Does A Lack of Spanish Make You Any Less Latina?
If you're a Latina but you don't speak Spanish, does that make you any less Latina? Is your skin any less brown? Are your experiences any less validated? 66% of Latinos in this country were born in the U.S. and many don't speak Spanish. Like most other U.S. children, they grew up speaking English but were molded by their Latino culture. Most can understand what their abuelas and abuelos say to them, but have difficulty responding in Spanish. For U.S. Latinos, the history of our society has always emphasized the use of English in order to succeed in this country. Long before bi-lingual education was in vogue, students were actually prohibited from speaking Spanish on school grounds. The use of Spanish was seen as a determent to our education. In fact, MBG's resident legal writer, Maria Gloria Najera recalls a time in the 1950's and 60's when there was a stigma associated with speaking Spanish, therefore making parents reluctant to pass down the language. And so it goes, there are many Latinos in the U.S. who grew up in the culture, who grew up with the experiences and the identity, but not the language. Does speaking Spanish make someone more Latino?
Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez put it best when responding to criticism she received on Instagram regarding her broken Spanish. As she told the Huffington Post, “I’m sorry no, I don’t agree with that,” she continued. “It’s like anybody turning to you and being ‘You ain’t human enough, you ain’t pretty enough, you ain’t tall enough, you ain’t big enough.’ What do you mean I’m not enough? No, I am enough. I am fully enough. And you’re enough. And the girl that’s half and half is enough. And the girl that only speaks Spanish is enough.”
As a society, it's beneficial for all of us to learn more than one language. Being bi-lingual or multi-lingual will not only help professionally, but enhancing your knowledge base will help you grow personally as well. And for the Latinos who don't speak Spanish, there's no better time to learn the language. Do it for yourself, to learn, to grow. But don't do it to be "more Latino." You are Latino enough.
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