No hablo espa¤ol


In English: One Christmas, when I was about 15 years old, my cousin asked me, “Carmencita, why don’t you speak Spanish?” I was embarrassed because I could not explain to her that it was not my fault. I wanted to explain that I would like to have learned the language of my ancestors, I wanted to explain the shame of being a Latina that does not speak Spanish, but it was not easy. My mother never taught it to me. When I was a baby my grandmother told my mother, “Sarah, you need to teach your daughter Spanish. Our language is all we have.” My father, however, did not speak Spanish at all, so my mother never used it in our house. No one spoke Spanish in my home. I have only studied Spanish in school since I was 13 years old. The foreign language classes at my school were not the best, and the little that I did learn was not sufficient to communicate with my family. Everyone in my maternal family speaks Spanish. I felt like an outcast.

For a long time I was angry that I did not speak Spanish. In class, I never told others that I was Puerto Rican because I was nervous about what they would think of me. When I was with my family, I only spoke English because I was afraid they would laugh at me. I was suspended between two worlds. I never felt sufficiently Latina because I could not communicate with others, and I did not fit in with my classmates in Spanish because the language we were learning was my own. I allowed other to define me.

During my first year at Macalester, I read a poem for my Introduction to US [email protected] Studies with Professor Mar¡a Elena Cepeda. It described a Latina that never learned her language; her family robed her of the only thing that was truly hers. I identified with the poet. She was sad for her lost language, but she was still a Latina. In that class, I learned a lot about myself, especially that my experience of shame and confusion was not rare. More and more [email protected] in the United States do not speak Spanish. Language is not required to be a part of my people. This leaves the question: Why don’t more [email protected] that do not speak Spanish discuss our experience in public?

Well, I will be among the first. I am a strong Latina with power. I hope that my story inspires others like myself and, possibly, change the ideas of those who do not accept me. For a large part of my life, I allowed others to exclude me from my people, my family, my life. But now I understand that there are people, some of classmates at Macalester, some of my best friends, some of my family members, which will never accept me as a Latina solely because I do not speak Spanish. I think that they are wrong, but I cannot live the rest of my life trying to change them. Now I understand that I do not need to speak Spanish perfectly. My mumbles, my Spanglish, and my “repeat that please” are natural. They are as natural as plátanos maduros, the rhythm of salsa, the cadence of reggeaton, and my grandmother’s hugs before I go to bed. It is who I am.

En Espa¤ol:

Una Navidad, cuando ten¡a más o menos quince a¤os, mi prima me pregunt¢, “¨Carmencita, por qu no hablas espa¤ol?”. Me daba vergenza porque no pude explicarle que no era mi culpa. Quer¡a explicarle que me gustar¡a haber aprendido el idioma de mis antepasados, quer¡a explicarle la vergenza que sent¡a al ser una latina que no habla espa¤ol, pero no era fácil. Mi madre nunca me lo ense¤¢. Cuando era beb mi abuela le dec¡a a mi madre “Sara, necesitas hablarle a tu hija en espa¤ol. Nuestro idioma es todo lo que tenemos.” Pero mi padre no sab¡a espa¤ol para nada, as¡ que mi madre nunca lo usaba en casa. Nadie hablaba espa¤ol en mi hogar. Solamente hab¡a estudiado espa¤ol en mi escuela desde los trece a¤os. Las clases de idiomas extranjeros no eran las mejores y lo poquito que aprend¡ no era suficiente para comunicarme con mi familia. Toda mi familia materna habla espa¤ol. Yo me sent¡a como una paria.

Por mucho tiempo estaba enfadada de que no hablaba espa¤ol. En clase, nunca les dec¡a a otros que era puertorrique¤a porque estaba nerviosa de sus opiniones de m¡. Cuando estaba con mi familia, solamente hablaba en ingls porque ten¡a miedo que se reir¡an de m¡. Estaba suspendida entre dos mundos. Nunca me sent¡ suficientemente latina porque no pod¡a comunicarme con otros, y cuando estaba en mis clases de espa¤ol no encajaba con mis compa¤eras porque el idioma que aprendimos era el m¡o. Yo Permit¡a que otros me definieran.

Durante mi primer a¤o, para mi clase de Introducci¢n a los Estudios de los Latinos en los Estados Unidos con la profesora Mar¡a Elena Cepeda, yo le¡ un poema. Describe a una latina que nunca aprendi¢ su idioma, su familia le rob¢ la £nica cosa que era solamente suya. Yo me identifiqu con la poeta. Ella estaba triste por su idioma perdido, pero todav¡a era una latina. En esa clase, aprend¡ mucho sobre m¡, especialmente que mi experiencia de vergenza y confusi¢n no era rara. Más y más latinos en los estados unidos no hablan espa¤ol. El idioma no es un requisito para ser una parte de mi gente. Eso deja la pregunta: ¨por qu no hay más latinos que no hablan espa¤ol expresando nuestra vivencia en p£blico?

Bueno, yo ser entre los primeros. Soy una latina fuerte y con poder. Espero que mi historia inspire a otras como yo y, quizás, cambie las ideas de quienes no me aceptan. Por una gran parte de mi vida, permit¡ que otros me excluyeran de mi gente, de mi familia, de mi vida. Pero ahora entiendo que hay personas, algunos de mis conocidos en Macálester, algunos de mis mejores amigos, o algunos familiares, que nunca me aceptarán como una latina solamente porque no hablo espa¤ol. Yo creo que estas personas están equivocadas, pero no puedo vivir el resto de mi vida por ellas. Ahora entiendo que no necesito hablar el espa¤ol perfectamente. Mis murmullos, mi spanglish, y mis “repita por favor” son naturales. Son tan naturales como los plátanos maduros, el ritmo de la salsa, la cadencia del reggeaton, y los abrazos de mi abuela antes de que acostarme. Es quien soy.