today i got gently called out my mom. i was telling her about school, explaining a lot of what i do for work and how i had this beautiful rose cedar hand woven basket hanging from mirror in my car and it had a note inside. i couldn’t translate it, i looked at her and said “ay no se ma, es algo de mis estudios” she said “como vas a platicar conmigo cuando sea mas viejita, mija?” i need to be more proactive about not losing any more of my spanish and also build more vocabulary.
i know i need to practice speaking spanish with folks and am so shy about it. when i speak with other central americans i feel extra shy. first i grew up speaking pueblo spanish, its not all the way grammatically correct, not respected in mexico at all; then there are terms like pocho that refer to folks who speak broken spanish or spanish with an american accent. it is degrading and discouraging. but when i have put out the call to practice spanish with other folks i have gotten a big response from white folks and i got feelings about that. last night for instance after my amazing show about recovery, a white man came to talk to me to tell me that he relates to my name poem because he too is annoyed at how people mis-pronounce spanish words. he used a few town names in california, as examples. he continued to talk at me as i stared blankly at him and finally it came out, he wanted to talk to me to say “i related to your work because i have a mexican friend i grew up with who refused to speak spanish and i speak better spanish than him.” ouch.
situations like that really really hurt me. there is a reason that most latinos, people born in central and south america that speak spanish lose their language when they come to the u.s. it. it is more acceptable to have white people speak spanish than those born speaking the language.
i’m not talking about the sexy aspect and gross tokenization of spanish speaking, how i grew up with “speak spanish to me” as a precursor to making out. i got reduced to an object and it felt okay for a long time because it give me an acceptable time to speak spanish. i got taught that speaking spanish was only acceptable if it turned men on, usually white men (although men of color are also guilty of this).
it wasn’t okay to speak spanish in school (was sent to detention once for speaking in spanish during class with another classmate), in public (was talked down to when i did) or around my dad (he had a strict english only rule). so i stopped speaking it, i started to think in english then slowly i lost a lot of my words. i am losing them still. it hurts.
my mother only speaks spanish. i know that she wouldn’t call it a rebellion or act of resistance but i see it that way. she taught me how to resist assimilation by holding onto the tongue she grew up with. i am very grateful. and today i have this internal obstacle that prevents me from speaking spanish to anyone who isn’t my mom and its that i don’t ever feel that i am doing it well enough, that you would have to love me to hear me try to speak a fluent conversation in spanish. i don’t even speak spanish to my siblings often. i know i need to change this i do.
so this is my accountability to my mom. i am taking her seriously. i am putting it out to the world that i need to relearn the tongue i grew up with regardless of it still being a colonizers language because it is the connection to my mom, my roots and my power.
fabian romero- indigenous immigrant queer boi writer
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