I'm brown, proud, and I don't speak Spanish. My grandparents are from Mexico and although my parents were born in the United States, they speak it fluently. Me on the other hand-I get the "gist" of most conversations, can kind of read it, and I sometimes watch novelas to see if I understand what they're saying.
After reading Latina magazine's "Are We Losing Our Language," I was inspired to finally write this and share what I've been through. It turns out I'm not alone and this story may be very familiar to some of you.
I've been told my dad didn't speak English when he first attended kindergarten. Being born in the 1950's is very different than being born today. I'm guessing they didn't offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in school. The end result? My dad having a very rough time and often being mistreated by his teachers.
This pretty much sealed my fate. My dad told us he didn't want us to go through what he went through. He never spoke to us in Spanish and we never learned. Little did I know that this decision, would affect me the way it has.
It wasn't until I was in junior high school, when I started to realize how important being bilingual was. My own grandma would speak to my brother and I in a condescending and rude way if we didn't understand what she was telling us. In fact, she still does this today.
In high school, there were times my "friends" would purposely speak Spanish in front of me, that way I wouldn't understand what they were talking about. And although I felt like an outsider, it didn't stop me from loving my heritage and culture. I made sure to get involved in any program or club that was aimed at Latinos and work hard in my Spanish classes. My mom never understood how I was getting A's, but would never use what I learned.
While serving in the United States Air Force, this wasn't much of an issue. During that time, the percentage of Latinos was very low. This made the priority of learning the language move to the bottom of the list. I didn't have to speak it, so why the rush?
All through college I struggled. This didn't matter. I still created my directory (Blogs by Latinas) when I graduated. I was often invited to meet up with the other blogueras here in Los Angeles, but I denied or ignored their invites. I didn't feel Latina enough for them. I didn't realize how wrong and foolish I was. I should have never let myself feel ashamed or embarrassed because I didn't speak Spanish.
Today, my husband, who is fluent, is slowly teaching me. And when we have kids, I will raise them bilingual and immerse them in our culture. I want them to be proud of their roots and know that being able to speak two languages is an honor.
I look back, and although I've had a hard time growing up not speaking Spanish, I don't think I would change anything. I've learned a lot along the way. I appreciate who I am and where I came from more than ever.