Alex Centeno for Al Dìa
My words sound choppy and unnatural. My grandmother nods her head in understanding because for over the two decades of my life she has learned to understand my Spanish. It is forced, unappealing, and sometimes ugly. She responds in complete Spanish; hers is nothing short of beautiful. Dripping from a voice crafted in Carolina, Puerto Rico with vocal cords stretched and bathed in Puerto Rican rum and Coquito, “the good stuff”. Her Spanish is native and natural. I’ve learned to let go of the resentment, but when first generation Latinos hear the gringo or blanquito in my voice, they ask me to forgive them and place a palm to their forehead in frustration. They then go on to translate their sentences in English, much to my chagrin and assurances that I’ve always understood them. My relationship with the language is two lovers alone in a room together, that haven’t spoken a word to each other in over a quarter of a century.