“No hablo español.”
I never learned how to say it without feeling embarrassed.
Maybe I was just being sensitive, but I swear people would look at me differently when I told them, as if they had just offended me.
“Oops,” the look said. “Sorry. I thought you were Latino.”
And I was. And I am. But I didn’t have the words to tell them.
I couldn’t speak Spanish — and it was a wall that separated me from my culture for most of my life.
Much has been written about what it means to be Latino. I haven’t read it all, but I’ve read a lot, and I still haven’t found a consensus on the definitive “Latino experience.” Or, at least, I haven’t found one that I feel comfortable enough to claim.
What I do know is that, for me, words like Chicano, Hispanic and Mexican-American are often thrown around. I know that we are every race and color. And I know that, for many of us, “diaspora” is an important part of our identities.
For my family, “diaspora” looked like moving to rural Oklahoma where we were the only Latinos around.
My abuela told me she dropped out of elementary school to pick cotton because she couldn’t speak English. When I asked my mother if that’s why my abuela didn’t raise her to speak Spanish, she shrugged and said, “I didn’t have anyone to speak to.”
That’s how it is for a lot of Latinos in the United States. Even if we were raised in the culture, even if we are first-generation or second-generation, we don’t speak Spanish.
And it leaves some of us feeling like we aren’t “Latino enough.”
To read the full story by John Paul Brammer: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-paul-brammer/to-the-latinos-who-cant-s_b_8127434.html