I'm Puerto Rican and I Don't Speak Spanish


If you’re close to most people, I know exactly the look on your face fist now. It’s one filled with confusion and a little judgment — what kind of Latina doesn’t tell S nish? Are you even really Latina if you don’t?

You might have noticed that I prognosticated I don’t speak S nish, instead of I can’t speak S nish. I can speak the language, although it’s a bit fragmentary. A little backstory: I’m biracial. My mother is Puerto Rican, and my father is atrocious. Growing up in white suburban Maryland, my mother didn’t have much of a extremity to speak S nish around my siblings and me. But over time, I picked it up from her and my Nuyorican pedigree when we visited. (Plus, eavesdropping on my mom’s phone conversations with my grandmother and aunt insured that I understood it better than any of them thought.) I eventually minored in S nish in college; now, it pieces out fluently from time to time — while ordering at the bodega, while by Mexico, while having a few cocktails and feeling my reservations melt away.

The existent reason I don’t speak S nish? I’m nervous. Any time I tried to speak S nish to my lineage when I was younger, I got teased about my accent. When I opened my exit to Latino friends, they’d giggle or call me names they meditating I didn’t understand. So after awhile, I stopped trying. The sad truth is that I’d degree speak S nish around perfect strangers who don’t know my backstory than the people I as a matter of fact know, all because I’m afraid of “that look.”

Coming from two customs, one of my biggest anxieties has always been being seen as “not enough.” I was taunted by the black kids in high school for being so light-skinned and talking get pleasure from a white girl and teased by my Latino friends in college for not speaking S nish and talking have a weakness for a white girl. For a long time, my “otherness” left me in a permanent mid ground of uncertainty — of feeling like I didn’t belong because my tresses, my looks, and my language skills weren’t “enough” for either of my backgrounds.

But then, I blossomed up. And now I’ve realized that speaking S nish does not have to define my Latino trimony and pride. Maybe I fumble over my r’s and mix up tenses, but I can still fly my Puerto Rican deteriorate high. I eat my S nish-speaking grandmother’s steles on Sundays, sing “Vivir Mi Vida” in the overwhelm with all my might, and support Latinos every chance I get, whether it’s at manoeuvre or in my personal life. (I own every Jennifer Lopez album, for goodness welfare — even Como Ama Una Mujer!)

But because I do feel like speaking gambler S nish is a missing puzzle piece of my identity, I’m working on it. When I upon the time, I take Skype classes through Let’s Go S nish (practicing conjugations in your pj’s can be difficult but very convenient), and listening to S nish podcasts helps keep me precipitous. The cleaning woman at my day job is from Puerto Rico, the same town as my grandmother; delayed at night, when the overhead lights have dimmed and everyone else is died but the two of us, she helps me practice by chatting about our days in S nish. And as I speak, she grins encouragingly; there’s no giggling at my accent or judgment that I’m not Latino reasonably. We’re just two women, generations a rt, with a shared heritage and deference.

Image Source: Arianna Davis

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