¿Yo no hablo español?
The shock I saw on the faces when I made this statement must have been priceless! I didn’t think anything of it at first. My sisters didn’t speak Spanish and it wasn’t the first language in our home. I did learn some words from my grandmother and father dropping lines here and there. My father was a direct immigrant from Mexico and my mother was from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. I’m guessing my parents spoke English to us first and foremost because they didn’t want us to struggle in school. Growing up in the inner city of Detroit, MI when I entered the neighborhood Catholic school of St. Hedwig Parish around 1981 the majority of the students were Polish. There were a few Hispanics in my class, one of them being my sweet cousin, but we were definitely the minority.
My cousin is a child of direct immigrants from Mexico, and she spoke perfect English and Spanish… so why not me? I can tell you it’s the choices our parents made. My parents chose not to teach me Spanish, her parents did. I’m thinking my parents thought it was best at the time, but was it really? My cousin turned out to educate herself in Spanish Studies at Wayne State University and has a successful position working in translation. On the other hand, I struggled with not knowing Spanish, and the looks you get from the fluent Spanish speaking family members, loving to dance to the music but not knowing what they were saying, or the telenovelas that my grandmother would watch when I was a child and trying to figure out what was really going on. The struggle was real guys!
What made a huge difference for me in learning the language was la musica y la comida mexicana. I loved dancing to cumbia’s and I would go to all the bailes that came into the city, but the only thing I understood from my favorite song “Come on Everybody say Sap, Sap, Sapo” from La Sombra (you guys know that one, click here for a blast from the past!). After all my dad and his brothers had their own mariachi group, we made tamales every Christmas and ate pollo en mole and pozole on Easter, so why was the Spanish language not part of my upbringing? I spent most of my teens feeling confused about my heritage. Loving so much about my culture but feeling not worthy of it because I didn’t know the language.
When I decided to learn the language…
I had enough, I knew I had to do something I was turning fifteen and just had my quinceañera. This had to stop already! I had started working at a Mexican restaurant in the Detroit area, and I thought that would be a good place to start learning the language. After all most of the cooks were from Mexico and most of the staff were fluent in Spanish. So whenever I was working I would speak to my co-workers in Spanish, and no it wasn’t perfect. I picked up words over time and the music was a huge help. If I spoke the phrases correctly you probably wouldn’t know that I wasn’t fluent. I could roll my R’s with the best of them! This was great for me because I was in a place that I could speak the language daily, my co-workers would correct my along the way, since I did not know the proper sounds and pronunciation of the words. It’s not like Google translate or Duo Lingo existed back then. But this worked for me. I kept on and kept on. Eventually I could hold a conversation in Spanish. Till this day my Spanish is still not perfect but I’m proud for taking the initiative to try and learn the language on my own.
Why is Spanish so important?
I don’t have to tell you how valuable knowing the Spanish language is today, I’m so glad I learned what I did when I did because I went on to work for a Latino non-profit agency where I was able help Spanish-speaking families get the food, clothing and necessities that made a tremendous impact on their lives. I also worked in an elementary school helping bilingual students that needed assistance understanding classwork.
Because I was never confident enough in my fluency, I’m guilty of not imparting the Spanish language on my daughter when she was younger, but she’s in the 7th grade and is learning at a faster pace than I was so I know she will be better off as an adult.
I think as the generations pass we lose the importance of learning the language. If our parents didn’t speak it to us, we didn’t speak it to our children and they won’t speak it to their children. Let’s give our kids have the opportunity to learn the language, dance and sing to our beautiful music and be proud of their heritage!
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!!!
This post is a part of the #TXLatinoBlog Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop. Visit the bloggers listed below as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month together/juntos! Follow the hashtag #TXLatinoBlog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too.
Juan of Words – Mexican-American Culture – Monday, 9/19
Sweet Life– Food Recipes – Tuesday, 9/20
The Optimistic Heathen – Sharing Our Heritage with the Kids – Wednesday, 9/21
Modern Tejana – How to Live Your Latinidad in Mixed-Race Families – Thursday, 9/22
The Esposa Experience – Navigating the Pressures of Traditional Esposa Expectations – Friday, 9/23
VodkaGirlATX> – Latin-Inspired Cocktails – Monday, 9/26
Momma of Dos – How Mexican I grew up! – Tuesday, 9/27
Family Love in My City – Immigration – Wednesday, 9/28
Creative Meli – Basic and Healthy Latin Cooking – Thursday, 9/29
Mejorando Mi Hogar – Being Latino or Hispanic – Friday, 9/30
Power to Prevail – Body Shame in Latino Culture – Monday, 10/3
Teatrolatinegro – Latin@ Theatre Show in Houston – Tuesday, 10/4
Candypo – Being a Latino Military Spouse – Wednesday, 10/5
Coppelia Marie – Am I a Bad Latina Mom? – Thursday, 10/6
The Restaurant Fanatic – Cocina Latina – Friday, 10/7
Haute in Texas – Mothering Latinas When You’re Not a Latina – Monday, 10/10