One dark and stormy night, @Latinegro founded the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. He scheduled it to coincide with Latino/a and Latin American Heritage Month (I hate the word Hispanic) which began today and ends October 15th. And, hospitable fellow that he is, he’s invited any Latino blogger to join in.
Since I can count on one hand the number of fellow Afrolatina bloggers I know, I think I’ll take the plunge. After all, I haven’t written a post specific to Latina or Afrolatina issues for awhile now. For 30 days and nights, I owe the interwebs at least two paragraphs on the topic o’ the day. To follow along (or backtrack) click the tag “latina/o heritiage month.” Today’s topic(s): Do I Speak Spanish?
(& I promise I’m not looking at these prompts ahead of time)
Do I speak spanish? Yes. But no. A guy friend of mine once got on me by saying I speak “Caveman Spanish.” It wouldn’t have hurt so much if it weren’t actually true.
Language is like a muscle. If you don’t exercise it, you lose it. It gets flabby and fat and eventually that fat is just an unhealthy weight around your languid body parts. My Spanish isn’t quite at the unhealthy point yet but it is getting there.
Abuela Nuñez spoke Spanish to us regularly. It is, after all, her first language and she had no reason to change for her grandkids. I’m the oldest so if those few early years of Spanish count then it makes sense that I still know it. But they probably don’t. More likely, it’s the nine years of Spanish beaten into me in grammar school and the odd course I picked up to fulfill language credit in high school and college. My mother, married to an anglophone, did not keep it up with us much less herself. My aunt, married to a fellow Chicagorican, spoke enough that my cousin speaks at least as well as if not better than I do (again, this isn’t hard).
But my sister, who took nine years of French she barely remembers, doesn’t speak Spanish nearly at all. On a trip to Puerto Rico, she grew frustrated with not being able to articulate her thoughts or engage our extended family in conversation. When she asked me how I could, I shrugged and answered, “Because I cared enough to.” This was meant to be less snarky than it came out. What I meant was–I’m literary. I like words. I’m interested in language and discourse. It is how I define myself. And being black and Puerto Rican is how I define myself. All things being equal, knowing Spanish (even as a cavewoman) is one of the ways it makes sense for me to manifest that identity.
There are plenty of Chicagoricans who speak some version of creole-pidigin-ebonics Spanish with fluency and flair. There are plenty of island-born Puerto Ricans who can’t speak a lick of proper Castilian. There are plenty of Nuyoricans who wouldn’t know a mesa from a carro…and plenty of Barcelonans who would then wonder “what the hell is a carro? ”
The point? Knowing Spanish doesn’t make you Latina/o. It just makes you multi-lingual. A great thing to be but how about you tell me what you did for your gente today instead. Even if that gente is just your family. Kinship and community responsibility is what makes you Latina/o, black, brown, red, orange, young, old…or feminist.