar guy had a way of working lies into practically every element of his work, and he always got away with it. He’s the guy who should’ve been fired long ago, but outlasted all of the rest of us. Software guy swore he would never talk to liar guy ever again when I finally convinced him Peru was really her country of origin. Miserable as that job was, I sure do miss some of the hijinks.