Hispanic and I only speak English

marloMarlo Torres,
Riverside, CA.

I am Puerto Rican and I have always grown up with the question of; You’re Hispanic, why don’t you speak Spanish? At first it was always something that I just laughed off and my usual response was I don’t know or my parents never taught me. As I grew older and even now, it’s a question that bothers me. I would mostly be asked that question at work. I think what bothers me the most about that question is the look people give me when they ask that question, as if I am a disgrace to my culture because I do not speak Spanish. I remember I used to get angry and ask my Mother why she never taught any of her five children Spanish. I didn’t understand at first because both my parents spoke Spanish very well, however as I got older I began to understand the struggles my mom went through as a single parent raising five children and I knew it was not an easy task for her. I hope that in the future as our country continues to develop more diversity and more understanding of different races and cultures, we can also learn to understand that there are many Hispanic cultures that do not speak Spanish.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • DM

    There are many problems with hispanics being stereotyped as one generic idea all over. People often tell me “oh you don’t look Puerto Rican.” What does that even mean? I was born in Caguas, PR and moved to NY when I was five. I didn’t know English at all until I moved to NY. I didn’t speak “good” English until I was about seven. I was afraid to speak because kids made fun of my accent and my lisp. Then as I was learning English my family would tell us to speak English at home so we could practice. After years of this my accent started to fade. Then, when I would go to PR to visit my family, my cousin’s friends would make fun of me and my brother for sounding like “gringos.”Everywhere we were getting judged with either being too Puerto Rican to begin with, then not being enough by our own people. It was a constant struggle to find who I could connect with and feel a part of growing up. Many of the Nuyorican kids would make fun of me for not speaking Spanglish like them, even though they didn’t speak more than a few words, and I was fluent in both languages equally. Always in between this being not enough or too much bothered me. Until I realized one day that those people’s opinions didn’t matter. I’m Puerto Rican, and I look Puerto Rican. Now, when people tell me I don’t look or act like it, I tell them the origins of Puerto Ricans. We are a mixed people. That goes for language as well. Some of us look more white, or don’t speak Spanish, or don’t speak English, or are dark skinned and the list goes on. People are still very ignorant on what Puerto Ricans, and many other latinos, are, that we are not a people of one stereotype, we are individuals part of cultures, that we choose to embrace in whatever way we see fit for ourselves. That is what is important, how we feel towards our own culture, and that we are indeed part of it, whether people see it or not.

  • jacob

    i would say you are hispanic american or something along those lines, and you can tell that to people who are stereotyping you. It is strange tho that people are asking you that and acting surprised as many hispanic/latino people who have children born here or brought here early are only learning english. i knew many friends who didn’t speak spanish so it was the norm for me. As a white person i did get that same questiion when i said i was from texas when i moved to the north.

  • Maurin Quina

    Coming from Scandinavian ancestry, I can say with 100% honesty: no one has ever, not even once, walked up to me and asked, ‘Why don’t you speak Swedish?’

  • jpiovanetti

    I’m the son of two Puerto Ricans, my father and mother, but born in Maryland; while was dad was in the military as an officer. As a youngster (meaning, until I was 12 y/o) I was raised my first 6 years between Philadelphia and San Francisco, and later moved to the Island of Puerto Rico when I reached 7-8 years of age. Therefore, the first “street language” I learned was English, and while still young I had the opportunity to learn a second “street language” (by moving to Puerto Rico.) As you can imagine, I was lucky that life-events allowed me to be fully bilingual, with no discernible accent in either language, Spanish nor English.

    Having said that, I can sympathize with many viewpoints regarding being “Hispanic” and the number of languages you speak. For starters, people of “hispanic ancestry” sometimes qualify themselves as “Hispanic”, while a person’s race and/or ethnicity goes far beyond the origins of an individual’s DNA. You might have DNA that originated in Puerto Rico, but if you where never exposed to living in Puerto Rico, there shouldn’t be a presumption that you are either Spanish-speaking nor that you are a “Hispanic” (you where born in mainland USA, not in the Island of Puerto Rico; or in Mexico or other Latin American country.) You are not just the DNA of your parents, but also your experiences as a child, your upbringing, your personal beliefs, etc. Want to test that…? For the sake of this example, lets say you learned Spanish from your mom and/or dad, but have never but a toe in the Island. Buy yourself an airline ticket and go live in the Island for a year; my bet is that you’ll feel that you don’t necessarily “fit-in”; you have a different culture from the Islanders, different values, different perspectives since you and those in the Island have had different childhood experiences. If you ask me, you has “Puerto Rican Ancestry” or “Hispanic Ancestry”, you’re not a plain “Hispanic”.

    “Being Hispanic” comes with a lot of extra-baggage; good and bad, as is the case for ALL races.

    So in the end, be proud of your “heritage” and/or “ancestry”, but don’t feel uncomfortable nor ashamed to call yourself for what you really are, “a human being whose parents where born in Puerto Rico, and your parents didn’t impose their own root culture and language upon you”; so you speak English since it’s what you learned. By this I’m not saying that being bi-, ti-, or multi-lingual isn’t great and/or desirable; but you weren’t raised that way, so you aren’t. That’s all; BE YOURSELF…

  • barry irving

    …I grew up in N.Y.C. My neighbors and school mates were Puerto Rican. Some spoke Spanish and some not. In my generation, Puerto Ricans and African Americans had that language separation, but we didn’t have racial animosity, because each of our light and dark family looked the same. We do all have the same genetic Afro / European ancestry from West Africa due to Slavery. You have the Taino Indian connection and we have a Native American connection in the “Indian” genetic stream.

    …the early American immigrants from the Caribbean (mine ) and So. America had assimilation as their only viable choice. Our grand Parents raised my parents to be American…graduate get a job, start a family. They consciously moved away from customs that they felt would be a handicap to us. My three of 11 grand children are half Puerto Rican. When they were younger, they noticed that they could not speak Spanish and they had a little problem with that.

    …the situation was that their father was not educated and their Grand Mother who would have taught my grands Spanish, could not have them long enough to teach them. When the kids were 7 – 10, they thought they were White…

    …America’s racial history is the main culprit along with the majority population’s assumption that we want what they want, we are lesser, there fore we should lose our cultural affects and traditions and adopt theirs. at one time that was what we all had to consider for survival in this trend oriented culture. Now we have a near “color” majority, in just decades we will outnumber the “White” population for the first time in the history of America. No one knows how these cultural issues will play out when the now majority population is no longer the political or social american majority.

  • MI33O3

    There is no understanding amidst forced diversity.

 

Tweets by Michele Norris